How to Fix a Too-Small, Zipper-Back Dress

It’s depressing: you go to put on that little black dress and, somehow, it has become even littler than it was. You didn’t grow; it shrunk. We can discuss the science of that at another time but, for now, you need your dress to fit. And it will. All you have to do is a few minor adjustments and you’ll be looking fabulous in that dress in no time!

It really isn’t a hard project to remove the back zipper from a dress. After you’ve done that you can set about giving that dress an easy make-over so you can wear it again. Using a seam ripper, carefully begin cutting the threads to the zipper. Remove the zipper completely to continue.

You can easily see the fold marks where the fabric was folded under, and the zipper installed. Fold all the marks back to their original places and pin them. So, the entire zipper area will be pinned, down both sides, and across where the bottom of the zipper was.

Decide on the material you’ll use to replace the zipper. The material can be fabric, wide ribbon, or even cloth-covered elastic strips. You can sew on fabric and tie it in knots, down the back, or choose another design. Whatever you use, you’ll need a small piece to go across the lower part of the zipper area, a larger piece to go across a higher area, and a much larger piece to go across the upper back. It’s up to you how many of these pieces that you’ll sew into the previously-zippered area, but make each of them straight across the back, horizontally.

Lay the dress in front of you so that the bottom of the zipper area is facing you. Spread the zipper area apart to form a “v” shape. This shape should represent how much larger you need the dress to be. Pin the chosen fabric or elastic between the two sides of the zipper area. Be sure to space these evenly apart and make sure you have one at the very top and one close to the very bottom.

Starting at the back neckline, sew straight down, around the zipper area, and back up. As you do, sew over the ends of the elastic or fabric pieces. When you’re finished, the dress is ready to wear again.

Although the too-small dress now fits, it won’t look the same as it did before. In fact, it will look even better with the open back. You won’t miss that zipper at all and you’ll love the new fit.

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