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A Guide to the Best of Southern California : DESIGN : Hedline Here

IF CLOTHES MAKE the man, then buttons make the clothes. Antique hand-carved buttons in place of plain ones can add the proper retro dash to dresses, jackets, sweaters and coats. The only problem is that they’re not easy to come by. Fabric stores generally carry only the generic, conservative styles of buttonsfound in every other fabric store.

The owners of Chameleon, a jewelry and accessories boutique, have addressed the antique-button void. In the last two years, George Small and wife Pattie Powers have begun to amass a collection of antique and imported buttons, some dating back to the ‘20s. Their resources include trade shows, New York City’s well-known store, Tender Buttons, and, according to Small, “If we hear about anyone’s relative with a button box, we call them.”

Among the more popular buttons at Chameleon (the shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) are those made of carved black glass (some of which are gilded), carved mother-of-pearl, Bakelite, and rhinestone. There are also some new buttons imported from Italy and France that are laminated or inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Most of the buttons cost $1 to $10 each; some are in limited supply.

Chameleon, 8422-1/2 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (213) 658-5473.

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