Process review: lapped zipper

Shown are the inside center back zipper insertions of two different dresses from the same manufacturer. This manufacturer was of considerable size, importing their styles into the US from a Chinese contractor to the tune of 100 million dollars in sales in the late 90’s.


While I don’t know all of the company’s problems, the company was sued by Merril Lynch for over 11 million in unpaid loans. If you have two identical closures -regardless of styling- they should be sewn exactly the same way. If you can’t reproduce these kinds of basic garment features with uniformity, it means you don’t know what to do or how to do it and nobody should be lending you money. The closures should look more like this:


The first problem is that all styles that carry this sort of lapped zipper application should all be sewn exactly the same way regardless of who’s sewing it. I know that a lot of people new to the business may find this alarming but there really is only one way to sew this correctly (which I’ll prove with the demonstration of the correction). The first concept to grasp is that all seam edges should line up evenly. For example, the left seam allowance sticking out from under the zipper should be even with the zipper tape and these aren’t. In other words, company A wasn’t a product focused company. These sorts of glaring problems would have been corrected after the first prototype in a pull manufacturing company if it even got that far. Still, company A couldn’t have listened to what their chinese contractors had to say about the pattern, otherwise it would have been corrected. How can a company ignore 100 million dollars worth of product with the same error? That’s why I wouldn’t have lent them any money. This is a common example seen in push manufacturers. Their focus is low product development and production costs in order to pay for higher marketing costs and scheduled mark-downs, many as soon as they hit the sales floor.

I’m sure that company A provided specifications, they had to have provided specs for a lapped zipper- otherwise the contractor would have sewn the zipper centered with a double lap because that’s how the pattern was made. The facing is another story; it was made like the ones seen in home sewing patterns so there was no way it was going to sew up correctly. In other words, while the specs called for a lapped zipper, the pattern was cut for a centered one. A centered zipper is most typical of CAD pattern templates because a centered zip set-up is what’s called a 2-per or mirrored piece (read: easy) that costs less in product development, fabrics, marker making and marking itself (there’s no difference in sewing cost). It wouldn’t appear that this company did much more than print out the template (I’ll refrain from a discussion of the fit of these garments). The evidence is clear.

A little zipper say can say a lot. It tells me that
1. The contractor is not to blame for this pattern (or the product quality in spite of the fact that they sewed it). They couldn’t figure out how to do it which is why these are sewn two different ways- and the fact that it could have been two different contractors (there’s no way of knowing), it shows that neither contractor could make the zipper work in accordance with the pattern and the specifications for a lapped zipper. The contractor had to ask for a correction (either provided by company A or executed in-house) because it was costing them a lot more money to sew it the wrong way (forced by the poorly cut pattern) than it would have cost them to sew it the right way. Doing things right the first time always costs less. Below is a view of what the zipper looks like from the outside (the green and blue dresses are the same; the color difference is due to photo editing)


Company A did not review the product quality beyond external passing-glance appearance. If product quality had been a priority, this insertion would have been corrected. The lesson for DEs is to develop standards, cut your patterns to match the standards and use the same configuration in every other applicable style. It’s a good thing to develop standard practices. You sew each given zipper type exactly the same way regardless of in which style it appears. In other words, all lapped, dress-weight, neckline zippers are drafted and sewn exactly the same way between styles. Not only should these zippers be sewn this way in this company but they should sewn way in every company because there is only one way to do it correctly. I’ll show that next.

The seam allowance on the left is too wide and check out the width of the facing seam allowance!

The seam allowance to the right is too narrow. I can’t even imagine what the defect rate must have been due to that mistake.


Of the two, the pink sample was worst. The zipper is on top of the facing!


I’m sorry but I just can’t respect somebody who puts out something like this. I don’t care this was a 100 million dollar company, they were amateurs in production. Companies like this are just riddled with waste and need off-shore margins just to stay afloat.

Process review: lapped zipper
Lapped zipper template
Lapped zipper construction
Lapped zipper specs
Centered zipper template
Centered zipper construction
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.2
Shorten a separating zipper
Zippered welt pocket tutorial
Deconstructing a zippered pouch
Zippered welt pockets

There are 15 comments Leave a comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *