by Gertie of Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing

A lapped zipper is a great technique for sewing in an all-purpose (not invisible) zipper. The finished zipper has an overlap on the left side of the opening that covers the zipper. On the right side of the opening, the fabric is stitched very close to the zipper teeth.

I love lapped zippers. They give a beautiful, classic touch to a garment, and they hold up to sturdy fabrics really well. A lapped zipper is perfect for a skirt side seam zipper, because the lap will cover the zipper teeth. Here’s what you’ll need.

Coats All-purpose Zipper

A zipper foot for your sewing machine

Fusible interfacing, cut into 1” strips

Disappearing ink pen (optional)

1. Sew the seam up to the zipper opening. The opening will usually be marked by a large circle on a pattern.
2. Interface the seam allowances on the opening. This reinforces the zipper opening and results in a more attractive zipper, in my opinion. Cut 1” strips of fusible interfacing on-grain and fuse them within the zipper opening seam allowances.

3. On the left side of the zipper opening (this is as you’re wearing at it, NOT as you’re looking at it from the outside), turn the seam allowance under ½” and press. This will create a tiny underlap at the base of the opening.

4. On the right side of the zipper opening, turn the seam allowance under 5/8” and press.

5. On the left side, pin your zipper in place so that the zipper teeth are just next to the fabric’s fold.
6. Install a zipper foot on your machine. Stitch the zipper in place, stitching right on the fold of the fabric.
Open zipper
You can move the zipper pull out of the way, if needed. Just make sure to always have the needle down if you need to lift the presser foot to do so.
Stitch on fold of fabric
First row of stitching completed
7. Close the zipper and pin the right side of the opening in place so that its fold just matches the line of stitching you made in step 6. You’re pinning through the fabric and through the zipper tape.
8. Now you’re going to stitch the L-shaped topstitching that holds the overlap in place. On your first lapped zipper, you’ll probably want to mark your stitching line first. Using an invisible marker, draw a line 3/8” from the fabric fold, and then make a horizontal line at the base of the zipper opening.
9. With the zipper open, stitch along this line.  When you get to the bottom, close the zipper and pivot to stitch horizontally across the base of the zipper.
Stitch on marking
Pivot at base
Finished zipper closed
Finished zipper open
After you’ve gotten comfortable with the process, you may find that you can use a mark on your machine’s metal throat plate to guide you, rather than using the disappearing ink marker.
If your skirt has a facing, you’ll need to fold it slightly out of the way of the zipper when you stitch it in place.
That’s it! I hope you’ll give lapped zippers a try.

Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch is a passionate home seamstress and the creator of one of the web’s most popular sewing blogs: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. She  teaches sewing in New York City, around the country, on PBS’s It’s Sew Easy, and on Her work has been featured in Sew Stylish, Vogue Patterns Magazine, Threads Magazine, Stitch Magazine, and on

About the Author

Lynn is Director of Consumer Services with Coats & Clark.

27 Responses to Sewing a Lapped Zipper in a Skirt
  1. Excellent. I just did it and it was great!

  2. Thanks Gertie for this most helpful info and as I’m a beginner, found your instructions w/pictures most helpful*

  3. Great tutorial! Can I ask a dumb question? Are there any situations where you wouldn’t use a lapped zipper? I usually use invisible zippers in dresses, skirts, etc., but this seems so much nicer, so I’m wondering if there are any reasons why I should avoid using a lapped zipper instead of an invisible…

    • Gertie will be addressing this in future tips. When using a regular zipper, the lapped zipper gives a smoother appearance in side seams than the other way of installing a regular zipper- the centered method. The invisible zipper is a good choice when you want an un-interupted seamline.

    • You can use it anytime. I prefer the lapped application over any other style. I’ve done it on patterns that call for an invisible as well. I suppose the only instance would be if the back or side of your dress has tucks it may be difficult or impossible to use the lapped. See butterick 5559 as an example.

  4. omg so helpful. i’ve been avoiding lapped zippers for years – this makes it idiot-proof 🙂


  5. Lovely, clear instructions! Why was I afraid of the words “lapped zipper”?! It sounded hard, but you make it look super easy!

  6. A great tutorial with clear instructions. Now when I can take a break from sewing aprons, I am inspired to make a summer skirt and try it out. Thanks!

  7. A great tutorial. Now when I can take a break from sewing aprons, I am inspired to make a summer skirt and test this out. Thanks!

  8. This is totally different than the way I do lapped zippers (I use the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Sewing method)but I should try it out. In response to gingermakes, I make costumes for theater and I hardly ever use an invisible zipper because I find that they break easily. Using the lapped zipper method allows me to use a stronger zipper but still maintain a clean appearance.

  9. I have always dreaded putting in zippers, I have never been pleased with the end result. What an excellent tip to mark the line of stitching before sewing! And, I can see that the interfacing would really give a professional finished look. I am looking forward to installing my next zipper.

    Thank you,


  10. Gertie – I love lapped zippers and your tutorial is good. I have never figured out a better way to finish the top with a facing. It seems like there should be a neater finish for that.

  11. Do you need more than a 5/8 seam allowance to do it this way? Thanks!

  12. What kind of fusible interfacing do you reccomend? It looks like a woven interfacing. Thanks for the tutorial!

  13. What about for a skirt with a lining? How do you attach the lining?

  14. […] match at the zip. But look at that lapped zipper! I looked at a couple of tutorials but Gertie’s was the clearest for a sewing novice like […]

  15. […] wanted. I always like a refresher on these things, so I went looking for a nice tutorial, and found Gertie’s instructions. They are […]

  16. […] up is inserting the zipper. I used Gertie’s write-up from Coats and Clark. I think I’ll end here for today and write up the zipper in the next […]

  17. Thank you for clear and easy to follow instructions. Just successfully installed a lapped zipper on a skirt. The interfacing tip was very useful!

  18. […] structure the bodice!!  In sewing the gown, I learned how to insert a lapped zipper for the skirt (THIS tutorial is fantastic!) and a separating zipper for the […]

  19. Can I ask what you would do if the seam allowance ‘runs out’? Can I extend the interfacing somehow as I tried and the allowance on the lap isn’t quite wide enough on one side. Do you have a fix? Thanks

    • If you haven’t cut the skirt out you can increase the seam allowance. You can add an extension, but we would recommend a lighter weight fabric or lining fabric rather than interfacing.

  20. Thank you soooo much. I’ve been sewing a lot lately but haven’t been doing zippers, and the thought of putting one in was terrifying! This is the best and easiest to follow guide I’ve seen for lapped zippers, and now I am super excited to sew one. Yay! 😀

  21. Thank you for such a clear tutorial! I followed it and my zipper is installed perfectly!

  22. HI, very nice idea about reinforcing the zipper. Thanks.


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