No matter what role you serve in the wedding party, knowing how to fix a zipper is an incredible skill that, if needed, will allow you to single-handedly save the day and avoid a minor wedding disaster.

When it comes to dresses; however, fixing a zipper can be a little trickier—especially when the stakes are high. Knowing how to fix a zipper on a dress (or even how to sew a zipper on a dress, if it comes down to that), will help eliminate unnecessary stress for everyone.

More often than not, a “broken” zipper isn’t actually broken, and just requires a simple repair. To discover how remarkably easy it can be, read on.

How to Fix a Zipper That Doesn’t Need to be Replaced

The first thing to do when a zipper seems to be broken is to assess the damage. Oftentimes, when a zipper is “broken,” it’s actually just malfunctioning.

This malfunction can be fixed with a few simple tools. To make all the instructions as clear as possible, here are terms you’re going to need to know.

  • Teeth – The tracks of the zipper.
  • Slider – The mechanism that moves the zipper up and down.
  • Zipper tab – Also called the zipper pull, this is what you hold in order to zip and unzip.

Below you’ll find some common scenarios where a zipper on a dress isn’t working properly, and how to troubleshoot. A few things you’ll want on-hand:

  1. A pair of pliers
  2. A flathead screwdriver
  3. Tweezers
  4. Clear liquid soap, paraffin wax, and a cotton swab (to lubricate the teeth)

1. The Zipper Itself Moves, but Nothing Is Happening

This is a situation that’s common when a zipper has some miles on it. The zipper seems to work, yet while the zipper moves up and down, the teeth aren’t interlocking, so the dress won’t zip up.

You need pliers. Simply adjust any gaps on the slider’s sides by squeezing the top and bottom plates together (the pieces of the slider on the outside and inside of the garment) to make it narrower until it reconnects. The trick here is to be patient and gentle, because using too much pressure can shatter a fragile zipper.

2. The Teeth Separated After Fastening

If a dress has been zipped up, and then all the teeth come undone below it, this means there’s a problem with the slider. Don’t try to move the zipper out of its place, because that could potentially make things worse. A slider problem is a good problem to have because it’s an easy fix.

You need pliers, or tweezers (maybe). This process is the same as the scenario before it—all you need to do is grab a pair of pliers and gently squeeze the top and bottom plates of the slider that attach to the teeth. If the gap isn’t too big, seeing as the zipper is still somewhat attached, you can use tweezers instead. Watch carefully as the gap between the two plates gets smaller on both the left and right sides of the slider, adjusting each side slightly, until it reconnects to the teeth.

3. The Slider Is No Longer on the Tracks

Sometimes only one side of the slider comes off the tracks of a zipper, but other times, the whole slider and zipper tab unit is derailed. While this might seem like a sad day, really the slider just needs to be reattached.

You’ll need a flathead screwdriver. First, you need to find the bottom of the zipper tracks. This is usually the end closest to the ground, but if the zipper happens to run some direction other than vertically, a good way to identify the bottom is to look for a square tab of fabric at the end of the zipper. Then, use a flathead screwdriver to help feed the teeth into the slider. Once both sides seem to be connected, pull the zipper tab up and down to make sure it’s locked in properly.

4. The Zipper Is Stuck

There are a few different courses of action to try when a zipper gets stuck—none of them involve panicking, surprisingly enough. A stuck zipper can cause a lot of stress, because it’s often caught on the fabric of the dress. But, don’t worry, because that’s actually not the worst situation imaginable.

You’ll need a cotton swab, liquid soap, paraffin wax, and/or tweezers (maybe). Should this happen, here are a few ways to try and troubleshoot:

  1. Hold down the fabric around the zipper and try to move it in the direction from which it came (this depends on if you were zipping up or unzipping the dress).

  2. Look for fibers caught in the teeth, such as small strings or hair, and remove it with your tweezers.

  3. Put liquid soap or paraffin wax on a cotton swab, and then lubricate the teeth. Once lubricated, you might have an easier time moving it.

5. The Zipper Won’t Stay Zipped

If a zipper won’t stay zipped, this could mean one of two things:

  1. The teeth have been bent out of place.
  2. Or, they have been worn down a lot.

This is a big issue when it comes to how to fix a zipper on a vintage garment, given the age of the slider (if it hasn’t been replaced).

You’ll need pliers. First, examine the teeth of the zipper. If they’re out of alignment, use pliers to bend them back into the proper position, and you should be all set. If they seem to be in the right place, this means the teeth themselves have been run down.

A tip for worn down teeth: A great fix for this is to paint them with clear nail polish, which will thicken the teeth, while retaining their original form. You may need to apply more than one coat, but make sure each coat fully dries before painting the next one.

How to Fix a Zipper on a Dress Photo Credit // Nathan Desch Photography

How to Sew a Zipper on a Dress

You might be thinking that with all these hacks, there’s never a reason to fully replace a zipper. Tragically, a zipper can indeed fulfill its lifespan, and this occurs when you’ve lost zipper teeth.

On the bright side, the likelihood of that happening on the day of a wedding or big event is slim to none. When people talk about the top wedding day beauty emergencies, zippers are one of them, but it’s uncommon to see a full-on zipper breakdown.

If a situation like this were to arise, you’d almost certainly have the time to bring it to a seamstress, or put the effort in to fix it yourself.

Continue reading for a step-by-step guide, but for best results, you’ll need to have the following items:

  1. A seam ripper
  2. Needle and thread (a different color than your dress)
  3. A replacement zipper
  4. Sewing machine
  5. Scissors

Pro tip: If you don’t have any experience sewing or stitching, starting with the zipper on your dress is truly a trial by fire—one that might prove difficult. If that’s the case, we recommend using a professional.

1. Remove Your Broken Zipper

Use a seam ripper to remove the current zipper on your dress. To do this, pull the fabric taut and insert the seam ripper, cutting out your old zipper and creating two seam lines to put a new one in its place.

2. Bring the Seam Lines Together With a Temporary Stitch

In this step, it’ll be helpful to use thread that’s a different color than the dress. Why? It’ll be easier to identify and remove later on. Once you have your needle and thread, turn the dress inside out, pull the two seam lines you just cut together until they touch, and then use a temporary stitch to keep them in place.

3. Line Up Your New Zipper

Place the replacement zipper over the temporary stitch you just inserted to connect the seam lines. Lay the new zipper down so that the zipper tab is facing away from you, since the dress is inside out, and do your best to be precise in aligning it to match the creases.

4. Attach the Zipper With a Temporary Stitch

Just as you did in step two, use a temporary stitch to hold the zipper in place. If you don’t have immediate access to a sewing machine, take extra time to ensure the zipper is in place during this step. The new zipper will be functional without the use of a sewing machine, but you want to ensure that it’s attached permanently.

5. Secure the Zipper With a Sewing Machine

Set up the sewing machine and carefully line up the new zipper, sewing along the seam lines you originally cut. Not everyone has a sewing machine, and even if you do, you may not feel confident using it on a dress you love. If that’s the case, make sure your zipper is as secure as possible for the time being, until you can take it to a seamstress, friend, or family member.

Create a Quick-Fix Zipper Repair Kit

Knowing how to fix a zipper and how to sew a zipper on a dress are great skills to have, especially when the tools needed are things that you probably already have in your home. If you’re really worried about a zipper malfunctioning, create a little zipper repair kit with all the essentials. These include:

  1. A pair of pliers
  2. A flathead screwdriver
  3. Tweezers
  4. Clear liquid soap, paraffin wax, and a cotton swab (to lubricate the teeth)
  5. A seam ripper
  6. Needle and thread (a different color than your dress)
  7. A replacement zipper
  8. Sewing machine (you might have to forgo this)
  9. Scissors

If you really want to be equipped for a dress emergency, check out Martha Stewart’s suggestions to bring your kit to the next level. Either way, one thing’s for certain now—as far as zippers go, you’re the one to call if a need arises.

How to Fix a Zipper on a Dress Photo Credit // Vivian Chen Photography

Zola

Now that you know how to fix a zipper on a dress, do you know where you’re going to host your wedding website? Create your registry? Send out your invites? Aside from teaching you about pliers and sliders, we’re also here to help with your registry and wedding planning.

Fix your zipper and zip up the rest of your planning with Zola. We’re here to help in any way you need.