Replace an Invisible Zipper

Replacing an invisible zipper can look like an impossible task. I can assure you it is not. It is not the easiest of alterations, but once you know the secret, it is not so tough. What is my secret to taming this dastardly enemy? You have to buy your replacement zipper several inches longer that the zipper you are replacing.

Come along with me then, and explore this process.

Don't be Put Off by the Number of Steps
I want you to have all the information I can get to you, that is why I have so many steps in my instructions. It doesn't necessarily mean that the job is a difficult one. The more detail you have in the photos, the better chance you have of understanding the process.

Terms I've used Here
Center Back ... It's a term we seamstresses and tailors use all the time to designate the seam running from neckline to hem in a dress. But here, I need to divide that seam into two parts. First, there is the part from the neck down to the end of the zipper. The other is the part from the end of the zipper to the hem.

For purposes here, let's call the upper part of that seam the center back opening and we'll call the bottom part the center back seam.

A Note About Pinning...
Just to be clear, here, when doing invisible zipper repair, I usually sew without pins. I guess I have been doing this so long that it is comfortable for me. You can pin the zipper whenever you feel the need. You can also baste the zipper into place. It is a matter of preference. I like having the zipper free, in this case, though, because I can lift it slightly to realign it if it gets off course. Your stitches absolutely have to be in the crease of the zipper teeth, as well as the crease of the center back seam, in order for this to truly be an invisible zipper!

examine hook
STEP ONE: OBSERVE
This zipper has teeth going all the way to the neckline and the hook and eye at the inside top of the dress. Here I've begun to separate the dress fabric, zipper tape and lining from each other.
remove stitching in zipper
STEP TWO
After you remove the center back stitches, your dress looks like this. Check out how the invisible zipper tape has been encased into the neckline. Flip it inside out and back again to see the original construction.
remove hook closure
STEP THREE
Remove the hook and eye. Undo the stitching along the neck edge to remove the invisible zipper. Push the facing and lining out of the way for now. We will work on the dress's left back first.
Line zipper tape ends
STEP FOUR
Align the new zipper with the dress center back, teeth even with fold. Keep the seam allowance folded to the inside. Pin or pinch all layers with your left hand. With your right hand, grab only the seam allowance and the zipper tape.
align zipper teeth and neck edge
STEP FIVE
Release your left hand and your right hand remains, holding the zipper and the seam allowance. Lay it flat to look like this. Zipper teeth should rest along the foldline, top teeth should be slightly below the neckline seam. Pin in place if you like.
Sew zipper left
STEP SIX
Insert needle at neck edge, spreading the teeth toward the left as you sew. The needle is in the left position landing in the crease between zipper tape and teeth. The zipper crease is on top of the center back crease of the dress. (See pic #7)
sew zipper in center back seam
STEP SEVEN
Keep sewing in the crease until you get to the center back seam. Then your line of stitching will go right of the seam. Sewing the tape to the seam allowance for an additional inch or so.
sew invisible zipper
STEP EIGHT
This is what the left side of the invisible zipper looks like. If your stitches did not land in the fabric center back fold, you'll be able to tell it here. If the zipper tape shows on the outside, you have to rip and redo.
left side invisible zipper
STEP NINE
This photo shows the inside of the dress, looking downward from the neckline. See how the zipper extends past the center back seam? The stitching is right up to the beginning of that seam.
left side invisible zipper
STEP TEN
Here is a closer view. The "invisible zipper teeth fold" and the "center back opening fold" have been married together by your line of stitching, which goes all the way to the start of the center back seam.
Pin right side invisible zipper
STEP ELEVEN
Begin Step 11 by zipping the zipper, then matching it to the right side of the dress (not shown). Then pin it into place. Unzip it all the way.It is critical to get this placement right, to avoid the bubble at the bottom of the zipper.
sew right side invisible zipper
STEP TWELVE
Move needle to the right position. Begin at neckline again, and sew the right side of the zipper to the seam allowance. Again, be sure to stitch through the fold of the zipper and the fold of the seam allowance. Refer to Step 6 for a close up view.
both sides zipper looking down
STEP THIRTEEN
The second side is sewn. Again we are looking from the neckline toward the hemline, the outside of the dress is closest to the bottom of your screen. See how much extra zipper there is?
begin pulling zipper tab
STEP FOURTEEN
Now comes the fun part! Keeping the dress in the same position as in Step 13, pull the zipper tab toward the inside of the zipper. Begin zipping it up.
Continue pulling invisible zipper tab through
STEP FIFTEEN
Keep pulling the tab through this little "window". Once you get passed the window, the zipper will magically be on the right side of the dress.
Invisible zipper tab comes through hole
STEP SIXTEEN
The window closes, and you continue to zip the dress up to the neckline. This photo shows that "window" closing and the zipper tab coming onto the right side of the dress.
Invisible zipper tab on right side
STEP SEVENTEEN
The zipper is now on the right side of the dress and the hole at the bottom is gone. Zip it up to the neckline and evaluate how you did.
check invisible zipper alignment
STEP EIGHTEEN
Here is the area where the zipper meets the center back seam. If you have done it right, there will be no bubble here. If there is one, then you have not aligned the second side properly and you will have to redo it.
Sew zipper and facing at neck
STEP NINETEEN
The neckline finish depends a lot on your dress's original finish. Here I have folded the facing over the raw edges of the zipper and neckline. I will run stitching along the neckline until it meets the exiting stitches.
flip neck facing to right side
STEP TWENTY
After stitching this neckline edge, I need to flip the facing right side out to finish off the inside. You may also need to "stitch in the ditch" here, or hand tack the facing down. Refer to your "before" pictures.
finished new invisible zipper
STEP TWENTY ONE
Here is my finished product. On this dress I also had to pay attention that the horizontal seams matched. Basting the zipper tape in STEP 11 sometimes helps.


Practice this technique a few times and I'll bet you won't be afraid to tackle an invisible zipper. I't so fun when that tab comes out of the window and everything falls into place!

Do you have time for another secret? Jump over to my blog to see how this invisible zipper job turned out the first time I did it. Let's just say that my attention to detail must have been taking a nap!

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