How to Install an Exposed Zipper

The Jade pattern offers instructions on how to insert an exposed zipper at the center back. It describes our preferred way to do this, but there’ll be a post about alternatives in the next couple of weeks. If you use a different method, keep in mind that you’re looking for a way to insert a zip without a center back seam.

In this tutorial we’ll be following Step 8A-F and Step 9 of the Jade instructions. I’m showing this on scrap pieces and not the whole skirt, but the process is the same. Here we go!

You’ll need:

  • a standard zipper, 5,5″ (14 cm) long
  • a zipper foot
  • basting thread + needle
  • your Jade skirt, with Step 1-7 completed
Starting point
Starting point

At this point you’ll have your waistband attached to the back and back lining and cut into the interfaced rectangle that you sewed. The lining is pinned out of the way so you have room to insert the zipper.

Step 8A: Baste the zipper in place

Step 8A

Open up your waistband, the seams opened up. The waistband and back piece seam allowances should be folded towards the waistband. Lay the zipper upside down on the left side of the rectangle, on right side of the skirt. Baste in place. Check if you haven’t accidentally caught the lining.

Step 8B: Sew right side

Step 8B
Step 8B
Step 8B

Sew the right side of the zipper. The best way to do this is to start at the top with the zipper opened up. When you get close to the zipper pull, stop with the needle down. Pull up your presser foot and close the zipper. Most machines have two heights: halfway when you pull the lever up, and even higher when you push the lever further up. This can help when closing the zipper with the needle down.

Step 8B

Then finish stitching, ending right at the bottom of the zipper teeth.

Step 8C: Turn under

Step 8C

Turn the zipper to the right, and tuck the bottom between the shell and the lining. Flip the left side of the skirt to the right, so the lining is facing up and the back of the zipper is facing you.

Step 8D: Baste and sew left side

Step 8D

Flip the left side of the skirt onto the right, so the lining is facing up and the back of the zipper is facing you. Align the unsewn side of the zipper with the edge of the cut rectangle of the back piece, right sides together. Baste and sew as in previous step. Be careful not to catch the lining.

Step 8E: Sew bottom

Step 8E

With the right side of the back shell facing up, flip the bottom towards the top so you can see the bottom ends of the zipper. Pull the triangle down and sew it to the zipper ends. Try to catch the triangle along its broadest side.

Step 8F: Handsew the lining

Step 8F

Unpin the lining and tuck it in, folding it alongside the zipper teeth. Pin it to the zipper and handsew in place.

Step 9: Finishing up

Finishing up
Finishing up

Fold the waistband lining down and fold the seam allowances in place. Halfway step 9, your zipper and waistband should look like this. I’ve handstitched the waistband in this case, but you can also use the stitch in the ditch method.

If all went well you’ll have an exposed zipper, but without any seams showing on the outside! If you have any questions let me know in the comments or email me at [email protected].


  1. Kathy Jo Slaughter

    : Reply to Kathy

    That is a good explanation. I needed a simple, short version to refresh my memory and you were right on target. I have also seen info on sewing the exposed zipper in a lined garment using the sewing machine for all of it. Cannot remember where, though. Thank you.

  2. Suzanne Booker

    : Reply to Suzanne

    Thanks for that Lisa. I want to make a flying suit for my three year old Grandsons birthday and this zip instruction is perfect. Cheers.

  3. Rosales Belkis Donelis

    : Reply to Rosales

    muchas gracias ,anillo al dedo para hacer el vestido planificado;ya habia hecho uno pero le quedo´ un detalle

  4. Patricia Ackerman

    : Reply to Patricia

    I am replacing an exposed zipper in the front of a dance leotard, with front lining. I am trying to do so without dismantling the entire front assembly (including seams and neckline) of the Leo to get at everything. Do you have any information regarding simplifying this procedure? Thank you for your anticipated assistance.

    • Lisa Kievits


      Hi Patricia, it’s a bit difficult to say without seeing the garment. If you don’t want to take apart any seams, I’d say insert the new zipper, between the layers, pin it in place and then hand sew it in with tiny stitches along the edge. I don’t think there is a way to do it my machine where the stitches won’t show.

  5. Christiana Isaac

    : Reply to Christiana

    Thanks so much for this. It was quite easy to follow. I was going about it the wrong way and had horrible results. Looking forward to your other lessons. Thanks.

  6. Juulzz

    : Reply to Juulzz

    Thanks for this advice. I am planning on inserting a zipper into the side darts of a skirt and was not sure whether I should cut a square at the end. There will be one at each side of the front for decoration.

  7. Tori Hall

    : Reply to Tori

    Thank you so much for explaining it without two pieces (seam down the middle)!! I have been trying to find a tutorial like this forever! Thank you thank you :)

    • Lisa Kievits


      Me too, before I wrote this one!

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