Sew Professional

Claire Shaeffer

How To
Couture With Claire

Sew Professional
with Claire Shaeffer

There are dozens of ways to set a zipper into a fly placket, but this couture method delivers excellent results. I first discovered this application on a pair of Yves Saint Laurent pants, and you'll find that it belies any notion that couture techniques are difficult.

The Fly Zipper
In this couture method, the fly opening is machine stitched first. Then the zipper is sewn into the opening by hand. This procedure allows you to set the zipper into any type of opening (slot, lapped, bound or fly) with the control that hand sewing permits, but without sacrificing the integrity of the design. The stitching also reinforces the edges and holds the layers flat. In couture, fly plackets are usually finished with extended facings that are cut as a part of the front, instead of with a separate facing like men's trousers. The result is more flattering and less bulky.

Prepare the Placket
Mark the foldlines on the overlap and underlap pieces at the zipper opening with long hand-basting stitches.

If the opening has an interfacing pattern, fuse or sew the interfacing fly piece to the fly extensions on the fabric wrong side (1). If the pattern doesn't have an interfacing pattern, create one by tracing the fly extension section that will be folded to the fabric wrong side.

Cut a 1Ú2"-wide fabric strip from lightweight silk to create a stay for the fly opening of each pant piece. The stay length should be approximately that of the pattern fly opening. Moisten and press the strip to remove the fabric stretch.

Position the stays over the marked foldlines on the fabric wrong side of each pant front piece. Pin the stay ends in place; then pin toward the stay center, easing the pant fabric as needed. Use a long running stitch to sew the stay in place (2).

Stitch the pant front pieces together at the center front, beginning at the zipper opening lower edge and ending about 2" from the pant inseams (3).

Fold under the seam allowances on both sides of the placket; baste G" from the folded edge beginning at the opening lower edge. Baste the waist edge. Press the folded edges.

Prepare the Zipper
Press the zipper tape to remove any folds. If the zipper is longer than the opening, measure beginning at the upper edge and mark the finished length. At the marked length, stitch a thread bar over the zipper teeth.

Cut off the zipper H" to 1" below the thread bar.

Overcast-stitch or bind the zipper lower edge.

Set the Zipper
On the right pant front (overlap) piece, mark the fly stitching line using thread tracing or chalk. With the fabric right side up, stitch along the marked line, ending at the crotch seamline (4). Pull the threads through to the wrong side using a calyx-eyed needle. Knot and trim the thread ends.

On the left pant front (underlap), stitch close to the folded edge, keeping the overlap piece folded out of the way (5). Press. 

With the zipper and garment right side up, position the closed zipper long edge under the underlap opening edge so that the zipper stop is J" below the waist seamline and the zipper teeth are close to the folded edge. Baste the zipper in place (6).

With the fabric wrong side up, use short running stitches to sew the zipper in place permanently.

Lap the right front piece over the left front piece, matching the centers. Baste through all thicknesses close to the overlap fold.

Position the pant front pieces wrong side up. Baste the remaining zipper tape to the facing extension on the overlap without sewing through the overlap front (7). To avoid catching the overlap front, slip a narrow clear ruler between the facing extension and the pant front.

Use short running stitches to hand-sew close to the zipper teeth. Use fell stitches at the zipper tape edges to sew the tape flat against the extensions.

To reinforce the opening lower edge, make a tiny bar tack on the face side and cover it with buttonhole stitches. 

Remove all basting stitches.


Fly plackets lap right over left. Aesthetically, this is often more pleasing for women's pants because it continues the line of a blouse closure.

Claire Shaeffer is internationally known for her expertise on couture sewing techniques. She is the author of 17 books including Couture Sewing Techniques, High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers, Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide and Sew Any Fabric. Claire designs the Custom Couture Collection of patterns for Vogue Patterns. She teaches couture workshops in Palm Springs, CA. For more information, e-mail Claire at


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search engine gave me wrong articel
I searched to find out about adjusting the crotch length in ready to wear pants. The search said there was an article about this in this issue and then gave me this article. ???? Any one know where I can find info about changing the crotch length (shortening it) by ripping out the top part of the inseam and taking it in? It seems this would be the way to do it, but nothing seems to be matching up and I'm not sure if I will ruin the pants if I remove the excess. If you have an answer, you are welcome to email me at Thank you.
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