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Lace-up Backs

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Since the popularity of the lace-up back style and the usfullness of using this design element to make a bodice larger many ladies have been writing questions about the subject and it's various applications. I have been putting these in different sections of the question section and have thought it would be good to collect them all here.


added February 2011

Thank you Leanna for your much appreciated website!  I have scoured over it and found much helpful advice.  Yet I have one question whose answer eludes me (days and days of cyber-searching).
 
So one day I was walking by an antique store and, there in the window, was my wedding dress.  Well, I was twenty nine years old, single, with no future husband prospects; but it didn't make any sense not to buy it ~ otherwise, someone else would have been married in my dress!  So I paid $100 for it and it's been hanging in my closet for the past fifteen years.  I know, I know.  I'm an optimist.
 
I finally have a reason to pull it out (oh, not that I didn't swirl around in it a time or two over the years) and wear it on my wedding day.  Yay!  But fifteen years and ten pounds later we have to reconcile some differences.  I've always liked the look of the corset back, and after reading the many stories in your website about converting a zipper back to a lace up back, it seems quite plausible.  But here is my question:
 
Can I use tulle to tie the corset back?
 
The dress has a "lining" (sorry for my lack of technical terms) made of taffeta, over which the "strapless" bodice is covered with a pretty white lace.  The back has a zipper that is hidden under a few eyelet clasps and then the seam is covered by a thousand tiny little buttons (I'm exaggerating, but there's a lot of buttons!).  Then at the waist, there are layers of tulle that bound out like a big puff ball.  In the back of the skirt, the tulle becomes really long and comes together in a point (I've seen brides holding up their train at this point).
 
At the "strapless" neckline of the dress, a band of tulle has been sewn into the middle of the breast, making a V strap up over the shoulders and then sewn to each shoulder blade at the back of the dress.  This is not a good look for me.  So I was thinking of removing this tulle strap and creating another one ~ to come up from the front of the dress adjacent to each underarm, up over the shoulders and come together in the back at a V, to be then laced through the loops of the corset, lace down the back, and then tie in a bow. (I'm also planning on cutting off the hem so that it is the same length all the way around, and use the long part as material for a veil.)  I don't know if this would look stupid, if the tulle would hold the dress secure, how many loops to sew in (obviously, with the thickness of the tulle it could not be a tight lace like it would if I was using ribbon, etc.).  I don't have to continue the shoulder straps into the laces for the corset.  I can sew them in place and start a new length of tulle for the lace.  But my question is really about the look and functionality of the tulle lace.
 
I'm attaching a close up picture of the back of the dress.  I hope I have included enough detail and that my question makes sense.
 
Again, thank you so much for providing this forum.  I have looked everywhere for an answer and I am so hopeful that you will be able to help me.

Much obliged, Karen

Hi Karen,
 
I like the visual I'm getting from your idea. Yes, you can use the tulle for lacings for the look it will bring, but to get it to give you the strength you need for keeping the dress closed it will have to be stretched so tightly that you will loose the fluffy tulle look. You can place a regular lacing inside the tulle to take the strain of the closing, or you can just make an inset of tulle and keep the zipper running up the side of the inset. 

Wow, Leanna, it is so generous of you to give me such a prompt resonse.  Thank you!  Did you know I was waiting with bated breath ~ and not good for my fingernails either.  ;)
 
Thank you for your positive feedback on my idea.  That feels good!  I decided to sketch myself a drawing of what I was envisioning and I think it does look pretty good.  My only reservation is whether or not I want to keep the dress a simple combination of the lace and tulle fabrics or if I want to add embellishment with a pretty ribbon (and maybe lace straps over the shoulder).  Well now that I've had your insight, I can try it one way and if I don't like it I can try the other.
 
Thanks for the suggestion of adding the regular lacing behind the tulle for strength.  That makes perfect sense!  I wasn't sure what you meant though by the "tulle inset and keep the zipper".  I don't think I was clear enough in my email that the dress is now too small, so it won't do up with the zipper.  If I understand what you mean by a tulle inset, what would the zipper be attached to for support?
 
Again, it is so re-assuring to have a professional out there to bounce these ideas/questions off of.  That is very big-hearted of you and I'm sure we brides are all sooooo grateful.
 
Sincerely, Karen 

I love the strapless look. I do understand that many brides are hesitant of it and wish a little bit on their shoulders. Lace can be nice draped in the shoulder area, but be careful that anything you add to the design of your gown be subtile and look like it was meant to be there in the first place or it may end up sticking out like a sore thumb. That goes for the ribbon too.  
 
My suggestion of the tulle inset is like adding a rushed tulle panel where the lacings would go. You would remove only one zipper side, insert the tulle panel and resew the zipper on the side of the panel.  Think of it like adding a gusset instead of lacings and maybe you'll get the picture.

Oh, I understand now!  That makes sense too.
 
I appreciate your caution about adding too many "foreign" embellishments.  It's good to get advice from someone who looks at wedding dresses all day.  As this is the only one I'll ever wear, I'm trying to get everything I love about wedding dresses all in one. ;)
 
I'm thinking about four criss-crosses (4 loops per side of the opening) would look about right ~ with the real lace underneath.  Does that sound about right to you?
 
Hope you are having a fun winter in Ohio.  I don't know what the weather is like there, here in Nova Scotia we are getting more snow than we've had in many years!
 
Take care, Karen


added October 2010

Hello.  You have a WONDERFUL site, and I am so thankful I found you while searching questions online.  I have a quick question.  First, the gown that I am about to purchase is a zip up gown, and I've been told they "think" they can have a corset back put in.  My question is, is it possible?  I've attached a photo of the gown (me in it).  I fit perfectly in the size 16, but will be losing weight prior to the wedding.  So, I guess I have 2 questions...second question is if I order a size smaller than the 16, and have a corset back put in, will it work if I don't lose a ton of weight?  Any advice is MUCH appreciated.

Misty

 

Hi Misty,
 
Adding a lace up back will make any dress bigger. How big depends on how loose you do up the lacings. I have yet to meet a gown I can't convert to lace-up. Some may be more difficult than others, but it's not brain surgery. Your picture looks pretty normal so I doubt there'd be any extra complications.

I can not predict how much weight you will loose or even if you will loose it in this area of your body. You have not said how much time you have to loose this weight and even if you are dedicated to your diet plan and know you can have the strong will to loose your desired goal amount, your body gets to pick where it comes off. That's mainly why I say it's a bad idea to diet once you have ordered your gown. So, I can't really answer your question of, "Will it look good". I'm sure the sales lady you are dealing with is saying it will with no hesitation.

All that said, I THINK you are just fine with what you are planning. A good guess is to order one size smaller (the 14). If you are very sure you can loose at least 20 pounds with the time you have then you might go to the 12, but no less. What you are planning is a big risk and if you don't loose the weight your lacings will be wide, but I can't say that will look bad. As you do loose the weight the lacings will be closer and you might not like that look either. I can only give you a guess.


added June 2010

Hello,
 
I'm in the Dayton area and in the process of buying my wedding dress.  I found your website via a recommendation on theknot.com.  The dress I want has a zipper under fake buttons.  I'd like to switch it to a corset.  It fits great, but I just like that look better.  I can't stand fake buttons!  Also, due to the train layers the consultant wasn't sure if/how it could be bustled. What could I expect to pay you for these services?  I would appreciate your advice as I decide whether or not to purchase this dress or keep looking. 
 
Thank you, Christi
dress link: http://www.allurebridals.com/index.php?id=3&product_id=515

Hi Christi,
 
Often, manufacturers will do a corset back on gowns that are designed to zip. It's well worth asking if Allure offers this. My charge for a lace-up conversion starts at $180. It can go up from there depending on many things I can't determine until I see the gown on you. Gowns that are too small to begin with do better than gowns that fit perfectly because I would have to cut out some of the back to make room for the lacings. This should not take away anything from your gown because the back is all over lace, but you will also loose the deep "V" design. The lacing section will have a few inches of straight across the top so that the V will look more like a U. This change may be drastic enough that you may not like it.
 
I don't think the bustle will be a big problem. I would start by trying a French bustle.  A Ballroom bustle might also look good depending on how you are wanting your backside to look. There are other options that are not all pictured on my site. I have heard of stores telling brides that certain gowns just can't be bustled and they will have to live without one. That's just a cop-out. In my 25 years of doing this I have not met a gown I could not bustle in some way that the brides liked.
 
Bustling starts at $40. This one could easily go to $60 or more, but I'd need to see it on you to give you a definite price.
 
Hope this helps, 

Leanna,
 
Thank you so much.  I think I'll make the drive to another shop that carries the same dress and see what results I get there.  It's hard when you have to trust them because I'm a teacher, not a seamstress!!
 
Christi


added June 2010

Hi Leanne,

I have a unique dress, it's too small, but it fully zips.  The designer made the button enclosures going up the back of the dress really wide apart so I have to pinch the dress together to get them closed.  So it zips but the buttons won't close because my rib cage is too big.   Since it's a dropped waist, I wasn't sure if a lace up could be put in because it's not meant to be a tight fitting dress.  Do you think it could still work with a lace up?  I would appreciate any help, thank you so much!

 

Hi Morgan,
 
Your pictures don't show the back of the gown but I'm sure a lace-up back will look good. The section that is used for this usually extends a good bit below the waist area so your drop waist will not be an issue. I have seen many drop waist gowns with lace-up backs already designed into them originally. So, I can't think of any reason it wouldfn't work.

added June 2010

Hello! I am a BIG FAN of your website but I am having a BIG problem I am
making my sister a replica of this wedding gown (because the
manufactures no longer make this gown) the only thing I don't know how
to make are the Lacing loops can you explain to me how these are made?
Also she wants a HUGE ballgown skirt sort of like the gone with the wind
gowns (a little less) just so I can have an idea how much fabric is
needed for the skirt? The fabrics I buy are 108" inches wide how many
yards do I need to achieve a mega full skirt? Also it is a polyester
satin tulle ball gown HEAVILY BEADED =) thank yo SOO SOO MUCH

Adrian

 

Hi Adrian,
 
I use rat tail braid for my lace loops. It's strong and much easier than making the loops.  You can get it from most fabric/craft stores but here's a link if you can't find it in your town. http://kwikcrafts.com/crafts/category/Rat.html?gclid=CNqFvfDAgqICFQlinAodIFvzFg
 
To make the skirt use a pattern like Simplicity 9247. It will have the fabric to get on the pattern.

added March 2010

Is it possible to purchase pre made loops to make a dress into a corset
back? I am having a great deal of trouble making the loops out of the fabric
of the dress. I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me

Carol

 

I use rat tail braid for making loops. It can be found in any fabric or craft store. Here's an online seller: http://kwikcrafts.com/crafts/category/Rat.html?gclid=COmint7tzaACFQUMDQodaChPzQ

added March 2010

Hi Leanna,
I bought my wedding dress online. I originally ordered a size 24 when I received it the dress was much too large and falling off of me I took it to a tailor in my area and they quoted me $500-$600 to alter it to my size. There reccomendation was I go down 2 sizes if I was able to exchange it. I was able to do this but now the dress will not zip up. I am estimating it needs somewhere between 3-6 inches in the back. It is perfect from the front though and the sleeves are not too big or too small. I was wondering if I changed the dress to a corset if it would look ok? The tailor told me she could let it out under the arms and the idea did not appeal to me.
Here is the link to the dress
 
http://www.romanticgowns.com/collection/product-page.asp?SKU=7614
 
Thanks
Jackie

Hi Jackie,
 
I have done several lace-up back conversions and I think it's a great idea for almost any style of gown. I think your's would look lovely!

added March 2010

Hi Leanna,
 
I am helping a bride into her dress, and was not there at the store when they showed her Mom how to lace up the back.. and she has forgotten some of it.
 
The bride doesn't want to tie the ends in a bow, but wants them tucked into the dress.  She said they tied 2 knots and tucked it in, but the knots are down low... how do you keep it tight this way?  Is there a way of folding it in that fills the space nicely??
 
Thanks so much,

Sandi.

 

Hi Sandi,
 
All I do is tie a square knot and tuck the ends down the bottom of the opening. You can usually tuck them in the sides of the opening so they don't look funny. There is one picture on my site that is this way: http://www.leanna.com/Bridal/bimages/Lacing05.jpg 

added February 2010

I bought a dress months ago and it zips, it's just utterly uncomfortable. I can barely beathe and I'm afraid I'll pop a seam when trying.
 
http://www.davidsbridal.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplayView?storeId=10052&catalogId=10051&categoryId=-49978998&currentIdx=9&subCategory=-49999486|-49998984|-49978998&catentryId=6096960&sort=
 
This is the dress. It's too tight around the bust. I was thinking maybe that I could have a lace up back put into it with a modesty panel. Or maybe just have pieces of fabric put in the sides up by the bust so that way it will fit. But I'm leaning more towards the lace up back because my weight tends to go all over the place.
 
Will it look okay with a lace up back?
Hi Tori,
 
I tried looking at the pictures for the link you sent. I can't tell for sure (even with magnifying the picture), but if the beaded pattern continues into the side seams, it is possible they can be let out a small amount. It might be enough to make you comfortable. I have often gotten up to an inch more room in a side seam. If the beading does not go into the seams than adding space in the sides either by letting out the existing seam or adding fabric will be costly because of the hand beading that will be necessary. Lace-up conversion is a great way to add room and looks good on most any gown. I have seen gowns like yours with lace-up backs and I think they look just fine. I can not say if you will like the result or not. The full skirt might tend to cover up the bottom portion of the laces.  

added January 2010

Hi There,
Wow, what a helpful website….it’s answered a lot of my questions but I still have one more.

I have a zipper back dress that I got for a steal of deal – it is a size 8 and I am currently a rough 13!  I have just lost 10lbs and am going to the gym 5 days a week but I am concerned I won’t lose as much weight as needed.  This dress barely does up in the back and I was told I could add a lace up back for extra room.  My question is : How much extra room do you get when adding the lace up back to a dress?? I am confident I can lose another 15-20 lbs so maybe down to an 11 or 12 by August, but I still think the dress will be too small.  How many inches could I gain in adding the lace up back?

Thank you ever so much for your website and help!

Aliesha

Hi Aliesha,

You can get quiet a bit of comfort room from a lace-up conversion and they look great on any gown. The average amount I've been able to get with a lace-up back conversion is 3" to 4". It depends on the length of the seam the zipper is coming out of and the width of the modesty panel you make to put behind the lacings. The longer the seam, the more room you can get. The width of modesty panel is up to you, but I make them about 2 inches wider than I know I need.

Since you said, "the dress barely does up". I think this is a good solution for you. If you had said that you can't zip it at all and the zipper gaps over 3 inches, I would question this being a good option.

Thank you so much for your quick response Leanna.  Now in regards to my dress “barely doing up” to be more clear, 10 lbs ago it did up only a few inches up the back…..I’m kind of nervous now.  I will try the dress on again this weekend….I’ve been waiting to do so until I had lost a little more weight, but I think now is the time….so if it is more than a 3’’ gap, you are thinking to go another route? IE new dress?

Aliesha

Well, you can still do the conversion, but having laces for more than 3 to 4 inches I think is not pretty. I had one gown that I did for a 6" gap and the bride liked it. I thought it was just ok looking. I think she didn't want to shop for another gown.
 
August is a long way off and your weight goal is not unreasonable. You just might not need this at all.

Well thank you for the encouraging words.  I will try the dress on this weekend to see what the 10lb loss did for me…..you are right, this may not be as big of a panic as I thought…..thank you again – your assistance has been amazing!!!


added January 2010

So, I have a large chest but small waist and hips. I am trying to decide between a size that fits my hips and waist and a size that fits my chest. It has a lace up back and was wondering how much play I have with the lace up as to not look funny at the side seems, bust and V shape of the laces. Me: Chest 37
Waist 27
Hips 38

The waist and hips fit an 8 and the Chest fits a 10 with a little loose in the laces, Can I gain 2 inches for my bust just from lacing it looser uptop or will this look funny?

Sharon

Hi Sharon,

Play depends mainly on how wide the modesty panel is. They usually have 2 to 3 inches that can go in or out. You need to measure the panel while you are laced-up in the gown to determine the play that dress has.


added July 2009

I have found a dress that I really like except that it has a lace-up back:

http://www.maggiesottero.com/dress.aspx?keywordText=erin&line=m&keywordType=any&pageSize=12&page=2&style=A3090
What I am wondering is whether you think it is possible to replace a lace-up back with a button or zipper back.  I haven't bought the dress.  I see a lot of comments about replacing a button or zip back with a lace-up back but not the reverse.  What do you think?

Kate

Hi Kate,
 
I have done this but I don't think it will look good for the dress on the link. The back neckline is angled for the lacings and will pull at a funny angle once the zipper is in. If you still what to do this, some kind of extra inset needs to be put in to make the proper angle for the zipper.
 
Lea

addded May 2009

Hi Leanna,

I stumbled on your website when google searching how to remove a zipper & replace it with lacing for my daughter wedding dress.  I have done a lot of sewing in the past, so I feel that I can handle this. I got some info from the seamstress at David's Bridal on the modesty panel. I was just wondering if there was any website you could point me to that had a little more detailed description on how to do this alteration, before I start removing the zipper.  thanks!!
Ann

I don't know of an written "How-to" for this. It's really hard to write a how-to when every wedding gown is different to start off with. The zippers are sewn in differently and sometimes theres the added corset inside the gown to deal with. You just have to study the construction of your gown, take out the zipper and insert the loops for lacing while putting back what was there to hold in the zipper.

Most often boning has to be added to the sides of the opening because zippers usually do not have boning next to the teeth.


added April 2009

I just bought a dress the other day and it didn’t quite fit right, so I wanted to put in a back panel that laced-up. I asked a friend and she said that they sale kits for that sort of thing, but I can’t find anything and maybe it is just because I am searching for the wrong thing. I wanted to know if you have any recommendations on what I want to do and where I could find such a thing. Thank you in advance for the help if possible.

~Rachel

There are no kits for this. I just get what I need for each item: some type of strapping for the loops or I make them out of fabric from the dress, ribbon or such for the ties and fabric for the modesty panel.

added December 2008

Hi Leanna,

 
I bought a gown, it is beaded in the front with an all lace back with buttons.  It will not button from the mid back and up.  My question is can the buttons be removed and lace tie ups done to a gown that was a button style?  I know that the privacy panel needs to be anchored to one side, and then floats from there to allow for tightening or loosening.  But can a button back be converted to a laceup? There is only 5/8 inches on either side to let out and I would need to let it out about 4 inches total for it to work.
 
Thanks,
Vickie

Just about any type of back can be converted into a lace-up style. Your task is to find a seamstress who can do this in your area. Try asking at fabric stores. They usually have a list of ladies who hire out for sewing. 


added March 2008

Hi Leanna, I am currently making a grad dress for a girl and she is requesting some alterations to the design of the pattern.  I have read about the lace up back on your site (very helpful!) but have a few more questions.
 
She is requesting a lace up back from the waist up with eyelets (or grommets) instead of loops.  I am concerned about the strength of the fabric so the eyelets aren't creating pulls in the fabric itself (or puckers).  Oh yes - the dress is taffeta.  I have tried out some grommets on scrap and it seems I will require the fabric, interlining, interfacing and lining to have enough strength for this.  That seems excessive.  Should I run some boning along the grommets to keep them from pulling instead, or perhaps using all layers in the back panels only? 
 
She really has her heart set on these grommets.  Should I try to dissuade her?  I'm worried if I do it wrong the stress of wearing it all day will cause them to tear out.  Thanks for the time you take to help all of us!
 
Priscilla

You need to tell her your concerns clearly and so that she understands the risk she is taking. She will not want to listen and will ask you to do this anyway, but you need to make sure she understands the situation she is creating. When she says to do it anyway, charge her any extra you need to and make it clear that she has asked for this extra charge.
 
I would add boning to both the inside and outside areas of the grommets and interline the taffeta. This is what you are charging extra for - AND make sure she knows this will NOT guarantee that the taffeta will not tear. It most likely will no matter what you do. She will tie this dress way too tight and the act of dancing will make a mess of it. This is not your fault. She is asking for something really silly, but she is a teen and doesn't know any better.

added January 2008

First, let me just say that your website is great and has been so helpful!
I am considering this dress. Measurements are 34" bust, 29" waist and 38" hips. It is a silk sheath with an empire waist.
The thing is, the bust measurement is about 3" too small for me. The waist and hips are about 1/2-1" bigger than I need. Do you think a corset back could be added to a dress like this to fix this problem? From reading your website, it seems like it would work, but I'm not sure because of the empire waist and the other measurements being a bit big.

Thank you,
Heather

Sure, a corset back would look great on this gown!


added November 2007

Hi
I really like a dress, but i cant find the same design with a lace up back (Venus K003W) Do you think it would be possible to alter it to a lace up back? How much does it usually cost? (approx?)

Thanks! Marie-Eve

I need to see a picture of the back of the dress to give you any kind of answer.

this is the dress
http://www.venusbridal.com/cgi-bin/description.asp?dress=K003W&dressline=VenusWoman

Thanks! Marie-Eve

The back is simple enough that it can be done. What someone in your area will charge for it I can't say, but I would give a guess-tament of about $80 and tell you it could be more when I actually see the dress and can look at what the construction inside it is.


added September 2007

Hi I am getting married in three and a half months and my dress is just too small. I don't want to go and buy another dress and I don't think I can loose as much weight as I will need to before the day, so I was considering having it lace up the back with a privacy panel under it. My question is how do I insert a privacy panel and how wide should it be. I am good at sewing but do not want to damage my dress and want to make sure I go about it the right way. Thank you so much.
Laura

The privacy panel isn't inserted. It's tacked to one side and the other side floats so the lacings can be tied as tight as you want or loosened during the day.

The panel needs to be at least 4 inches larger than the gap you are creating in the back to cover the area without worry.

It would help you to go to a bridal store and try on some laced gowns. You can see how it works and get ideas of what you can do for yours.


added July 2007

Leanna,

I have read all of your answers on your website. I can see so much of myself in so many of the people that wrote in! I noticed that you said that taking a zipper out and making a dress lace up the back can be done. This is what I want to do to mine. It fits fine in the waist and hips, but is too small at the top of my back and bust. It has stays and capped sleeves so it should stay up fine. I also have a seamstress to work on it for me. Can you just explain what materials will be used and what all will be done? Do those loops have to be sewn on individually and reinforced? I just want to make sure it will look ok. I love the dress and don’t want to mess it up! Thank you so much for all of your help! We all appreciate it!

Jenny Lin

The loops are a continuous tape of whatever I think will look good. I use rattail a lot. I do not cut each one. I sew them in a snake like fashion, reinforcing each very well. Your seamstress won't necessarily do it the same way as me but that would not make it wrong. She needs to do it as she knows how to do her best work. If she tried to follow my way she might do it very poorly.


added May 2007

Hello Leanna; I'm so happy to have found your website. I believe many people are relieved to have very good advice here. I also have a question about a satin dress, with princess seams ,and zippered back, with drop shoulder cap sleeves. My young friends wedding is in June and she is very determined to wear this lovely gown which is 6"s too small between the top of the zipper and does not taper very comfortably until it is opened fully. She would like to have lace up loop and ribbon but the waist would still pucker in the back if it were done up as far as the waist. Is it a bad idea or unacceptable to add inches to the side seams? She will wear this dress if she has to safety pin it on, and the design is truly wonderful on her. I have done many many alterations for shops in my area but do you think that side seams do not appear to have the allowance that they used too? Can you help me? I have never done such an extreme"let out" as this. Thank you so much. Annie

I really hate having to put fabric in the side seams to make a dress larger. It looks so tacky. If you have no other choice, it's best to make the pieces large. The larger they are the more they will look like panels that were original to the dress. The smaller they are the more it looks like, "Advertisement: I am too fat for this dress!".

I have done the lacing thing a few times now with much success. I do understand the pucker thing. You can try adding boning along the side of the lacing loops. This should fix the problem.


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