Today’s post is all about that zipper, ’bout that zipper, no buttons. The zipper was invented a long time ago, but didn’t really become popular until the ’40s and ’50s. They used to be hidden away because they were considered improper, but now they are displayed out in the open and often as a featured design on a clothing item. Zippers are faster than buttons and look cute, but they can be an annoying feature on thrift-shop items when they don’t work properly. Here are a few tips on how you can fix busted zippers or up-cycle them into designer-inspired jewelry. I’ve also included a touch of fashion history, just for fun!
Zippers, Vulgar? Why?
The idea for the zipper was born way back in 1851, when the inventor of the sewing machine (Elias Howe) thought up the crazy idea for an “Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure” device that would be so much faster than buttons. A company that used the design on their galoshes in the ’20s came up with the name “zipper” because the device made a zip sound when it was used (and probably because Howe’s name was way too long!).
When zippers were first used on women’s clothing they had to be hidden behind fabric because they were considered indecent and vulgar. The reason? Apparently, zippers made clothing too easy to get off! A bold designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, introduced zippers into women’s fashion in the late ’30s. At first the look was considered cutting edge and remained rare. However, eventually convenience won out, and zippers started to become more common-place. By the time the ’80s hit, zippers were often a featured design element on a piece of clothing.
Tips For Fixing
You might find vintage items that are in mint condition. Mostly, though, you find things that have already been loved a little, or a lot! Zippers are the first things to go. If a zipper is “sticky” and the slider will not travel smoothly up and down the track, try applying some soap or graphite from a pencil over the track. If the teeth are separating, like in the image above, you might be in for the more involved project of replacing the slider. Remove the small head-piece of the zipper track with pliers. Then pull the slider all the way off. This is the piece that you will be replacing.
On the back of the slider there should be a number (can you see the small engraved “5” in the image above?). Look at the number and then go on a hunt for a matching slider. When you find it, thread it back onto your track and replace the head-piece. If the new slider does not do the trick, you could also try replacing the whole zipper, including the track and fabric that integrates it. This will take needle and thread, and a whole lot of attention to detail.
Designer Inspired Up-Cycling
If you have a zipper that is no longer functioning as an “Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure” device, and needs a new job, employ it as a piece of jewelry. Designer Tara St. James has become known for her creative use of zippers as jewelry pieces (like the necklace in the image above). Zipper necklaces, anklets, and wrist bands are easy to make. What a creative way to up-cycle old zippers!
Zippers used to have a bad name, but now they are respected members of the fashion world. For those of us who love to buy second-hand items, they can be a source of frustration. With a little bit of know-how, you repair busted zippers so that they no longer cause amazing clothing items to land in the “no go” pile as you sort through a thrift shop haul. And if you can’t fix it, you could always make it into something new! Do you have a new love for zippers now? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments section below.