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Guide To Zipper Types

Updated: Feb 13

There are so many styles of zippers that it can be hard to know which one is the best option for your project—or even what options are available in the first place! In this post, we'll walk you through the different types of zippers as well as what to consider when choosing a zipper for your sewing projects. No matter what zipper type you settle on, check out WAWAK's zipper shop for a wide selection of pro-line zippers in every style.

Various styles and colors of metal zippers on a wooden background
Check out the guide below for our full explanation of zipper types.


It's not easy to make a simple list of every zipper type. After all, there are so many specific styles of zippers—and they can have a lot of descriptors. So, instead of a super long (and tedious) list of zippers, we'll take you through a few of the most important qualities every zipper has and the available options for each one. All of these qualities overlap—for example, you can have a zipper that's #5, two-way, separating, and molded plastic. So feel free to pick a zipper type from each numbered category in this post to mix and match for the perfect zipper type for your project. Let's get started!

1. Separating Or Non Separating?

No matter the material, size, or slider, all zippers fall under one of two categories: Separating or Non-Separating. Determining which style you need is a great place to start narrowing down your search if you're unsure of how to choose a zipper.

Non-separating zippers do not separate at the bottom. Also known as closed-end zippers, they are often used for items like pants, skirts, dresses, boots, handbags, totes, and a wide variety of other projects.

Separating zippers, on the other hand, completely separate and reconnect at the bottom using a box and pin mechanism in the slider. They're often referred to as "jacket zippers" because they're most commonly used on jackets, but you'll also see separating zippers used on vests, zippered hoodies, coats, or any garment that needs to open all the way for ease of use.

Brass YKK Jacket Zipper on a brown jacket

2. Zipper Direction

Most standard zippers have one slider (the part of the zipper that slides when you zip or unzip) that moves in one direction. But for some specialty uses, you might require a zipper with extra pulls or a different style of slider for added accessibility.

When you think of a zipper, a One-Way Zipper is probably the style that comes to mind. This is the standard zipper style, with one zipper slider that moves in one direction at a time. One-way zippers can be either separating or non-separating.

Two-Way Zippers have two zipper sliders that move independently of each other. Separating Two-Way Zippers are often used on jackets, especially for outdoor gear, as they allow the wearer to adjust the bottom of the garment for more comfortable movement without completely unzipping it. Non-separating two-way zippers are commonly used for items like backpacks, luggage, and coveralls to allow the user to zip or unzip from multiple sides of the bag or garment. On these zippers, the zipper sliders can be oriented "head to head" so that the zipper closes when the sliders meet or "tail to tail" so that the zipper closes when the sliders are apart.

For reversible garments, you'll need a Reversible Zipper. These zippers can be operated from either side of the zipper—simply flip the zipper pull over to one side or the other. Reversible zippers are used for reversible jackets and other garments that can be worn on either side.

Beige YKK Two-Way Zipper on a background of plastic zippers

3. Zipper Material

Let's talk materials! When we talk about the zipper material, we're usually referring to what the zipper teeth (the parts that actually interlock when you zip the zipper) are made of. Each of these zipper types has its strengths and can affect the look, feel, and utility of your garment or bag.

The most versatile zipper style, Nylon Coil Zippers are exceptionally strong and flexible. Their zipper teeth are made of flexible nylon with a special "coiled" design that allows the teeth to interlock very closely. Because of this design, Nylon Coil Zippers can tolerate curves and horizontal stress particularly well, making them applicable to just about any project. Nylon Coil is the ideal choice for items that require a lot of strength and flexibility (such as luggage, backpacks, tents, and boots) but they're also a great choice for everyday items like pants, totes, jackets, and more. These zippers are available in lots of color options, too! If you're totally unsure of what zipper type you need, Nylon Coil is usually a safe bet.

For an elegant, classic zipper to elevate your project, it's hard to go wrong with Metal Zippers. These zippers feature durable metal teeth that come in a variety of metal finishes including shiny finishes like brass, nickel, and gunmetal, or those with a more weathered appearance like antique brass or antique silver. Metal zippers are more rigid than other types of zippers, making them more suited for straight seams and closures without too much horizontal stress.

Lightweight and flexible, Molded Plastic Zippers are perfect for sportswear, children's clothing, and other lightweight garments. Because the zipper teeth are entirely plastic, they're often used for outdoor applications like tents and sleeping bags as there's no risk of rust when they're exposed to water. They're also available in a wide range of colors and sizes, making them a great option for a colorful statement zipper.

Although they are technically small Nylon Coil Zippers, Invisible Zippers have one unique feature that sets them apart: when zipped, the zipper teeth are completely hidden! Commonly used on gowns, blouses, skirts, upholstery, and cushions, these lightweight zippers (sometimes called concealed zippers) are great for creating a smooth, seamless look when a hidden zipper is desirable.

Closeup of white, red, brown, and blue invisible zippers

4. Zipper Size

The last thing to consider when choosing a zipper is your zipper size. Zippers of all kinds come in a range of sizes, from very lightweight skirt zippers to heavy-duty tent zippers and everything in between. When choosing a zipper size, you'll want to consider the weight of your fabric, the amount of stress or weight the zipper needs to hold, and the desired appearance. For a more in-depth explanation of zipper sizing and a handy zipper size chart, check out our previous Zipper Size Chart post.

Whew, that was a lot of information! Now that you know what your options are, you can figure out exactly which zipper you need for any project. And with WAWAK's huge selection of zippers, you won't have any trouble finding the right one. Head over to WAWAK to find the perfect closure for your next sewing project and get stitching sooner. Happy sewing!

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