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The Zipper Style Guide: How to Choose the Right Style of Zipper

Zipper style refers to how a zipper is configured. More specifically, how the slider or sliders and stops are arranged along the zipper chain.

Open-end, two-way separating, bag-style, continuous, etc... there are so many styles of zippers to choose from.

So, how do you know which style is right for you?

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know.

We will discuss (and show) the most popular zipper styles and provide use cases for each.

Continue reading the guide

Separating or Closed?

Every zipper is one of two things - it's either a closed-end zipper or a separating zipper. A separating zipper is one that separates completely into two pieces, like on a jacket.

There are many styles of closed-end zippers, and there are many styles of separating zippers. The important thing to determine upfront, however, is whether the zipper in question needs to separate.

Once that's determined, the zipper style can be narrowed down.

Closed-End Zipper (One-Way)

Standard closed-end zippers are one-way zippers that don't separate at the bottom. They include a bottom stop at the bottom and two top stops at the top.

One-way closed-end zippers are some of the most common types of zippers.

An example of a closed-end zipper is the zipper on a fly of a pair of pants. Closed-ended zippers can be sewn into bags, purses, pillows, cushions, upholstery, pockets, and many other sewing projects and crafts.

Shop for Closed-end zippers

Separating Zipper (One-Way)

A separating zipper is also known as an open-end zipper or a bottom separating zipper. It separates fully at the bottom, like a zipper on a jacket, when unzipped.

Standard separating zippers are one-way zippers, meaning they have one zipper slider. These are the most common type of jacket zipper.

They have an insertion pin & retainer box at the bottom of the zipper (where the zipper separates) and two top stops at the top.

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Separating Zipper (Two-Way)

Similar to a standard one-way separating zipper, two-way separating zippers fully separate at the bottom.

The biggest difference is that two-way zippers have two sliders. Two-way separating zippers can be unzipped from both the top and bottom. When the zipper is installed in a jacket, the bottom slider can move up the track, unzipping the lower portion of the zipper and allowing one’s legs room to move around more freely. This is why two-way separating zippers are great for long coats.

When a two-way separating zipper is fully zipped, each zipper slider will be found at either end.

To fully separate a two-way zipperboth sliders must be pushed all the way to the bottom of the zipper (the end with teeth that go all the way to the end of the fabric - not the end with the 1" of bare fabric). The sliders should be together, touching each other. Once the sliders are as far down as they can go naturally, push them down a little more to disengage them.

One of the most common mistakes made when zipper shopping is mistaking a two-way separating zipper for a two-way bag-style zipper. These styles are NOT the same. We'll discuss the latter style next.

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Bag-Style Zipper (Two-Way)

Not to be confused with two-way separating zippers, bag style zippers are also two-way zippers that have two sliders, but they do not separate at the bottom. These zippers are closed at both ends.

Bag-style zippers are also known as head-to-head zippers, as this describes the configuration of the zipper sliders on the chain. They have two sliders that meet in the middle when zipped.

Bag-style zippers are typically seen on - wait for it - bags! This includes all types of bags including backpacks, luggage, duffel bags and more.

Bag-style zippers can be created using nylon coil and molded plastic zipper chain by the yard by simply attaching the sliders in the desired configuration. Metal bag-style zippers require special metal chain and cannot be made with standard metal zipper chain.

Continuous Zipper Chain

Continuous zipper chain is also known zipper chain and zipper tape. It is "raw" zipper material without any stops.

Zipper chain is unfinished zipper material. You receive it in a “zipped” position, and you assemble the rest of the zipper yourself by adding the slider and stops.

Continuous zipper chain is particularly handy for projects that utilize longer than average zippers because you can create custom zippers of any length. It's also helpful if you like to have zippers on hand that can be cut to any length when needed.

Zipper chain can only be used to create closed-end zippers, including two-way bag-style zippers. You cannot create a separating zipper from continuous zipper chain.

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Bridge Top Style Zipper

Bridge top zippers are one-way closed end zippers.

They differ to standard one-way closed-end zippers in one small way - they have bottom stops at each end (as opposed top stop stops at one end and a bottom stop at one end). This gives the zipper a bit of a bit of a different look.

Bridge top zippers are commonly found on handbags, but they can often be substituted for standard one-way closed-end zippers.

Coverall Style Zipper

Coverall-style zippers are two-way zippers that do not separate at the bottom - they are closed at one end with a bottom stop.

They are useful for applications like coveralls where one benefits from being able to unzip a zipper from both the bottom and top.

You can convert a two-way separating zipper to a coverall-style zipper by sewing over the bottom of the zipper or by adding a bottom stop.

Still not sure?

Feel free to contact us with questions about your specific project. We'll be happy to help you with your zipper selection!