Last fall I started seeing zippers and zipper tape used as embellishments for accessories and made into jewelry. This bootie by Jeffrey Campbell caught my eye recently, and these while sandals by Christian Louboutin might give you some ideas.
There are also all sorts of ways to create embellishments using zippers or zipper tape (sometimes called zipper chain). So the other day I pulled out a baggie of old zippers that I'd collected from...somewhere, and started playing with them.
First I decided to try making a rosette. I cut 16" off a heavy zipper (size 9, I would later learn), then ran a long gathering stitch by hand along the edge.
Then I pulled up on the thread just a little and took an anchoring stitch. From there it was a case of rolling it into a rosette shape until I got a look I liked. Then I unwound the whole thing, spread E6000 onto the fabric side and re-rolled it. I clamped the end and let it dry. You could also stitch the spiral in place, but a little Fabri-Tac glue beforehand will help hold it together while you stitch.
Zippers and zipper tape come with brass or aluminum teeth. You can also find them with antique brass teeth, but that doesn't really give you enough contrast to be appreciated against the black fabric they usually come with.
You also could try this with different color zippers and with different weight zippers. For some more elaborate zipper rosettes, take a look at this post from the M&J Trim blog. (And despite what the post says, you CAN buy them in their online store.)
Next I decided to see what would happen if I used a longer strip of zipper tape and really scrunched it up when I gathered it. Since it was just an experiment, I glued together three short zippers to get the length I was thinking of, then stitched and gathered.
I liked the scrunched up spiral look a lot! At this point I was ready to sacrifice one of my long zippers to the cause. I ended up using both sides of an 18-inch zipper to create this piece. I gathered it tightly, then anchored the loose end with a few stitches.
Then the fun really began as I tried different ways of using it on a pair of Mary Janes with heels.
If you try this, there are two things to watch out for. One is that the zipper embellishment has teeth exposed on all sides, so you don't want to put it somewhere on your shoe where it might scrape your skin. On the shoe above, the strap was wide enough to shield the instep from the teeth of the zipper.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to stitch the zipper embellishment onto the shoe, not glue it. There's just not enough flat surface anywhere to use glue. The good news is, you don't need to take a lot of stitches to hold it on.
You can do a fair amount of adjusting to the "ruffles" of zipper tape when you stitch it down, too.
Then I tried one more variation on using the embellishment, adding a loopy flower I'd made from a small vintage zipper.
Here's the before and after.
The embellishment I made was actually longer than I needed to cover the t-strap, but I simply scrunched it up more when I stitched it down. The pink embellishment is simply gathered, looped, and stitched to itself to hold the loops in place, then tucked under the black zipper tape and stitched onto the shoe.
As I think you can see from the photos, I had a lot of fun doing this. I hope you'll try it -- and send me photos of what you come up with! (You'll also get lots of ideas by doing a Google search of "zipper jewelry" or "zippers shoes," especially if you search using Google images.)