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Zipper Broke? Button Popped? How to Fix Wardrobe Malfunctions on the Go

With a few simple tools and clever hacks from fashion expert and Wall Street professional Tonia Steck, founder of the lifestyle blog FO40.com, it'll be like nothing ever happened.

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Pack a tiny emergency kit

Just as you plan ahead for vacations, it’s a good idea to plan for your time out of the house. Two of Steck’s must-have supplies are a common safety pin and a mini sewing kit, which you can find in drugstores and other retailers. The sewing kit comes in handy for mending a popped button, but if you don’t have time to hole up with needle and thread, a safety pin can be a lifesaver for closing the gap left by the popped button—or a neckline that feels too daring. “If it’s a shirt or jacket button, a broach may also help cover an unwelcome opening,” Steck adds.

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Know where you can get seltzer, salt, and sparkling water

At home you’ve got an arsenal of products to get rid of weat stains, remove lipstick stains, erase grease stains, and more. But when you’re out, not so much. “Smaller stains from greasy food spills can usually be dealt with by applying salt, which may absorb the grease,” Steck says. For the awkward coffee spill try some seltzer or sparkling water to lift the stain and then blot patiently with a clean napkin. (Try these tricks when you’re eating messy foods to make the process neater.)

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Try camouflage

If the wine, butter, sauce or coffee stain is going nowhere fast, it’s time to just cover it up. “Weather permitting, these are the times it’s great to have accessories such as a jacket, scarf, or cape,” Steck says. Consider leaving a neutral scarf in the car or at work for just such occasions. Remember, accessories jazz up your style, even when you’re stain free.

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Pull it together

That mini sewing kit will come in handy when your zipper splits. Grab a needle and thread and literally sew yourself into your pants. It’s not ideal, according to Steck, but it will allow you to get through an event without a gaping hole. “If it’s the zipper on the back of a dress and you will be unable to wear it without the zipper, find someone to sew you into the dress,” Steck says. “Ask (beg! tears!) another woman in the bathroom or a hotel attendant for help.”

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Pack extras

Pantyhose are notorious for running, so if you’re planning to wear a pair, bring a backup—or at least a bottle of clear nail polish to mend rips or holes.”Dab some polish at the end of the run and it should stop it from spreading,” Steck says. “What happens if these stockings are beyond repair, such as have the embarrassingly large, can’t-miss, streaking tear? Just ditch them and go with a bare leg.” Apply body lotion to add some sheen to your skin and rock the bare-leg look.

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Fix a wayward hem

Ever cross your leg and rip the hem out of your pant leg? Or just realize the hem is torn when you feel yourself step on it? “This happens to me all the time—one pant leg is dragging and your perfect slacks look sloppy and disheveled,” Steck says. Luckily, it’s one of the easier fashion fails to fix. Use a safety pin on the hem (pin on the inside of the leg) or sew the area back into place, Steck advises. In a pinch, use some masking tape or duct tape to secure the hem along the inside of the pant leg. For more extreme unraveling, grab a stapler! Only a hyper-observant wardrobe critic will ever notice your improvised handiwork. After your event, a tailor can remove the staples and make a proper repair. Consider these surprising alterations a tailor can make.

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The big bang

Just about everyone has inadvertently been in public unaware that the back of their pants were ripped. That’s where your trusted mini sewing kit comes in handy, of course. If you don’t have time to mend the split seam properly—or the tear is not actually along a seam, consider patching it closed with a strip of duct tape inside the garment. It’s also just good form to always wear undies that sort of match your bottoms just in case. “When I went for my first driver’s license, I had unbeknownst to me, torn the entire back of my jeans. No wonder everyone was looking at me at the DMV that day!” Steck says. “If you plan to wear pants or an elegant, one-piece jumpsuit to an event, make sure to also wear undergarments that match the color of your outfit.” That way, the rip will be a bit less noticeable until you can duck into the restroom and do some repair or cover up.

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Save that last piece of gum

If the heel of your shoe breaks, reach for that emergency piece of gum in your bag. “Chew it quick, apply it to the stricken area, and (if possible) wrap some tape around it—this should get you through the night,” Steck says. “If the entire heel breaks off, there’s not much to do unless you’re at the shoemaker’s ball or a cobblers’ convention. Tap into your most confident self, remove those wounded pumps, and attend the event with bare feet.” Another idea for your pre-event checklist—invest about $6 in some Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats. They’re in an ultra portable carrying case and will do in a pinch.

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Own it

The bottom line, according to Steck, is that wardrobe mishaps happen to everyone. “With many of these mishaps, there is one key to all—confidence,” she says. “Try your best to fix the tears, rips, stains, and broken zippers, but at the end of the day it’s all about how you carry yourself. Hold your head high, put on a smile, be the most charming one in the room, and chances are no one will even notice.”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham is an award-winning Washington, D.C.-based journalist who specializes in writing about personal finance, automobiles, insurance, and lifestyle topics. Her work appears in People magazine, Automotive News, MoneyTalks News, Fortune, US News & World Report and Mental Floss. She also has written for corporate clients including Nationwide Insurance, Hartford Insurance, Johns Hopkins University, and the National Automobile Dealers Associaton.

Dunham also writes feature stories on musicians, television, pets and travel. That work has appeared in USA Today, Gannett, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and many other publications.

Before moving to full-time freelance work in 2008, Dunham was a managing editor of several business-to-business and healthcare publications. She was also a daily newspaper report for Gannett Newspapers.