Dresses with Side Zippers: How to Put a Zipper in a Dress Update 05/2022

We’ve all experienced it. You buy a dress that looks lovely on the rack, but when you try it on at home, you notice something isn’t quite right about the fit. You’re not alone if you have a wardrobe full of dresses you haven’t worn because of minor fit issues. You, too, have reason to be hopeful.

Even if your sewing skills are more novice than professional, you should be able to grasp the basic techniques required to transform an ill-fitting dress into a figure-flattering vision. Knowing when and how to employ a side zipper will put an end to your frocky-horror days.

While side zippers aren’t a quick fix for every type of fitting issue you’ll have, you’ll be surprised at how many problems they’ll cure. Is it difficult to slip a dress over your head because of your large ribcage? You have too many stuff in your trunk to put on a skirt and draw it up? Then meet the side zipper, a handy little tool that will provide you with the extra wiggle room you require. Simply zip it down to put the dress on, and zip it back up to return it to its original shape… what could be easier?

Side Zipper vs Back Zipper

But, I hear you question, why side zippers instead than rear or front zippers? Invisibility, in a nutshell. A zipper at the back of the garment is difficult to miss; on the other hand, a zipper on the side is so subtle that it is almost unnoticed.

While a back or front zipper necessitates the creation of a new seam in the garment (changing its style), a side zipper makes use of an existing seam, allowing you to adjust the fit of the dress without modifying its core design. A side zipper is the way to go if you don’t want to spoil or disrupt the look of your garment.

What Side Does a Zipper Go On a Skirt or Dress?


If you’ve decided that a side zipper is the best solution for your fitting issues, the next step is determining which side of the garment to put it on. Finally, there is no correct or incorrect answer… After all, one of the advantages of creating, producing, or altering your own clothing is that you may do whatever you want.

Ladies were dressed by someone else in the past, so buttons and closures were put on the side that was easiest to access for the person doing the dressing. But that was then, and this is now, and the only person you should be concerned with these days (at least in this case) is yourself.

Most people will find it easier to work a zipper on their non-dominant side (i.e. left if right-handed, right if left-handed). This usually makes getting into and out of the garment a lot easier than it would be otherwise.

Where to Place a Zipper


So, now that we’ve figured out which side to put the zipper on, it’s all up to you. But what about the height of the zip? This, it turns out, is the more important of the two questions.

Because the location of buttons can have a huge impact on how the dress appears and how comfortable it is to wear, it’s worth taking a few minutes to figure out what will work best for you, based on both your body shape and the design of the garment.

First, let’s look at the dress’s design. Installing a zipper on a sleeveless garment is a piece of cake: simply cut right from the armpit down the seam to create an opening. If your dress contains sleeves, things get a little trickier: put the zipper at least an inch below the seam.

Ladies with larger busts will benefit most from a zipper situated as close to the armpit seam as possible. A zipper situated just above the waistline will normally favor those with wide ribcages, while a hip-level zipper will be more convenient for those with wider hips.

How to Add a Side Zip to a Dress

Adding a side zip to a dress is a lot easier than most people assume, and only requires a few basic sewing skills. If you can poke a few pins into material, use scissors, and operate a sewing machine, you’ll be done in no time.

The Approach

Step 1

Remove the stitching along the seam where the zipper will go with care. Avoid tearing the fabric or removing more stitches than necessary.

Step 2

Roll out the zipper and press it flat with an iron to make the teeth lie somewhat flatter.

Step 3

Place the unzipped zipper in the opening you’ve created, making sure the zipper’s sides match up with the seam fabric’s sides. If you’re working with a slick fabric, hand baste it in place instead of pinning it in place.

Step 4

Turn the dress inside out so that only the top of the zipper is visible.

Step 5

Stitch the zipper in place with your machine’s zipper foot, sewing from the bottom to the top.

Step 6

Finish by removing the pins or basting stitches.

How to Add an Invisible Side Zip to a Dress

We’ve already covered how to sew in a visible side zipper. However, there is another form of zipper that requires a slightly different method than the one we often employ. Invisible zippers are gaining popularity in the sewing world, and they’re the ideal option for ill-fitting formal gowns and outfits where a visible zipper would damage the aesthetic.

If you want to add an invisible zipper, make sure you have a sewing machine with a zipper foot, since it will make the job much easier.

What You’ll Require

Sewing Machine with Zipper Foot Tape Measuring Ruler Pins or Fabric Marker

The Approach

Step 1

Serge the joining seam edges where the zipper will go. With the correct side facing out, align the seam edges side by side. Mark the place with a fabric marker or a pin 34 inches in from the top edges on both sides. This is where the zipper will be attached.

Step 2

Mark the length of the cloth with a 5/8 inch seam allowance with pins or a marking pen to indicate the zipper positioning.

Step 3

Unfurl the zipper and use a low-heat iron to straighten out the curled teeth.

Step 4

Place the zipper coil on one of the specified seam allowances, right side down. Baste or pin in place.

Step 5

Stitch the zipper teeth in place under the right grove in the invisible zipper foot. Begin from the top and work your way down. Backstitch to secure the zipper end once you’ve reached it.

Step 6

Rep step 5 with the second side of the zipper pinned in place on the other pattern piece, making sure both sides are aligned.

Step 7

Close the zipper, align the right sides of the pattern pieces, and push the zipper tails to the side. To finish the seam, place the project in the sewing machine and stitch 2 inches away from the zipper, backstitching at both the beginning and end to secure the seam. To finish the seam, switch to a standard presser foot and sew along the stitching line.

How to Change a Zipper From Left to Right

If you like a right-handed zipper but have been trapped with a left-handed one, switching it over is simple.

  • Unzip the zipper completely.
  • Remove the end stop with a pair of little nipper pliers.
  • Replace the slider and the end stop after removing the slider and turning the zipper tape over. Job done!

Can You Resize a Dress With a Side Zip?


If you’ve lost weight or couldn’t pass up a huge sale on a dress that’s just a smidgeon too big, a few tweaks should have it fitting like a glove in no time. While a side zip makes taking in or letting out a dress a little more difficult than it would be otherwise, it is still achievable.

Because the ideal way relies on where you need to make the adjustments (back, front, or sides), as well as where the seam (if any), investing a few minutes to find out where the best position for the adjustment is well worth the effort.

Next, we’ll look at two of the most straightforward methods for altering dress sizes.

How to Make a Side Zipper Dress Bigger


If your dress is too tiny, side zipper or no zipper, you should be able to let it out. Keep in mind that, depending on the amount of seam allowance, most dresses can only be scaled up one or two sizes.

If the dress has a back or front seam, you should let it out and resew it with a reduced seam allowance. If it simply has side seams, however, the process will be slightly different. Begin by taking in the non-zipped side in the traditional manner. The zipped side must then be brought in by moving each half of the zipper inwards without removing the entire zipper. Sounds difficult? Don’t worry; once you get started on the steps below, everything will fall into place.

The Approach

Step 1

Unpick the zipper stitching from the top edge down to the halfway point.

Step 2

Pin the zipper in place after moving it inwards by about 12 inch. Stitch the zipper back in place, spreading the teeth to the left, with the needle inserted at the neck edge of the zipper.

Step 3

To finish, fold the right sides together and serge away the excess seam allowance.

How to Make a Side Zipper Dress Smaller

If your dress is a little too big in the back, the simplest solution is to use the following instructions to take it in.

The Approach

Step 1

Turn the dress inside out and try it on to determine how much it should be taken in. Pin the amount (if you can, enlist the help of a friendly volunteer to help you with this part—it’ll be a lot easier).

Step 2

Remove the dress and place it flat on a working area, folded lengthwise. Check that the armholes, neckline, and waistband of the two sections of the dress are all in the same place.

Step 3

According to how much you need to take it in, pin the entire dress.

Step 4

Sew the dress from neckline to hem using a straight stitch and your pins as a guide.

Step 5

Cut off the excess fabric and seal the raw edges with a zigzag stitch or serger.

How to Put on a Dress With a Side Zipper


Zips can feel like a necessary evil at times. If a zipper is on the side or in a position that makes accessing it difficult (to the point that you don’t want to wear the dress at all), a few simple hacks and ideas will make life much easier.

First and first, consider if you absolutely need to utilize the zipper. If the zipper was on the dress when you got it, and the dress is just about loose enough to pull on regardless of whether the zipper is zipped or open, leaving it permanently zipped up will do no harm.

If you inserted the zipper to adjust the fit, you’ll probably need to open it to some extent, but consider whether you need to completely unzip it. If the zippers are at half-mast, the dress may be just as easy to slip on and a whole lot easier to zip up.

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