Tutorial: invisible zipper in a V-back dress

I have been drafting a pattern for a V-back dress.  Being my own draft, it doesn't come with any "destructions".  I googled for a tutorial for an invisible zipper in a V-back dress and came up short.  So I have made a tutorial.  It is not that different from any other invisible zipper insertion, but it is nice to see it illustrated.

Now my disclaimer:  I have no professional training in pattern drafting or garment construction.  I don't know any "industry" secrets.  I am a self-taught home sewer and this is the first time I have made a V-back dress.

For this tutorial, I have not used the full pattern.  In my next post, I will show you the real thing.

First up, the pattern.

A few things to point out about the pattern.
  • There is a 1/2" seam allowance on the CB seam.  This is the same width as my zipper tape. 
  • The CB seam allowance mirrors the main panel, so there is a V at the top of the seam allowance, rather than a slope that continues in line with the neckline
  • I have used a 1/2" seam allowance on the V.  1/4" seam allowances are often used on necklines.  I wanted 1/2" to give me more "thinking space".  You can use 1/4" and this tutorial will still work.  You can see that I have used 1/4" seam allowances on the armhole.
  • Notice the notch on the CB seam allowance, which is 1/4" from the edge of the seam allowance.


There is no seam allowance on the CB seam of the facing.

1.  Prepare your pieces.  The pink fabric is my main panel.  The white is my facing.  The facing is fully interfaced.  The main fabric is interfaced along the zipper insertion length and along the V-neckline.  I like to interface where the zipper goes.  I continued this interfacing up along the neckline as the neckline is cut on the bias.  I finished the edge of the zipper insertion length with an overlocker.  Normally I would finish the bottom edge of the facing, but I have left it raw in this sample.

2.  Mark the exact point where you want the top of the zipper.  I don't want to use a hook-and-eye, so I want the top of the zipper to come right up to the neck seam line.

3.  Pin the zipper so that the zipper stop is right on your mark.   Right side of zip faces right side of fabric, zipper teeth towards bodice.

4.  I like to sew my invisible zips in two passes.  First, baste down the middle of the zipper tape, using a regular zipper foot.

5.  Check that everything lines up ok.

I like to do the zipper up and check that nothing is twisted.  It doesn't matter on this sample, but on the real thing, it is easy to get the bodice or zip twisted when you are pinning it in place, and it is easier to unpick at the basting stage.

6.  Undo the zip again and sew a second time, using an invisible zipper foot and sew right next to the coils.  I DON'T iron my zips flat.  I tried that once and ended up with a couple of melted zipper teeth.  Because the zip is basted in place, it is easy for me to hold the zipper coils flat as they are being sewn.

I use a plastic invisible zipper foot rather than the shinier elna one that goes with my machine.  I get better results with this one.  My mother gave it to me when she was cleaning out her step-mother's sewing supplies.  It is really old and I have not seen one like it being sold anywhere.  I know that the plastic won't last forever and I am dreading the day it ever breaks.

7.  Now the zipper is in and we can attach the facing.

Mark the facing 1/4" in from the edge.

8.  Line up this mark with the 1/4" notch on the CB seam allowance of the main panel, right sides facing.  The stitching line is 1/4" in from each edge, so you want to line up the top of these 2 pieces exactly on this stitching line.  This is why we made the seam allowance a V shape.

I didn't actually cut a notch in my main panel, but I know that my overlocking is 1/4" wide.

9. Stitch the facing to the main panel along this stitching line, using a regular zipper foot.  The zip is sandwiched between the 2 layers.

10. Now fold back the facing on the CB seam line so that the neckline edges of the facing and bodice are aligned.   The photograph below shows it better than words.  The zipper tape is folded over the facing so that the interfaced seam allowance of the main panel is exposed.

11.  Stitch the neckline.   Here I am using my 1/2" seam allowance, but yours may be 1/4" or otherwise.

See the wobble in my stitch line.  This is where my 13 year old son walked in and asked me to sew him some gymnastics longs.   As in, an actual garment that he will wear in front of other people.  And maybe in something cool like purple lightning fabric.  You would have wobbled too!

 12.  Turn right side out.  I have not done any trimming or clipping.

13.  Understitch as far as practicable.  Do sewing patterns still say that?  As a child, I learnt to sew by following the instructions on commercial sewing patterns and I was always taken by that phrase "as far as practicable".  Not completely specified and a little open to interpretation and ability. 

In the photo below you can see where I have pulled out stitches because I understitched on the wrong side.  I was still thinking about the gymnastics longs and lost concentration for a moment.

14.  Press and ta-da, a beautifully neat zipper. Outside....

... and just as neat inside.

And there you have it.  Of course, it is a little trickier when the back bodice is attached to the front bodice and the back facing is attached to a front facing.  I did my actual dress before this sample, and took some photos during the process, so I will show that in my next post.

Let me know if any step is not clear, or you see any typos in my tutorial.  Happy sewing,


KellysSewing said...

Thank you for making and sharing this tutorial! Very clear, I have added a link on my blog for future reference.

Anonymous said...

Fabulously clear.thanks so much for taking the time to prep and post this. And if your invisible zipper foot breaks, let me know. I have two just like yours.

katherine h said...

Whew! It is good to have a back-up plan! Thanks :)

Summer Flies said...

This is fabulously clear. Thanks for taking the time. I have a plastic invisible zip foot that I just bought at the haberdashery shop a few years ago but yours looks much better quality. I have used it twice and the first time gave poor results, but I realised when I did the second one (which was a good job) that user error was the problem with the first. Just to update you with the Charles Parsons fabric wholesalers, as far as I could find out, they don't sell to the public or do sales :( and from what I see the Eclipse Textiles is their company also.

katherine h said...

Thanks for that Summer Flies!

Bernice said...

I have a metal invisible zipper foot that has exactly the same slanty feeding channels as this one. It is a generic foot you can buy from Bernina.

Sharon said...

Thank you for this tutorial, saves a lot of frog stitching!

Elizabeth said...

I am thrilled to find this tutorial as I am inserting an invisible zipper into the back of a V-neckline dress! Thanks for clear instructions and for doing my thinking for me!