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A Look at Exposed Zippers

Behind the exposed back zipper, the dress's interior boasts many small details and fine finishes that contribute to the overall quality of its construction.

In the August/September 2012 issue of Threads, Jacque Goldsmith demonstrates a method for installing exposed zippers, showing that zippers are so much more than mundane closures. When installed on a garment’s exterior, instead of hidden behind a fold of fabric, a zipper becomes a functional embellishment. Exposing a zipper to display its tape and teeth instantly adds a modern designer detail to any garment.

Here are some great detail photos of the dress featured in this article that we couldn’t fit in the magazine. The pattern is Retro Butterick 5032 in pebble-textured wool, with a YKK zipper, size no. 3.

A closeup of the back neckline and front neckline interior. Note the rayon seam binding, which matches the lining, finishing the facing edges.

A grosgrain waist stay snugs the dress to the wearer. It is stitched all along its bottom edge to the dress’s turned-up waistline seam allowance; this also serves to conceal the serged seam allowance.

Instead of a separate lining, the dress is underlined. The outer fabric and lining fabric were sewn as one layer during the dress’s construction. This helps ensure a perfectly clean, sharp finish at the zipper opening, which is a bit more difficult to achieve with a separate lining.

A detail of the front neckline facing and its bound edge.

A detail of the back neckline facing. A hook and eye secure the top of the zipper opening. Note the clean finish around the zipper opening. The article’s author, Jacque Goldsmith, always adds her own labels to the garments she sews.

The skirts back walking vent and its perfectly mitered corners. The hem allowance edge, finished with seam binding, is catch-stitched in place.

This dress’s interior details are as artful as its exterior. Incorporating hot fashion trends into your garments doesn’t have to compromise quality.


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  1. cakecake_ladios | | #1

    A dress that is beautiful inside and out! I could look at this all day!! Thank you for a wonderful article!

  2. joans43 | | #2

    Regarding the exposed zipper: NO,NO,NO!
    Some things do not change, no matter who, or how many say
    " yeah, " [that would be "yea "]. ON jeans---maybe, or on a
    sweater pattern, where the seams are on the outside, but not on a dress. Sorry.

  3. sandysewin | | #3

    I cannot wrap my head around this exposed zipper thing. Maybe I'm too stuck in tradition, but it just looks WRONG.

    The rest of the dress is quite beautiful, though. :-)

  4. KJRas | | #4

    Perfect - I've been admiring this look and wondering how to best accomplish it. I'll look forward to the issue.

  5. User avater
    Stitcher75 | | #5

    I saw one of these on a lady at work the other day. It looked like a mistake. The front of the dress looked stylish and professional. The back, with its exposed zipper just looked like someone messed up. Not for me, thanks.

  6. Sunshineinal | | #6

    I like this dress but would never wear anything with an exposed zipper. It looks like it's on wrong side out.

  7. hunnybun | | #7

    Sorry, not for me. Thank for the pictures of the work done on the inside of the dress. These I can use, but an exposed zipper that is in a contrast color looks tacky to me

  8. bernmcn | | #8

    I'm not feeling the outside zipper look. Beautiful job on construction though.

  9. User avater
    slmendes | | #9

    I love exposed zippers on the right type of dress, skirt or other garment. It gives a a little fashion edge to an otherwise simple garment. I hope to do this on a sewing project soon.

  10. LaurieDiane | | #10

    I love the construction details on the inside of this dress.

    A dress like this, I'm not fond of the exposed zipper. To me it is a distraction to it's fine lines. On the other hand exposed zippers on more edgy fashions I like so this article will be handy for me the next time I do this. I pefer black on black or the like...then the zipper does not stand out but rather is a clever design idea you discover....IMO :)
    Thanks for a great article.

  11. psfws1963 | | #11

    [email protected] writes: This is not a good look for me. A dress w/ an exposed zipper, see i'm affraid that if i sit in a chair or bend over the zipper could get caught on something in rip my dress were the zipper is,but if you don't mine having you'r dress look half ass i guess thi look is for you.The front look's good however. posted: 10:24 am June 26th

  12. ziggygigi | | #12

    This look speaks to me but it's yelling "I look so stupid." Just not pretty on a dress--maybe a funky purse or pillow.

  13. marcole | | #13

    The exposed zipper on this particular dress cheapens it. It looks horrible. It would look good on jeans or a pillow. Perhaps as an added feature on a totebag.

  14. User avater
    yousewsmart | | #14

    Any exposed zipper just looks ridiculous. I see this as just another fad that will wane quickly, leaving garments with exposed zippers looking so outdated they will be relegated to the back of the closet or thrown in the Goodwill bin. I can't imagine spending quality time sewing this project just to toss it out later, or spending time reworking the zipper the correct way after the fad dies. What a waste of valuable time and energy. Remember when the fad was wearing your garents wrong side out---that didn't last long either.

  15. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #15

    I like the exposed zipper look on the front of a garment, but not on the back, unless it goes all the way from the top to the bottom. But I can't imagine sitting on it, so one is only going to wear this to a cocktail party where you'd stand up the whole time!
    I appreciate the gorgeous construction and finishing detail on this dress. I hope someone is going to actually wear it!

  16. User avater
    lizathome | | #16

    I am happy to see the instructions. I like the look - although it isn't something I would wear. I saw one on an actress on TV - a black dress with a silvertone zipper running down the back. It looked stylish. Of course, she was young, slim and pretty, so that helped.

  17. Lizzieann3937 | | #17

    While this is not necessarily something that I'd choose for myself, it is something I can see my daughter wearing who is petite and under 21. I loved the details and appreciate the artful construction. I enjoy the extra effort made to have the interior a work of art.

  18. Karma2 | | #18

    It seems criminal to spoil such lovely construction with that (!*&) ugly zipper application. I am told that this is edgy but it just looks like poor construction to me. This sort of poor taste always remind me of the tale of the Emperors New Clothes. Everyone is told how edgy, new and different. But the facts is, he's naked. Such a shame that this otherwise lovely dress, will languish in the back of the closet.

  19. HarmonyQ | | #19
  20. HarmonyQ | | #20
  21. HarmonyQ | | #21

    I absolutely love this look! It is so playful and fresh and not ordinary. It has personality! It's wonderful that the inside is as beautiful as the outside. The fabric is gorgeous. I've been wanting to do this for a while and now I am truly inspired. For all you folks who think that this look is for the young---well, too bad! I'm 57, and it is totally me. You've all missed the point. The exposed zipper only works on a beautifully executed piece, otherwise, it will look sloppy. I think that's the problem. You don't sew as perfectly as you may like, therefore, the exposed zipper is a challenge for you to pull it off properly Solution? Invest time in honing your sewing skills, invest in a pattern that compliments your figure, and invest money to purchase the most perfect fabric. What is left? You will need the pattern that best compliments your figure to tie the look all together. Is this for a mundane job at the office? No. Is it for a statement piece? Yes!

  22. User avater
    tigerlounge1971 | | #22

    Gorgeous, really chic and fun. Excited to get this issue!

  23. Ikebana152 | | #23

    Bustles, panniers, hot pants, low rise pants, exposed zippers...pick the trend that works for your taste, your body, your age. It's an interesting technique and the zebra striped zipper in the new issue is sort of cool..-:)

  24. gsewing | | #24

    A beautiful dress, inside and out. Let's not get hung up on the exposed zipper ladies.

  25. User avater
    crazyarmygirl | | #25

    I made a wrap skirt with an exposed zipper. I took 4 zippers, applied the slide half of one on the one end of my skirt, then spaced the other half of the 4 zippers on the other end of my wrap skirt. The effect was a functional, adjustable, and really cool looking closure for my wrap skirt.
    I'm glad to see it on other garments.

  26. user-2163967 | | #26

    I would like exposed zippers when they are "inserted" into the garment, not just sewn on the top. the edges are still sewn in and the tail of the zipper is tucked away but the teeth and a small amount of the zipper tape still shows down the side. Quite a few designer garments have the back zippers stitched in this way. The zipper is usually metal or has chunkier teeth. Any hints on how to put zippers in like this would be great - thanks

  27. amyashworth | | #27

    Eh? I guess I am another traditional. I think exposed zipper is the same as exposed facings, slips hanging out...or wearing your bra on top of your shirt....you can if you want to, but.....
    I think it is a very edgy look that might work with biker pants or jackets but not with a dressy dress.

  28. Libbi | | #28

    Exposed zippers on dresses are ugly and ruin it. Especially when a metal jacket zipper is sewn on the outside of a designer dress. It makes the outfit look cheap. I can't wait for this ugly and lazy 'style' to end.

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