How to replace zippers in formals with lacing

Written by elle hanson
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How to replace zippers in formals with lacing
A corset back is a lovely feature that can improve the fit of a dress. (back wedding dress image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com)

If you have purchased a dress that is just a bit too small for you to zip it all the way up, installing lacing is a fairly simple way to solve the problem. The best thing about lacing is that it is self adjusting. So even if you gain or lose some weight, you can still wear the dress. Lacing is versatile as well: For a more daring look you could leave the back open and use thin ribbon. On the other hand, if you want something less noticeable a modesty panel and thicker ribbon can be used just as effectively.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • 1-2 yards of thin, rounded ribbon
  • 2-4 yards of decorative ribbon
  • 2 yards of material
  • 2 yards of heavy interfacing
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Seam ripper

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Visit a sewing store to purchase all of the materials you will need. In addition to basic sewing supplies, be sure to get several yards of thin, rounded ribbon that is close to the same colour as your dress. This ribbon, which will be used to create the loops for the lacing, should look like string or a shoelace, although it may be made of any material you desire. Also purchase more decorative ribbon to create the actual lacing. This can be of any thickness, colour or material that you like so long as it will look good with the dress and be sturdy enough to give you support when tied. Ribbons with wiring are not recommended. If you would like a modesty panel to go behind the lacing, purchase two yards of a material of your choice. Most people want the panel to match the dress, but you may also choose a different colour. Purchase two yards of heavy interfacing to help reinforce the panel.

  2. 2

    Remove the zipper from your dress using the seam ripper. Remove it as far down as you need to. You might only need to remove three or four inches. On the other hand, if you can only zip the dress to the waist then you will remove the zipper from there on up.

  3. 3

    Cut off the excess zipper, leaving about one-half of an inch extra. Fold the excess under the zipper so that it does not stick out of the dress. Use a iron or a few stitches to keep each side folded over itself.

  4. 4

    Cut the ribbon you will be using for the loops into segments that are 1 1/4 inches long.

  5. 5

    Pin each side of one ribbon segment to the inside of the dress so that it forms a loop at the very top of the bodice. Make the loop fairly small, allowing the excess ribbon to remain hanging behind on the inside of the dress.

  6. 6

    Add loops the rest of the way down the dress until you reach the zipper. Repeat this process on the other side of the dress. Each loop should be the same size and be evenly spaced from the rest. The more crisscrosses you want in the lacing, the smaller and more closely spaced the loops should be.

  7. 7

    Use a needle and thread to sew each loop to the dress, using a "X" shaped stitching pattern. This stitch should be close to the edge of the fabric. Be sure not to pass the needle through the outer most layer of the dress, otherwise the stitches will be visible. Instead, sew the loops carefully to the lining or seam of the dress. Remove the pins as you work.

  8. 8

    Pull the lacing ribbon through the two upper most loops so that it forms a straight line. Take the right side of the ribbon and cross it over to the left, pulling it through the second loop. Take the left side of the ribbon and cross it over to the right, pulling it through the second loop. Repeat this until the lacing has been fed through each loop.

  9. 9

    Try on the dress and lace the ribbon as tight as you want it. Tie a bow where the lacing ends and trim off the excess lacing, leaving enough for the bow to still lay nicely.

  10. 10

    Decide whether or not you want a modesty panel. If the answer is yes, cut a diamond from the material you purchased. Make sure that it is wide and long enough to cover the gap where the lacing will go.

  11. 11

    Fold the material so that it looks like a triangle and the backside of the material is facing outward. Iron the fold lightly to keep it in place.

  12. 12

    Cut your interfacing in a triangle shape so that it is the same size as your folded material. If it can be ironed on, do this before proceeding. If not, you will sew it on at the same time you are working on the material.

  13. 13

    Sew along each side of the triangle, using a sewing machine, so that both sides of the material are attached together.

  14. 14

    Stop when you get about three-quarters of the way down the last side of the triangle. Reach inside the triangle and pull outward until the interfacing is on the inside of the triangle and front of the material is on the outside.

  15. 15

    Iron along the edges of the triangle until the edges are well defined and crisp. Fold the unfinished edges of the side you haven't sewn into the triangle. Iron them until the material does not pop out.

  16. 16

    Use a needle and thread to finish sewing the last side of the triangle, staying as close to the edge as possible.

  17. 17

    Try on the dress, positioning the modesty panel so the it will cover the gap. Do up the lacing tightly to hold the panel in place.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are not familiar with sewing, a professional seamstress should be able to create lacing for you at a reasonable price.

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