The first step to
attaching your zipper begins before you start making your project: finding
the right zipper. Knowing the type of zipper and the zipper length that
you will need for your project is important because different zipper types
are not interchangeable. You will have to go back to the fabric store and
purchase a new one if you get it wrong. Fortunately for you, this page has
all you need to know about choosing the right zipper.
Standard zipper sizes
that you can purchase at fabrics stores tend to be: 4”, 7”, 9”, 12”, 14”,
16”, 18”, 20”, and 22”, although you can sometimes find lengths up to
100”. Usually, zippers for skirts and pants will require a 7” zipper, and
misses’ dresses need longer lengths (often 14” or 16”). If you are working
with a sewing pattern, the pattern envelope should indicate exactly the
type of zipper and zipper length that you will need. If the color zipper
you need is not available in your size, always choose a size larger. It’s
easy to shorten a zipper, but impossible to lengthen one. (Directions for
shortening a zipper can be found here.)
Once you know the
differences between the zippers they are easy to identify (and the zippers
in fabric stores are usually labeled if you can’t figure it out). Listed
below are different types of zippers and what sort of projects they are
Conventional or “All Purpose” Zippers
These are your standard,
common zippers that will be used for most closures including bags,
dresses, skirts, trousers, etc. Conventional zippers have two strips of
fabric that are attached at the bottom by a stop. The zipper teeth are
visible when the zipper is facing up. Unless a zipper is purposefully
exposed as a fashion statement, conventional zippers are often hidden in a
garment by lapping a small layer of fabric over the teeth.
(Learn how to attach a zipper here.)
These teeth can be made of polyester coil (the most common) or metal. You
might choose a metallic zipper when working with heavy-duty fabrics, like
when making jeans or luggage.
Invisible zippers are most
often used in women’s wear, particularly for more formal clothing, when
dresses or skirts are made of delicate fabric. They work the same way as
conventional zippers and also have a stop at the end, but the two pieces
of fabric cover the zipper teeth when the zipper is facing up. The zipper
pull (also called a slider) is also smaller and slimmer. The hidden coils
and the smaller slider ensures that the zipper will remain unseen when
attached correctly, giving the outfit a more elegant and seamless look.
Learn how to attach an invisible zipper here.
Separating zippers are most often used when making jackets and vests.
Unlike conventional and invisible zippers, separating zippers do not have
a stop at the end and can come completely apart. Because separating
zippers are most often used for coats and longer projects, they often come
in longer sizes. And because they are most often used with heavier
fabrics, the size of the zipper teeth tend to be larger, and there appears
to be a greater variety of metallic choices.
Here is a photo
showing the separating zipper with no stop at the end so it can come