Changing a vintage dress into an empire line style

I have a beautiful black and white shift style lace vintage dress. As I am really short (5ft 2), the dress is a little long on me and not only would I prefer it shorter but at the moment the waist is on my hips. I thought that it would fit better if I could convert it into an empire line and shorten it under the bust. In theory I don't think this would be too difficult except that is has metal zipper in the back.

Can anyone offer any advice or tips on how to convert it to an empire line and particularly how to shorten the zip.

Many thanks for your help


Hi Ceri, It sounds like a

Hi Ceri,

It sounds like a good plan for your vintage dress.

I just had a little look on YouTube for suggestions for shortening the zip. The video I found is quite long, but the guy seems to know what he's doing and shows you the tools you'll need and then how to use them. So you'd be best off removing the zip, shortening it, and then sewing it back in once you have shortened the body of the dress. You will need a couple of tools, so I'm not sure if it will be more economical to purchase a new zip that is the right length.

It's hard to say, without seeing the dress, but to turn it into an empire line, I would be cutting it under the bust (leaving enough extra fabric for seam allowance) and then removing the excess fabric from the middle of the dress. As the waist is at your hips, it sounds like there may be a bit too much fabric to stitch it directly onto the bodice - so it may need some tucks, gathering, panels, darts or even just some excess fabric removed from the side seams or centre back seam - depending on the design of the dress! Hopefully you have a dressmakers dummy (or a very nice friend is a similar size to you) to help you with your project.

Good luck, and please let me know how it goes!

I'd unpick the zip from bra

I'd unpick the zip from bra level down, and when raising the waist seam, unpick the CB seam to re-insert the zip into later. You can always leave the extra length of zip (if there is any) hanging inside the dress. It will only be a few inches, and this can make re-inserting it much easier.

Take photos of the original stitching so you can replicate it.

Good luck!


The "stops" for the ends of

The "stops" for the ends of zips if you go for shortening, as well as zips by the metre, replacement sliders etc are available from several small traders on ebay, eg mycazenove or alansalterationsstore . Alans Alterations are especially good & helpful - and the cost is usually far less than buying a new zip.

Good luck!

Whenever I alter the length

Whenever I alter the length of a zip I stitch firmly (by hand) over the teeth several times to create a bar. As The Dress Doctor said, leaving the end of the zip hanging will probably be best.


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