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Enhance a Zipper Closure with a Chic Wind Guard

Install a zipper shield to keep out the cold
Threads #194, Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018
Add a wind guard that provides warmth and design interest. Pattern: author’s design, Etsy.com/shop/MaisonPamela. Fabric: denim and lamé, author’s stash.

To enhance a zipper closure on outerwear, consider backing it with a wind guard, a fabric strip that acts as a shield behind the zipper teeth. When the zipper is closed, the guard prevents wind from blowing through the teeth; when the zipper is fully or partially open, the guard is a design element.

Make the wind guard in a contrasting color or material such as leather, satin, or velvet; or add decorative stitches or other embellishment. (Keep the decoration low profile so the guard lies flat when the zipper is closed.) The guard can be the same length as the zipper, shorter than the zipper, or continue past the zipper bottom to finish at the garment’s hemline.

Adding a wind guard is a simple process: Simply draft a pattern, sew the guard, and install it after you’ve inserted the zipper. I’ll take you through the steps for a basic application. From there, you can make any design adaptations you like to personalize the detail.

Draft and sew the guard

Make a guard pattern to fit the garment and zipper, then cut and sew the guard. Choose a garment with a centered opening, and work from the center-front line. Replace any cut-on facings with seam allowances. On a woman’s garment, the guard is traditionally attached on the left side.

1. Mark the zipper location. On the garment front pattern’s center-front line, mark the zipper top and bottom placement locations. The zipper top stop should be about 1⁄4 inch below the neck seamline; the zipper bottom will be about 3⁄8 inch above the hemline.

Patten of wind guard showing position on zipper

2. Draft the guard pattern. Place pattern tissue on top of the front pattern piece. With a ruler as a guide, trace the jacket center-front line, from neckline to hemline. Mark the zipper top and bottom placement. With the zipper seamline established, you can be creative in drafting the guard’s top, bottom, and outer edges. Make the guard any width and length you like, and shape the ends as desired, either straight or rounded. You can even make the guard an uneven width from top to bottom if you prefer.

3. Add seam allowances to all the guard pattern edges. Alternatively, mark the guard’s outer edge “Place on fold,” if you prefer not to have a seam there. If the guard fabric is heavy, make a seam so you can attach a guard facing in a lighter-weight fabric. Label the pattern “Guard and guard facing.”Wind guard and interfacing materials before being sewn together

4. Cut the fabric. Cut one guard piece from the desired fabric; cut a corresponding piece from fusible interfacing. Turn the pattern over and cut a guard facing from the same or a lighter-weight fabric. Fuse the interfacing to the guard piece’s wrong side.

5. Complete the zipper. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to attach the remaining zipper side.

6. Add topstitching, edgestitching, or decorative stitching. It’s easier to work this stitching now, before the guard is installed. Once the guard is prepared, set it aside until the zipper has been inserted.

Sewn together wind guard

Insert the zipper

Install a zipper foot for the following steps.
1. Prepare the garment sections. On the garment’s right side, chalk-mark the zipper placement. On the wrong side, fuse an interfacing strip to the garment opening seam allowances. Fold these allowances under and press to establish the zipper alignment line.

Jacket pieces with wind guard placed on one side

2. Pin the zipper in place. Open and separate the zipper. With right sides together, lay one side on the garment. Align the top and bottom at the placement marks, and place the zipper tape on the seam allowance. The teeth extend over the center-front crease into the garment. Pin the tape to the seam allowance to secure.

3. Sew the zipper side. Stitch the zipper tape from top to bottom.

Zipper pieces placed on jacket pieces

4. Complete the zipper. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to attach the remaining zipper side.

Attach the guard

Finish the zipper installation by joining the guard to one side of the garment.
1. Position and baste the guard. Place the guard, right side down, on the garment right side. Align the guard with its raw edges along the zipper tape and the finished edge facing into the garment. Match the zipper top and bottom marks. Pin, then baste the guard to the garment, stitching through the garment and zipper tape. If desired, finish the seam allowances now.

Wind guard attached to jacket piece

2. Topstitch the zipper. Fold the zipper tape to the garment wrong side and press. The guard extends away from the garment. Topstitch the folded edge of the fabric, approximately 1⁄8 inch from the fold, through all layers.

3. Topstitch the remaining side. Fold the zipper tape to the wrong side and topstitch along the fold.Topstitching and facing fabric examples on jacket front with wind guard

Finishing touches

To secure the seam allowances on the jacket interior, catchstitch them to the garment behind the guard.
Alternatively, apply a front facing after step 2. Then fold the facing and seam allowances to the jacket wrong side, leaving the guard extending beyond the zipper teeth. Add the topstitching to hold all the layers flat.

Woman wearing a jacket with a wind guard attached
The wind guard can be an opportunity to showcase a contrast fabric

Pamela Powell teaches in the fashion studies program at the College of DuPage, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and is the author of several books on fashion design.


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