Zipper-dee-doo-dah: The Basics

An acquaintance of mine once told me a story of her zipper bursting at her wedding. Her mother quickly whip-stitched the zipper back together and later, at the reception, her father handed the groom a pocketknife and said, “You’re gonna need this later.”

Zipper malfunctions and weddings are sometimes common and unfortunate friends. This post is by no means meant to freak anyone out, but rather to help you make friends with zippers and know what to do with them when they malfunction. What’s that saying”¦”keep your friends close and your enemies closer””¦”know thy enemy”? Those toothy little bastards can seem intimidating and difficult, but they really aren’t. They are a lot like us in that when they are put under too much stress, they break.

Today, I’m going to focus on two pretty basic problems of zippers refusing to go up or down.

My zipper won’t go up because it’s too tight”¦

First of all, don’t force it!

The gut reaction for most people is to yank on the zipper with all of their might until it goes. This will, more than likely, result in a situation where it goes off track or bursts all together. Ahhhhhh!

All you really need to do is smoosh and redistribute where things are sitting. All of us galls have done this at one time or another and I have seen people smoosh in two different ways”¦straight in and wraparound. Straight in is like so”¦


Take your newly manicured mitts and, coming straight in from the sides, smoosh your body so the person doing the zipping can get it working. Continue this process all the way up the body, stopping and resmooshing whenever the zipper fails to move. I also find that securing the hook and eye at the top before zipping helps. The wraparound technique is similar, but involves smoothing the fabric and body from front to back so there is excess to zip. While the wraparound technique works, you are essentially moving all of your skin to the back, instead of evenly distributing it, and therefore are more likely to get “back fat.”

My zipper won’t go up because there’s fabric in it”¦

Again, don’t force it!

Ugh, we all hate it when that teensy piece of fabric gets caught in the zipper. It’s so annoying!


Move the excess fabric away from the teeth and firmly, yet gently, pull the zipper up. The fabric should come free from the zipper head.


If, after this, you have fabric stuck in the teeth, repeat the process downward. Just remember to be gentle and firm. It may be necessary for you to pull out your needle-nose pliers from your sewing kit if the fabric is thick and needs additional coaxing and leverage.

Up next? Tackling the BIG issue”¦zipper splitting.



Wedding Date:
June 2011
Lana Turner Had It Right
Gallery of the Day
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  1. tartlet Member
    tartlet 3227 posts, Sugar bee @ 11:51 pm

    No joke, I was *just* worrying about this today. Thanks for the tips, Waffle! I await your next post!

  2. Member
    IvyClimb 2612 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:58 am

    I had a dress zipper split right before a formal dance in college. I just tossed the thing and put on my friend’s dress and looked fabulous. (And inspired myself to lose 20 pounds, hooray!) Guess that doesn’t work so well with wedding dresses…

  3. Member
    marieta 339 posts, Helper bee @ 1:47 am

    I am yet again relieved that I have a corset and no zipper. I had enough of zipperness with my BM dress… as it loosened over the course of the day, I kept having to yank up the dress.

    But my BMs will have zippers, so I’m paying attention for their sake!

  4. snowcone Member
    snowcone 1141 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:31 am

    I used to think I was hot stuff because I knew the secret to getting a formal dress to zip up, but now that you bring up the back fat thing, I realize I’ve been doing it incorrectly all these years. Thanks for the light bulb moment!

  5. hyena Member
    hyena 2537 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:43 pm

    Thank goodness my dress is lace-up! If I come up with any more things to worry about, my head might explode.

  6. Member
    Kcoleybear 683 posts, Busy bee @ 11:23 pm

    Oh I am so glad my dress doesn’t have a zipper.

  7. carousel Member
    carousel 590 posts, Busy bee @ 6:58 pm

    Great tip, I’ll remember this!

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