Changing a Garment From Zippered to Buttoned

I have a customer who loathes zippers in her robes.

So, she asked me if I could take the zipper out and put in buttons.

No problem, I answered.

It’s no problem because I made sure that she understood that she was going to lose some of the width in the front.

Putting in buttonholes and buttons means one side will overlap the other (just like a shirt does) when I am finished.

In the case of this robe, the “chevron” angles won’t ever meet in the middle again either.

But that was fine with my customer.

She just wanted buttons.

Here’s the robe:

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The good news is that the garment you work on most likely won’t be this fussy.

You’ll probably be working with a solid colored garment, or at least one that doesn’t have stripes going on the diagonal.

To begin with, remove the zipper with your seam ripper.

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On this robe, there is a facing on the inside top of the robe and the zipper is sandwiched inside of it.

So, if you have a facing in your shirt, robe or other garment, you’ll need to rip out the facing and then the zipper. Sometimes you can take out both at the same time.

For this illustration, I decided to take off the facing first and then peel back the zipper like this:

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Once you have the zipper out, you notice that this garment did not separate in two.

That’s because the zipper didn’t go all the way to the hem of the robe.

So, we need to open the robe up.

To do this, I lay a cutting mat in between the layers (so I don’t cut the back of the robe by accident) and use a rotary cutter and long ruler to cut the robe open.

Line up the ruler perpendicular to the hem and make sure it lines right up to the zipper opening.

And then cut it:


Once you’ve cut the opening, look to see if you’ve cut across any seams.

If you have, you need to anchor those edges so that they don’t come undone as you work on your garment. Just back stitch at the edges of those seams.

I was able to just topstitch on these seams:

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Next, take a few stitches out of the hem so that you can open that area up to work on it later.

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Serge the raw edges if you have a serger.

If you don’t, zig zag the raw edges so they don’t unravel:

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To make the facing, cut a piece of fabric about 2 1/2″ wide and as long as the length of the front of the robe.

Cut some iron on interfacing a little narrower and a little shorter than the facing strip, so that when you press it on, it doesn’t stick to the iron or the ironing board.

Now press the interfacing onto the wrong side of the facing strip.

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Lay the facing strip right sides together down the front edge of the robe.

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Do you see the facing that is hanging free in the photo above? Just fold that over and make sure it will cover the top edge of the facing strip. In the photo below you can see that when the original facing is folded over, it will cover the white facing strip after it is sewn.

So pin it in place like in the photo above and stitch it down.

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Now pin the original facing to the facing strip being careful not to catch the front of the robe in the pin.

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Open this area out flat and stitch it in place so that you don’t catch the front of the robe in the stitching like this:

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At the bottom of the robe, trim off the white facing strip even with the folded bottom edge of the robe.

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Open out the hem and facing. Take the bottom edge of the hem and fold it up right sides together onto itself and pin in place:

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Stitch along that seam line (in the above photo) where the pin is. Of course, you don’t want to stitch over the pin! I just put it there so you could see the line better.

When you turn it right side out, it should look like this:

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Now stitch the hem by hand or machine, using a top stitch or a blind hem foot.

Next, make buttonholes of whatever size you’d like based on the size of buttons you chose.

I am not including  instructions on making buttonholes because every machine is different and some have built in buttonhole makers.

So check your sewing machine’s instruction manual.

Sew on the buttons with a thread shank if you need it.

I realize every garment is a little different than the one I just explained, but the technique should be applicable to what you are working on.

Enjoy your “new” garment!