Trend of the Week: Zippers

That’s what a number of designers hope shoppers will be doing this fall. Designer labels, including Calvin Klein Collection, Dior, Elie Tahari, Giambattista Valli, and Michael Kors are putting bold and exposed zippers on sweaters, dresses and blazers, turning the typically utilitarian closure into an attention-grabbing design detail.

Zippers are even being used to identify the looks. Michael Kors showed a neon orange “zip suit,” among other looks prominently featuring zippers, in his fall 2013 runway show in February.   “For fall, we put zippers front and center because they’re fast, they’re graphic, and they’re industrial, like a great city,” Mr. Kors said in an email.

At the Calvin Klein Collection women’s resort show, zippers “lent a functional, yet sexy and modern element to the clothes,” serving as “both hardware and accents,” said creative director Francisco Costa.

Designer Elie Tahari favors using exposed metal zippers on dresses. “It’s a way of mixing hard and soft,” he said. Adding exposed zippers to his garments “took a little explaining,” said Mr. Tahari, who uses various zipper suppliers. “I worked very closely with my technical designers and factories.” Sometimes the result is style combined with function.

PhotoI found several great items in stores now featuring zippers on display.

  • Calvin Klein black pantsuit from Dillard’s with a trendy leopard print blouse.
  • Cream sweater from Charlotte Russe, paired with burgundy jeans.
  • Black motorcycle jacket from H&M with studded blouse and black leggings.
  • Rock and Republic black sweater from Kohl’s with burgundy blouse and Jennifer Lopez dark wash denim.

The zipper’s origin lie in the late 1890’s, beginning with the first patents issued for “clasp lockers,” according to Robert Friedel, author of “Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty.” At first, zippers were mainly used in galoshes and tobacco pouches. The term zipper comes from a marketing campaign by B.F. Goodrich for its rubber galoshes in the 1920’s. The word zip evoked speed and the fasteners on what became known as Zipper Boots were pitched as a way to get shoes opened and closed quickly, Mr. Friedel said. They became a part of everyday American men’s and women’s clothing in the late 1930’s.

TIP:  When deciding on purchasing an item with a zipper, run the zipper up and down a few times to test it. Some people mistakenly think a zipper that is a little difficult at first on a clothing item will get easier over time. “If in the beginning it’s tough and requires some work, don’t get it,” said Marco Viteri, a technician at the school of fashion at Parsons the New School for Design in New York. If a zipper is generally difficult to close, Mr. Viteri recommends rubbing a little Windex along it. Lorraine Muir, director of textile testing and research services at the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, advises rubbing a bar of soap or wax along the teeth.  The institute recommends that if zipper teeth are plastic, avoid high heat in drying or ironing.