How to replace a broken zip

Close up of zips - Broken zip
Replace a broken zip and save your clothes

One of the most annoying things that can happen is for a zip to break on a favourite garment or indeed to suddenly fail whilst we are wearing the garment. These so-called ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ can not only be embarrassing but can also mark the end of said item’s life as a wearable garment.

Indeed many people in today’s throw-away society will simply throw a garment away rather than try and make the alterations themselves or have it repaired by a dressmaker.

Just suppose though you decide that you want to keep that skirt or those jeans, how would you replace the zip? We aim here to try and help you replace that zip and save not only your clothes from the charity shop scrapheap but also to save you some money.

Items you’ll need

As with all alterations, there are a few items that can only serve to help and it’s best to have them to hand before you start. We recommend you have;

  • Dress making scissors
  • Needle
  • Threads (Cotton and/or Nylon)
  • Stitch remover
  • Tweezers
  • Cutting scissors
  • Pliers

Removing the broken zip

The first thing you should do is unpick the stitching from around the original zip – it is best to start at the bottom of the zip to do this using your stitch remover and/tweezers for those little strands of thread that can sometimes be stubborn.

You have the choice at this point, if you wish, to either completely replace the broken zip or to simply replace the broken runner; the runner is that part of the zip on either side where the teeth are situated and one of the most common causes of problems with zips are old and wore teeth that simply fall away.

Having made sure that all of the thread has been unpicked you can then – using your pliers – pull out the stop at the bottom of the zip. Once you have done this you can then remove the slide from one side and push it back into position on the opposite side where – if the zip is not beyond repair – the teeth should fall back into alignment.

Replacing the broken zip

If you need to replace the zip completely with a new one then you should follow the above steps, making sure that all of the stitching has been unpicked. You should make sure that the stitching that runs up along either side of the zip to the waistband has been unpicked too.

You should now replace the zip by sliding it into the position of the old one and then, using double thread (either cotton or nylon but cotton is stronger) make a tack bar along the bottom of the zip where the bottom stop will be.

Once you have fitted the bottom stop into place and are happy that the zip is the right size for the garment you can then sew the rest of the stitching back into place; preferably using a stronger thread than the one that was originally used to hold the zip in place.

This may sound like a long-winded process but in actual fact, it should take no more than ten minutes unless you have a garment with some particularly complicated stitching to remove. You will find the process a worthwhile and satisfying one especially given the fact that most dress markers may well charge you in excess of £10 just to mend a zip when, using the techniques described above, you could do it at home for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time as well.

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