DIY: No Sew Corset

I first saw this dress when I was a child at a yard sale and had to have it. It didn’t fit me but I didn’t care as I added it to my dress-up stash. It worked perfect with a fake string of pearls and I was in love and so was my imaginary Prince.

Until the zipper stopped working. I couldn’t throw it out then, and going through my boxes of dress up clothing prepping for my own daughter to use them, I can’t throw it away now. So here’s how you fix up those vintage finds for years more of make believe. Or if you are like me and secretly hoping it actually fits now, maybe wear for a night out. Alright, I just want to wear it. The dress is handmade, no tags inside and I found a few sewing errors so it is custom for the girl who made it.

  1. Take stock. What’s wrong with the piece? For me it’s a zipper. But after trying it on I realized my waist isn’t as skinny as the last owners (size 2-ish). You may want to take the time to wash it depending on where it’s from.
  2. Corset Decisions. Depending on the look you want there are two ways to add a corset. You can use a rivet system or ribbon loop system. I have a set of vintage rivets I want to use to keep the piece period correct and avoid the sewing machine.
  3. You will need:
    1. Rivet set in correct size, I’m using 1/4″ white
    2. Hammer
    3. Workspace
    4. Ribbon for lacing- double faced
    5. Fabric ruler for spacing
    6. Pen for marking rivet locations
    7. Crochet hook for lacing up the back (optional)
  4. Remove the old zipper. Take it slow and steady. You don’t want to rip the old fabric and you need to reuse the same area for either a new zipper or in my case a corset. I’m not taking the zipper backing off because I want an extra layer of fabric, instead I’m just snipping off the zipper line.
  5. Set up your workspace. This is not light on the workspace, it will damage what you are working on so don’t do it on your nice countertops. I’m using an old board.
  6. Space your rivets. I’m spacing about 1″ apart and my rivets are 1/4″ in size coated white. This is your preference. You can use larger rivets and bigger ribbon for a different effect all together.
  7. Follow the directions on the rivet packet and get hammering. Sometimes the rivet punch will get filled with fabric, use a pin to remove the pieces. Be careful about breaking the punch end sometimes it can get bent or chip.
  8. Ribbon. I’d wait to cut off the extra ribbon you have. Every person is different so it’s hard to say how much you will need. I bought a whole spool, about 3 yards. Use tape on each end to make it easier to lace.
  9. Lace it Up. Depending on how small of rivets you used you can use a crochet hook to feed through your ribbon for lacing. Lace from the top down (opposite of a tennis shoe) because at the base you can either tie a bow or tuck the extra ends into the back of the dress depending on what style you are going for. I recommend adding knots to the ends of the ribbon afterwards so they don’t pull back through your laces without warning.
  10. Wola! Try that pretty thing on- I mean put it back in the box for later. Who am I kidding, I’m so wearing this. You may need a buddy to lace you up tightly in the back. If you are doing it yourself use your thumb like a hook to pull each set down toward the bottom of the dress.

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Hopefully this inspires you to raid your Grandma’s closet looking for those gorgeous vintage pieces. If you are stuck for ideas on how to retrofit it I’d ask your Grandma, as she may have made it or at least knows a few sewing tricks. You can also ask me in the comments section.

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