Sewing Tutorial | Zippers with Free Hanging Overlays

Floaty chiffon style skirts are pretty popular right now, they’re incredibly easy to make and fun to wear, but it can sometimes be strange when that flowing top layer is jammed into a zipper on one side. This is the technique I used on my Cobalt Chiffon Skirt, a technique I first learned at work. We use this a lot in situations where we have an overlay or train that is fuller than the body of the dress underneath. You know what’s really bad news? When your train is anchored to your bum for 7″ down the center back, that’ll really ruin a silhouette. This technique is a breeze, but you’ll need to know how to do a roll hem first. If you don’t know how, check out my roll hem tutorial here, you’ll be roll hemming in no time and you don’t even need a special foot. It also wouldn’t hurt to already know how to make a French seam, lucky for you I’ve got a tutorial on that as well. Okay, here goes!


Step 01 : Sew the inside lining layer fully (side seams and hem), inserting your invisible zipper into the left side. A 7″ zipper opening for a skirt (with the measurement beginning at the true waist) is pretty standard and that’s what we’re using here.


Step 02 : Sew the chiffon outer layer together. Since we’re using something so sheer you’re going to want to use French seams [tutorial here]. French seam the right side of the skirt from top to bottom as usual, the following steps are for the left side of the skirt only. Measure 8″ down from the top of the skirt, you will be leaving this open.


Step 03 : Sew the first seam of your French seam and trim the seam allowance in half up to the 8″ you left free.


Step 04 : Sew the second seam of the French seam, again stopping at the 8″ mark. Clip to, but not through, the seam allowance here.


Step 05 : Roll hem the two sides of the open 8″, you can see my roll hemming tutorial here if you need more in depth instructions on how to roll hem.


Step 06 : Gather your overlay to your lining pinning the roll hemmed edges right up to the edge of the zipper. Make sure you don’t put the roll hemmed edge beyond where the fabric meets the zipper or you won’t be able to close it all the way.


Step 07 : For my skirt I had to gather the lining once the chiffon was attached as well, so if you need to do that as well, now’s the time otherwise skip this step.


Step 08 : Sew the skirt into the waistband and you’re all set! I forgot to take a photo of it once I sewed on the hook and eye, but do that as well.


Here’s what the skirt looks like from the front. Nice even floaty chiffon on both sides.


Here’s a side shot of the skirt. I straightened out the folds so you can see what it looks like but it actually folds into itself and is barely visible.

Hope that tutorial helps if you’re interested in making one of these skirts for yourself. They’re so easy you literally don’t even need a pattern, just start ripping rectangles like I did! As always if you have any questions feel free to email me or leave a comment below.

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21 Responses to Sewing Tutorial | Zippers with Free Hanging Overlays

  1. megannielsen says:

    My friend I am fantastically impressed! I love this solution – a truly genius way to avoid the horrible visual of a zipper in chiffon, i’ve honestly never heard of doing this before and i know i’m going to have to use it all the time from now on. I’m having that “why didn’t i think of that?!” moment hehehe

    i kind of want to give you a standing ovation and slow hand clap right now :)

  2. sallie says:

    freaking brilliant.

  3. Dalila says:

    Thanx a lot, Jen. This technique is just what I needed for a project I’m working on right now… =)

  4. Liza jane says:

    Just awesome. This makes so much more sense!

  5. This is fantastic! Thanks so much for posting it.

  6. Jo says:

    Thank you! I saw this the other week and then forgot about it until wondering this evening how to make myself a chiffon skirt, and you turned up in my google results. Genius – and I’m definitely doing it now!

    • Jo says:

      And I meant to add – great rolled hem tutorial too. Plus, I love your scout t-shirt pattern, I have been sewing it all summer. And now I will go to bed before I get too creepily over-enthusiastic about everything you do :-)

  7. Amy says:

    Oh, great timing for me, too. I actually had a chiffon maxi on my list-to-sew this summer, just exactly like this. I didn’t plan out the zipper but this would be it. I love your tutorials!

  8. This is wonderful! I have some extra chiffon and I wanted to make a skirt and this tutorial is perfect! I was wondering how you made the waistband? Is it chiffon or the fabric you used in the lining? Thanks!

    • The waistband is 3 same size rectangles of chiffon, lining and light weight fusible. I fused the lining fabric, stitched the chiffon to the lining / fuse sandwich and then sewed everything as one. Hope that helps!

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  10. Caz says:

    Thanks a million! I’m working on a wedding dress and this is exactly what I needed. I’m thinking it could work quite well with the embellished tule/ lace back and the brides desire for a tight fit rear and rows and rows of buttons.

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  14. Dorothy says:

    Would you use the same technique for a sheer skirt that isn’t full at the waistband? I’m using Butterick 3134 view B which is an a-line skirt. Thx.

  15. Grace says:

    I’m a beginner and would eventually love to make one of these skirts. After reading through this tutorial multiple times, I’m still a bit confused about how this finished skirt is actually supposed to look where the zipper is? Since it is a hanging overlay and you left 8″ open in the chiffon, doesn’t that mean there’s a big hole in the chiffon as you’re wearing the skirt where people can see the lining? Thanks for any help you can provide!

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  18. Caroline Foster says:

    I’ve been trying to decide whether to sew my sheer fabric into the side & center back seams of a formal dress with a bodice or whether to leave it free hanging all the way around. . Would you do that the same as you did in your chiffon skirt tutorial? Also, I have done a formal dress this way before where I had to stop the sewing machine at the bodice seamline, break the thread, then lift the sheer fabric below the bodice seamline and continue down to the bottom of the zipper. But not sure whether the same can be done with an invisible zipper. Originally I was planning to sew the sheer and satin underlay right into the invisible zipper seam and just free fall the chiffon below the invisible zipper. Not sure which way to do it. Any suggestions?

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