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How to sew an exposed zipper.

Exposed zipper look became rather fashionable recently. When it is properly done it can elevate the whole design and add an interesting detail to your dress, skirt or jumper. Exposed zipper can be placed in the middle of a garment piece, between two components of a garment or into the seam. Besides obvious functional role (putting on a garment or closing a pocket) it can be used as a construction element or as an embellishment.

The following method of sewing an exposed zipper doesn’t requires a seam at all. The technique is similar to a bound buttonhole process scaled. A separate piece of fabric is used to make a faced opening. You can go with the same fabric, or with a piece of lining if the thickness is too great. Stay is used to achieve a crisp lines and prevent stretching and fraying.

Setting exposed zipper

Step 1

Putting right sides together sew the facing where you plan to insert the zipper. The distance between parallel lines is equal to the width of the opening. The wider the opening the more of your zipper will be visible.


When setting an exposed zipper into a stretched fabric, using stabilizer is a must, with woven fabrics it depends on design and your skills. If you expect any stretching (bias direction on woven fabrics and all knits) press a strip of thin adhesive interfacing to a wrong side of the garment to prevent warping.

Step 2

Cut both layers of the fabric between the stitching, stopping 10mm before the end. From the end of the vertical cut make two notches into the corners. This is the most fiddly part of all the process. If you cut too close to the stitching you risk to overdo it and cut the thread. If you stop too far the facing won’t fold back properly and the corners will be warped. 0.5mm should do the trick, a little more for easily fraying fabrics.

Step 3

Turn the facing to the back paying particular attention to the corners. Press the opening to get a crisp and clear lines.


Step 4

Lay the garment flat and baste your zipper in place. Take your time as it might be fiddly at first.

Step 5

Top stitch around the opening keeping close to the edge. Zipper foot is a real help. If your sewing machine doesn’t have a zipper foot, set the needle into the leftmost position, it gives almost the same effect.


If this is your first time, don’t do it straight on your garment, have a go (or two) on a scrap piece of fabric using an old zipper. It will give you confidence to work on a “live” piece, and you can expect much neater result. After all who wants to spoil the garment and waist time.



When it is not desirable to have a top stitch around the zipper, you can employ a back stitching technique to secure it in place.

Exposed zipper step-by step illustration

This way you sew the zipper to the facing and seam allowances without a single stitch visible on the right side.


To insert a pocket zipper, make a faced window, similar to bound buttonhole. The rest of the process is identical.

 Setting a centered zipper:

Method 1

Method 2

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