Novelty or realistic buttons have been popular since the 1930s (and probably before that). Showy, colorful buttons were an inexpensive way to freshen a dress during the depression when a new dress was out of the question. French fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli sparked the button mania by emphasizing them on items in her collections. Her 1938 Circus Line included garments with buttons shaped like dancing clowns, trapeze artists, and prancing horses. Her Music Collection featured buttons shaped like a variety of instruments. Many popular buttons in this era were made of bakelite and were sew thru types. They featured common everyday items from vegetables to golf clubs. A common button shape from this era was the Scottie terrier inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s dog Fara.
Plastic buttons quickly took over and have remained popular ever since. Nothing is quicker to bring out a “aww…isn’t that cute” reaction than a beautifully made realistic button. There are a number of artisans making realistic buttons today from kiln fired or Fimo clay. Here are some examples from etsy.com.