Illustration of the Folkwear 220 Garden Party Dress

The buttoned back of 220 Garden Party Dress is part of the charm (and authenticity) of this historic dress.  It is a bit unusual in current dresses and can be a feature that is fun and interesting.  However, it is not always practical. It can be hard to reach buttons in the back, and hard to manage buttoning them backwards.  It certainly would be helpful to have a maid to help us when putting on this dress (as might have been the case when it was worn in the early 1900s), but since that is extremely unlikely, another option is to replace the button placket with a zipper. 

It is always nice to have the option of a zip-up back closure when it comes to  making dresses because they are fairly easy to use and insert. The Folkwear 220 Garden Party Dress back button closure and placket can easily be replaced with a zipper. This can be done to either the contemporary (View A) or traditional (View B) versions offered in the pattern. In Part One of this blog you will learn how to make a minor pattern adjustment, that will allow you to trade out button/buttonhole closure and the placket for a long invisible zipper. This technique will work on any dress or blouse that has a center back seam.

Keep reading to learn how this technique will enable you to add a button and placket closure or a zipper to the back of any center back seam, by simply adding or subtracting fabric.

In Part Two of this blog, you will learn a tried and true method for adding an invisible zipper to the Garden Party Dress and how to neatly finish the interior waistband facing.


Illustrated back view of the folkwear 220 Garden Party Dress

The focus of this blog is to make an adjustment to the center back of the dress so a zipper can be added later. For the purposes of this blog I will not be making the entire dress. Instead, I am making a muslin of the dress back only for view A. You can make the adjustment as you construct the final dress if you like. However, be sure to read ahead so you are confident in what to do.

Pattern changes to be aware of:

  • The back bodice is adjusted to accommodate the zipper, eliminating the buttons. The zipper also replaces the need for the placket.
  • Remember not to stitch-up the center back of the skirt. Leave it open to install the zipper.
  • Due to the zipper, the interior waistband facing is finished differently. This will be covered in Part Two.

If you want to try the adjustment along with me, grab some muslin or scrap fabric and cut out the Bodice Back B, Waistband/Waistband Facing F, and Skirt Back H pattern pieces as instructed.

Adjust the Back Bodice
In order to replace the button closure with a zipper on the back bodice, you need to determine how much overlap or turned under self-facing has been built into the pattern. This extra turned under fabric was originally built into each side of the back bodice pattern pieces to accommodate the buttons on one side and the buttonholes on the other side. In this case 1-1/2" (3.8cm) was added to the center back of each bodice piece.

All that is needed to accommodate the zipper is a seam allowance. Simply trim away the extra 1” ( 2.5cm), leaving a 1/2” (6mm) seam allowance at the Center Back or center back line of each back bodice pieces. See the illustration below.

Note: The Waistband/Waistband Facing and Skirt pieces do not need adjusting and are ready to use as is. Also, the flanges are not being used in making this muslin, because they are only decorative and do not effect the construction.


Illustration of 220 Garden Party back bodice adjustment for zipper.

For ease of construction, I have cut away the extra length of the Waistband/Waistband Facing that is not utilized in this demonstration. If you are following along by making a muslin of the back of the dress only, you may want to start with the full length of the waistband. Then, cut away what you do not need. If you are making the entire dress cut the Waistband/Waistband Facing according to the pattern.

Add Waistband/Waistband Facing to Back Bodice
With right sides together, pin and stitch the Waistband to the Back Bodice, drawing up the gathers to fit, matching notch 6. The waistband edge should be even with the center back edge of the bodice.

Notice the red tip pin marks notch 6.

With right sides together Waistband to the Back Bodice

View of the wrong side with gathers drawn at center back edge to notch 6.

Wrong side view of the waist band stitched to the Back Bodice

Pin the right side of the Waistband Facing to the wrong side of the bodice, matching notch 6. Be sure to not catch the Waistband in the pinning or stitching. Stitch in place using the previous stitching as a guide. End the stitching approximately 1" (13mm) from the center back edge. Fold back the un-stitched section of the waistband facing and pin to hold it out of the way in order to add the zipper later.

Waistband Facing to the wrong side of the back bodice


Add Skirt to Waistband

Remember to not stitch the skirt backs together as the instructions direct.

Make two rows of gathering stitches within the seam allowances at the top of the skirt edge. With right sides together drawn up the skirt to fit the waistband, pin, distributing the gathers evenly. Then, sew being careful not to catch the waistband facing in the stitching. Press the seam towards the waistband.

With right sides together back skirt  to back bodice
Up close view with right sides together back skirt  to back bodice
Skirt pinned ans stitched to waistband
Waistband sewn to skirt

If you unpinned the un-stitched section of the waistband facing, like I did, to make construction easier, be sure to pin it back out of the way again before adding the zipper.

Skirt with waistband facing partially sewn together


Repeat for the opposite back side to the dress.

You should now have a right and left dress back, consisting of the bodice, waistband/waistband facing, and skirt. The two separate backs will become one piece when the zipper is added.

In the Part Two of this blog you will learn a tried-and-true method for installing an invisible zipper to the back of the Folkwear 220 Garden Party Dress. And learn how easy it is to create a clean finish to the waistband facing.

If you have not already done so, take advantage of the sale price for the Folkwear 220 Garden Party Dress during the month of June and join in to learn how to zip it up the back!