While making dresses for our fall Seasons at Home tea, I decided to take pictures and explain how to sew in a zipper. It doesn’t matter how many times I put a zipper in, I get confused each time, regardless of the instructions on the zipper pack. I bet that’s why you’re here too! So if you want to know how to sew a zipper in a dress, hopefully this tutorial will help. It will help to read through the zipper tutorial before starting.
Tips Before Sewing Your Zipper
• Be sure you have the right length zipper. Your pattern will tell you the size you need. If you have trouble finding the right size, just make sure it’s longer, not shorter than the pattern size needed.
• Use a zipper foot. You can ‘wing’ it using a regular foot, but a zipper foot is designed specifically for zippers.
• Always test your zipper to make sure it opens and closes before sewing.
How to Sew a Zipper in a Dress
We will start with pinning the seam in the back of the dress where the zipper will be placed. Pin the right sides of the dress back together, from the top where the zipper will be placed, all the way down to the notch that was given on the pattern (if this applies).
On most dress patterns with zippers, you will have a ‘notch’ to stop at, where the notch starts the bottom of the dress opening. Pin all the way down to the notch, then also down the back opening, making sure the seams match (the top of dress to the back of the dress), otherwise the seams will be misaligned down the back of the dress.
Take the dress to the sewing machine and BASTE a 5/8″ seam line with your machine where you pinned. If you don’t have a basting stitch, use a double-long stitch. Stop at the notch on the back of the dress opening and reverse to lock the stitches. We will put the zipper in before finishing the back of dress bottom.
Press Open Seams
Most zipper install instructions say, “Machine baste opening closed. Press seam open.” Here you see that you put your RST (right sides together) and basted the seam opening closed to the notch. Now, press the seam open.
Tape the Zipper in Place
Make sure your zipper works. Now, close the zipper and lay it right side down on the seam, so the zipper lays right on the basted seam. Iron down the extra tape on the zipper at the top (if there is extra), and place about 1/4″ under the neck seam line. Using clear tape, tape the zipper in place all the way down to the notch. Regardless of the instructions, this has worked the best for me.
Sew the Zipper on the Dress
Turn the dress right side out carefully. Use a matching thread and a zipper foot for this step, and change the basting stitch to your straight stitch.
Start sewing at the notch, sewing straight up to the top, on the right, stop 2″ before reaching the pull. (You’ll finish sewing the 2″ on the next step)
Now, cut the thread and carefully scoot the dress back to the bottom instead of turning or pulling it out from under the needle. Repeat sewing the left side, and again stop 2″ down from the pull. Always make sure to reverse stitch to lock your stitches.
If you don’t have a zipper foot, just be careful to measure and set your eye on the machine guide plate so you don’t sew over your zipper. A zipper foot works best.
Sewing Each Side
I now have a sewn line on each side of the zipper. Now, we’ll finish off the 2″ marks we stopped at. At the top, pull out some basting stitches and open the zipper down to where you stopped at 2″. Pull the zipper down to get it out of the way. Continue sewing to the top, and back stitch to secure your stitches. Repeat on the left side.
Finishing the Zipper Bottom
Now move to the bottom. In this step you sew across the zipper to finish off the ‘rectangle’ and secure the bottom in place. Turn the dress to the side and simply connect the bottom. Back stitch to secure this final closure.
Alternatively, if you are wondering I didn’t start at the top, go down, turn and go up – you can sew it that way. I did it this way because my zipper tends to move off the tape. You can baste the zipper in place and then sew, but I didn’t want to sew the zipper twice, so I used tape.
Zipper is in place!
Remove the Basting Stitches
Carefully remove your basting stitches.
Finish the Dress
The bottom of your dress can now be finished according to your pattern. Here is a picture of where I stopped and finished the back opening. My zipper was an inch or two longer, but again, that’s better than it being shorter.
I hope this tutorial was helpful in understanding how to sew a zipper on. It took me a while to brave the zippers. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll no longer shy away from zipper projects. Have fun!