Why Women Fasten to the Left and Men Fasten to the Right?

It’s a curious thing that even in today’s contemporary society, we still adopt age old practices. Of course, this is often a sense of retaining tradition and history, but there are other aspects that puzzle us, like why women’s clothing fastens up to the left and men’s to the right.

In today’s society, we know no different and have simply adopted these tailoring styles because that is the way it’s been done for centuries, but have you ever wondered the where the differentiation came from and why?

There are actually several theories behind this quaint tailoring fact that range from the sensible to the ridiculous! Here, we explore the origins and try to get a grasp on why it is still the same today.

example of women's jacket fastening to the left

The most well known reasons

What seems to be the most prevalent reasoning behind it is the fact that for the most part, men have always tended to dress themselves throughout history and with the majority of people being right-handed it made sense for men’s shirts to fasten to the right. Whereas women, particularly those of considerable wealth that could afford intricate clothing with buttons, would have a maid to dress them, so it would be easier for the maid to do the fastenings up on the left, as again, most would likely be right-handed.


More practical reasons

Further to this, there is also evidence to suggest there is an even more practical reasoning behind men’s clothing fastening to the right, as it was easier to access their weapon. This theory can date as far back as the hunter-gather era, where a weapon would be pulled from left to right. Therefore having the fastening of a garment on the right-hand side would make it easier to get a handle on the weapon to defend oneself.

The theory behind why women fasten left is also said to relate back to babies. The idea being that most women would hold their baby on their left-side leaving their dominant right-hand free to open a left-hand fastened garment for breastfeeding more easily. 

The Emperor NapoleonObscure tailoring folk tales

Other more tenuous theories also include Napoleon. It’s rumoured that women used to mock his infamous ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ pose, so he ordered women’s garments to be fastened from the opposite side to quash people humiliating him. What truth there is to this is debatable, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.

On the whole, the reasoning behind it seems to be a practical one, for both men and women. It may be an antiquated theory in the modern world today, but it seems unlikely and possibly unnecessary to change any time soon.

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