How to Sew A Zipper in French Seams for “Ooh La La” Apparel

French seams create a beautiful finish on garments, especially when sewing with lightweight or sheer fabrics where the seam can be seen from the outside. I created this dress using French seams, because my outer fabric was a sheer cotton organdy.

Susan Khalje taught me the trick we’ll go over today for zippers when I took her Couture Sewing School. You can also learn great couture techniques from Susan in her online Craftsy class, The Couture Dress, which I used to get started on this project.

Even if you’ve mastered the French seam, learning how to sew a zipper in can seem like a challenge. Not anymore!

dress with french seams

Photos via Rosie Wednesday

How to sew a zipper in French seams

Step 1: Reinforce the seam at the zipper

Mark the point where your zipper will be stopping on your fabric. Sew about an inch above and below this point at 5/8″. 

reinforce the zipper area

This reinforces the point where you seam will transition from the zipper into a French seam. 

Step 2: Sew the French seam below the zipper 

Sew the French seam just like you usually would below the zipper point. If you aren’t familiar with sewing a French seam, take a look at our step-by-step tutorial on how to sew a French seam.

french seam with zip

Step 3: Clip into the French seam 

Take your scissors and clip to, but not through, the French seam just below the point where the seam stopped. This allows the seam to lie flat so one part of your seam can press to one side, and the other side can press open for the zipper. 

snip french seam at zip

When you press the seams, make sure you press the section of the seam allowance with the stitching so it just hides that stitching on the outside.

Step 4: Insert your zipper 

Now you can insert your zipper, just like you usually would. Invisible or regular zippers will both work. In my case, I was also inserting a lining, so I didn’t do any other finishing to the edges of my fabric where I’d be putting in my zipper. 

Pretty simple, isn’t it? That’s one of the beautiful things I’ve found about learning these couture techniques — I expected them to be extremely complex, but really a lot of the aim is to find the simplest, most elegant and practical solution. I’ve seen a few other ways to tackle French seams at zippers before, and this is by far the best.

Have any of you ever tried any couture techniques on your projects? 

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