How to add an ankle zipper to jeans - tutorial // Closet Core Patterns

Based on the enthusiastic reaction to my latest pair of Ginger jeans, I guess I’m not the only one with a yen for 80’s Guess-era ankle zippers. It’s fun doctoring up classics with new details, and I’m constantly pinning and imagining new ways to tweak the Ginger pattern.

This isn’t a really hard mod but it does require some precision. First things first, we have to stabilize the fabric. Before you sew your outer side seams, apply 1″ wide interfacing to the ankle seams, roughly the length of your your zipper.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

I suggest ironing the hem up as if you’re finishing your jeans. This lets you know where your zipper teeth will end.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

Once you’ve got the interfacing bonded to both sides of the leg seam, lay your zipper next to it so that the “top” of the zipper is aligned with the final folded hem of your jeans. Mark where the zipper stop at the “bottom” of the zipper will be located with a horizontal line. Draw in your 5/8″ seam allowance above the zipper. In order to expose the teeth of the zipper, we have to increase the seam allowance. My zipper teeth were 1/4″ wide, so I added just over 1/8″ to the seam allowance to create a little 3/8″ rectangular opening for the zipper when the seams are pressed open. Draw your new seam allowance on the leg as shown above.

Once you’ve got these lines drawn on both legs, sew your side seams using a straight stitch, stopping at that horizontal mark that indicates the start of your zipper. Backstitch to secure. Finish your side seams. In this case, I serged the side seams together until a few inches above the zipper location, and then finished each “free” seam with its own serged finish. This creates a weird joint where you go from side seams being sewn together and pressed to the back, to side seams being pressed open, but you won’t really notice on the inside.

Ankle Zipper Tutroial by Closet Core Patterns 21

After the seam is sewn, snip a triangular notch from below your horizontal zipper mark to the corner of your new seam allowance

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

This snipped notch will let us fold the new seam allowance further back to show the exposed zipper teeth.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

Press the side seam open and the snipped notches up. Fold your new seam allowance in on each side of the un-sewn side seam (approximately 7/8″) and press. You want to create a nice, square opening at the top so ensure all those little corners are lying nice and flat.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

Ensure the space you created in the seam is wide enough to see your exposed zipper teeth.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

If you want to baste the zipper to the seam allowance first, go ahead. I found it easier just to pin the zipper into place and then topstitch it directly. To do this, only pin one side to start, since it can be tricky to sew if both sides of the zipper are pinned. Start on one side and sew all the way around, about 1/8″ from the pressed seam allowance. At the top, just above the zipper stop, leave your needle down as you are turning to get sharp corners. One the other side, I didn’t bother pinning; I just fed the zipper into place as I went.

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

To secure the zipper tape and those little notched seams in place, sew a bar tack just above the zipper stop, and then finish hemming your jeans. This is what it will look like on the inside:

Ankle Zipper Tutroial by Closet Core Patterns 20

And voila! A little ankle zipper to fulfill all your Guess girl fantasies!

ankle zipper jeans DIY tutorialankle zipper jeans DIY tutorial

Hope y’all found this helpful. I’m considering making another pair with the zipper on the inside seam since I love the way it looks when it’s unzipped. Have you been experimenting with any other jeans hacks I should know about?

Core Fabrics


Closet Core Patterns

Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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