Breaking the zipper on your dress is the worst. Unlike with a jacket, you probably won’t want to wear the dress until you get it fixed. As a result, it’s a good idea to know how to deal with a broken zipper so that you’re not caught out in the future.
So how do you fix a zipper on a dress? Depending on the extent of the damage, you’ll just need a few tools. If you have some tweezers or zipper wax handy, you’re set to deal with most minor problems you can encounter with a dress zipper. If the zipper is completely broken then you might want to try replacing the entire zipper, which we’ll go through later.
Once you learn how to fix your dress zipper you’ll have a skill for life, and one that will transfer to any other item of clothing which requires the use of zips.
How a Zipper Operates
Let’s take a quick look at how the zipper operates, so you can be in a position to better understand the potential issues and why they occur.
The zipper itself is formed of two lines which are fitted with teeth, made to interlock perfectly. Once the zip is pulled upwards, the teeth will connect with each other, and as such make an unbreakable bond.
At the top of the zipper you’ll notice that there is a stopper—small piece of metal on either side which prevents the zip from flying off the end.
This basic rundown of how a zipper works should help you when it comes to understanding the problem and fixing it as a result. It’s always important, whatever the garment, that you assess the damage first so that you can take the necessary course of action.
Assess The Damage
First and foremost, before we get started with the fix, we need to know exactly what the problem is so we can go about it the right way. There is a range of ways zippers can break and cease to function properly. You can treat this as a troubleshooting guide for quick dress zipper fixes.
- The zip seems to work, but the dress is still open.
Infuriatingly, the zip goes up and down as it should, yet the teeth aren’t interlocking as they should. Meaning your dress is open and the zipper isn’t serving its purpose.
If you’ve been using the zipper for a long time, you’re more likely to run into this overuse issue. While you may think this is a big issue, this has a relatively simple fix.
Instead of taking the whole zipper apart and replacing it, you should try your best to replace the slider on the zipper. The slider is the part underneath the zipper tap which allows it to move up and down. Luckily, you can fix this with minimal effort, all you need is a pair of pliers. Taking the pliers, adjust the side gap on the slider until it is narrow, then do likewise with the upper and lower gaps.
This process can require some trial and error to get the perfect adjustment so be patient. Make sure you only make minor adjustments so you don’t go too far and risk breaking the slider altogether.
- The zipper has been detached.
By detached, I mean the fabric which attaches the zipper to the dress has torn away for whatever reason. This issue requires a very similar fix to the issue outlined above.
You’ll need to get your pliers out again, as this issue requires some adjustments to the slider. Make the sides of the slider wider, and try to ease the teeth on both sides into it. Assess the fit, and if it isn’t perfect, then get back in there with your pliers and adjust away until the teeth are aligned perfectly with the slider.
- The teeth of the zipper are caught on the dress fabric.
This has happened to all of us at one point or another. You’re all ready to go, makeup is applied, the lift is waiting outside, only to find that now is the moment that the zipper decides to get frustratingly caught on something.
While this often tends to be the fabric of the dress, it can also be something as unlikely as a hair or two. Due to the nature of zippers, the teeth have to be in perfect alignment so the slightest obstacle in their path can throw them off. The fix for this is as easy as finding whatever the zipper is getting caught on and removing it.
However, this could be a more serious issue. If you notice that the teeth are not in alignment, then there could be a need to replace the slider or the entire zipper. Hopefully, it’s just some fabric or a hair blocking the zipper’s path.
- You’ve lost your zipper tab.
Although this seems quite difficult to do, it is, of course, possible to lose the zipper tab on your dress. As I’m sure you’re already aware, this isn’t severe enough to stop the zipper from working as you can still use the slider. However, after a while of closing a zipper using just the slider, you’ll realize why the zipper tabs are so important. The fix to this requires a small amount of DIY know-how and some basic materials.
If you have a metal ring, then this is an easy way to fix it. Attach to the slider where the tab used to be and you have a makeshift replacement. Alternatively, you can manipulate some metal wire to the desired shape, and use that as your new zipper tab, at least until you invest in a new tab.
- The zipper is closing slowly.
If you’ve noticed that the zipper on your dress seems to be closing unusually slowly, then here’s what you can do about it. A lot of the time this slowness is caused by the overuse of the zipper, and just like many other things, it can be fixed with some lubrication.
To get the zipper moving as it should, find some petroleum jelly or another similar lubricating substance, and apply it to the teeth of the zipper. Make sure that when you do this you don’t leave the teeth caked in wax, as this is likely to have the opposite effect of what you want.
- You’ve lost some zipper teeth.
Lastly, and perhaps most frustratingly, is losing some of the zipper teeth. This by far the worst of the issues you can encounter with zippers. As such, the solution is the most time-consuming and difficult to do.
However, it is by no means impossible. To put it simply, you’re going to have to replace the zipper. Don’t worry though, we’re going to find out how exactly you can do that now.
How to Replace a Dress Zipper
If all else fails when you are trying to fix your zipper, and none of the above solutions work, then it’s likely that you’re going to need to replace the entire zipper.
To make it simple and easy to follow, I’m going to break the process of fixing your dress zipper down step by step.
Step 1 – Remove the existing zip seam
First things first, if you want to replace your dress zipper, you’re going to have to remove the existing zipper and open up the seams.
To do this, you can use a seam ripper. In case you don’t know, pull the fabric taut and push the seam ripper into the area you want to tear apart and it should be fairly straightforward. What you want to end up with is a dress that has a large tear with two seam lines. Now you have your blank canvas to insert the new zipper.
Step 2 – Use a temporary stitch to hold the seams together
Next, you have to use a temporary stitch to hold the seams together while you work the new zip into place.
To do this, turn the dress inside out, pull the two seams line together until they are touching, then using the tacking sewing technique you can create a temporary stitch. Make sure you use a thread that is a different color from the fabric of your dress so you can easily remove it once you’ve finished. Also, follow the crease exactly so the dress looks exactly as it did before.
As a way of securing this stitch even further, you can place pins along the stitch lines too. The stitches can be as big as you like for this part since you’re just using them to temporarily hold together the two seams.
Step 3 – Put your new zipper into place
Now you will start to see the repair job take shape.
Lay your replacement zipper over the newly stitched seam lines of your dress. Make sure that you line it up perfectly with the creases, to ensure you do a clean job. Since the dress is inside out, lay the zipper down so that the zipper tab and slider are face down.
Step 4 – Use a temporary stitch to attach the zipper
Again we’re going to use a temporary stitch here to attach the new zipper onto the dress. You can use the same tacking technique as before, the important thing is that you secure it in place. We have to do this so that when we use the sewing machine we don’t have to worry about everything not being lined up properly.
This is an important part of the process since you’ll want the new zipper to be perfectly placed on your dress as it was before, so don’t rush.
Step 5 – Use your sewing machine
To cement the new zipper into place and attach it to the dress more permanently, we’re going to use the sewing machine.
Take your time to line the new zipper up perfectly in the sewing machine, and make sure there is nothing that can catch while it’s operating. Guide the sewing machine along the seam lines you want to stitch as carefully and as straight as possible.
This is the most difficult part, so again, make sure you take your time and ensure you do as neat a job as possible. If you’re not experienced with a sewing machine, you can take your dress to a seamstress, or have a go with just a thread and needle.
Step 6 – Clean it up
Finally, now that the hard work is done, all that remains to do is to clean up the area of any tacking stitches and loose threads. You can do this with a pair of scissors.
Test the zipper to see that it works properly and you’re good to go. If you have any issues with the zipper itself, check back over our earlier troubleshooting guide and see if there’s a simple fix.
How to Fix an Invisible Zipper on a Dress
If your dress has an invisible zipper, then read on, as we’re about to explore how you can fix this slightly more complicated zipper.
With smaller teeth, making it appear invisible to the naked eye, this type of zipper is much harder to deal with, but don’t let that deter you, I’m here to help.
There are two main ways you can damage an invisible zipper on a dress. Either one seam has been separated leaving the slider and tab on the other, or the slider has become detached from the zipper.
- The seams have separated
In this instance, you are going to need to fix the zipper from the bottom. Take the two seams apart, and remove the slider by sliding it all the way off the fabric.
Cut off the bottom stop on both pieces of zipper tape. Re-attach the slider by the top slit up until the first tooth. Then repeat for the other side. Pull the auto lock on the slider towards you and pull the two parts of zipper tape behind the slider in opposite directions.
The slider should pop back into the teeth and the zipper should work as it did before. Now you need to create a new bottom stop so that the slider can’t slide off the dress. Use a soldering iron to melt a small area of the teeth at the bottom, this will create a nice stopping point for the slider.
- The slider has fallen off the zipper
If the slider on your zipper has fallen off somehow, don’t worry, there’s a relatively straightforward fix. If the slider has come off at the top of the zipper, then you’re going to need to remove the top stop – the part that stops it from sliding off. Take some pliers and remove the top stop and a couple of teeth, so that you have enough space to re-attach the slider.
When you’ve done this, grab your slider and slide it onto both strips of zipper tape. Once it’s in place at the top of the teeth, you’re going to use the same technique as before, and pull the ends of the zipper tape in opposing directions. With this force, the zipper should pop back into place and re-attach to the teeth.
Now it’s time to make a new top stop.
You do this in exactly the same way you create a bottom stop. Take a soldering iron and melt a few of the teeth at the top of both strips of zipper tape. This will create a nice barrier for the slider, so that it can’t fall off again.