Updated 11-4-16: 16th Century buttonholes.
Some time ago, I began to wonder: How do buttonholes differ in construction throughout history (up to the modern day)? So, I began searching, looking at some extant garments for clues--what I found was rather interesting (hence the article on them).
It appears to be rather difficult to find exactly when buttonholes appeared on European clothing--conventional wisdom (i.e. "everybody knows!") has that buttons themselves have been used as a fastening--for a tunic neck, or Russian svita--but with a loop fastener, rather than a hole sewn in the fabric.
I'm actually finding it rather difficult to track down when they appeared in Western Europe (supposedly, they came from the East, either near or far. However, I cannot yet document this). The typical form of clothing of the 13th Century just didn't call for them, since it was generally loose.
However, in the 14th Century, they pop up--the earliest effigy I see is from 1319.
|Germany Wurzburg Burgerspital Johann von Steren 1319|