Why only women’s clothes have zippers on the back: The birth of an exciting invention that changed the way we dress. Culture

Where have I seen them before? In March, South Korean model Hoyeon Jung opened the catwalk for Louis Vuitton’s women’s collection with a skirt and bodysuit, equipped with a zipper of exaggerated proportions. According to fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière, they were the largest zippers ever made. The process of enlarging and enhancing this element inspired him to resize other garments and details as well. Basically, I created the brand’s Summer 2023 collection with zippers.

A leap in time takes us to a preview of the French brand’s Summer 2024 collection. Now big zips are not seen on clothes… but an attractive zip caught everyone’s attention in the presentation. It was part of Zendaya’s stunning white dress. The result was so impressive that the image took over social media: “Zendaya’s zipper dress in 2023 is Liz Hurley’s must-see dress in 1994,” read one tweet, referencing the Versace dress from nearly 20 years ago, which Changed this concept forever. Of fashion on the red carpet.

Zendaya arrives at the Louis Vuitton show.getty

Today’s Louis Vuitton zipper is a vintage element taken from one of Ghesquière’s first collections, when he was creative director of the French brand a decade ago. It’s now been reinterpreted in a new shape… and its influence has certainly resonated. Although we might have thought that zippers had already reached their peak, the fashion collections of 2023 and 2024 reveal that this trend was just waiting for its turn. Exposed zippers have reappeared, reflecting the collections of Eckhaus Latta or Sukena. They have their roots in the creations of Ghesquière, but have also been popularized by brands such as Italian luxury fashion house Marni. In 2010, the company released a line of open-zipper dresses and blouses that the fashion world couldn’t get enough of. And, in 2011, Victoria Beckham earned her reputation as a fashion designer by releasing a now-iconic dress with a back zipper. Fast forward 12 years to a blog by renowned Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe, in which she confirms the trend’s return: “The exposed zipper is everywhere.”

Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2023.Peter White (Getty Images)

A brief history of the zipper

In fact, the road to success was a long one for the humble Gipper. This mechanical miracle was created thanks to the work of many inventors. However, – as noted by writer Mary Bayliss on ThoughtCo.com – no inventor was able to convince the general public to accept it as part of everyday life. Rather, it was magazines and the fashion industry that turned the novelty zipper into the popular item it is today.

Bayliss says the story begins with Elias Howe Jr. (1819-1867), inventor of the sewing machine. He received a patent for “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure” in 1851. But – perhaps due to the success of his other great invention – his proto-zipper was left on hold. It took almost half a century until someone reconsidered Howe’s idea. A Chicago inventor named Whitcomb Judson marketed a device in 1893 that he called a “clasp locker.” It was designed to close shoes… but it was a little complicated.

Finally, in December 1913, a Swedish engineer named Gideon Sundback, living in Philadelphia, came up with the idea of ​​the modern zipper. Sundback increased the number of fastening elements in two opposite rows of teeth, and managed to connect them with a sliding piece. His “detachable closure” was patented in 1917.

Sundback also built the machine to make this new zipper. But its name – Ziper – wasn’t his idea. It came from the BF Goodrich Company, a firm that decided to employ this closure on their new rubber boots. The sound it produced – “zzzzip” – resulted in the name.

In the early years, zippers were used to close rubber boots and tobacco bags. It took nearly two decades to convince the fashion industry that this new finish had sensational potential. In the 1930s, a campaign began for children’s clothing with zippers as a way to promote self-reliance in young children, as zippers allowed them to dress themselves without requiring much help. Designer Elsa Schiaparelli – a reference in the world of surrealist design – was the first woman to incorporate zippers in her avant-garde dresses. He promoted them to become more popular in women’s clothing, although his fashion style was still more conceptual than everyday.


In 1937, American magazine Esquire Launched a survey of its readers, which it called the “Fly Battle”. It was about whether a button fly or a zipper fly was better. The other one won.

Just kidding. The truth is that no such article exists in the magazine’s online archive (which contains all the articles from 1933 till date). However, this tale has been repeated in several publications… including Esquire Magazine in 2014 itself. The story of “The Battle of the Fly” seems to be a recycling of a phrase from the book The zipper: an exploration into innovation (1994) by Robert Friedel, which discusses the marketing efforts of Talon, the B.F. Goodrich Company’s main competitor.

Esquire The archives contain an interesting (and genuine) article written by John Berendt on May 1, 1989, dedicated to zippers: “In 1932, zippers were still a novelty… They were a symbol of the mechanical future and dehumanization that was about to happen to us all. Were waiting. ” Custom tailors despised zipper flies as vulgar, while mass manufacturers claimed they were too expensive: a zipper added a dollar to the price of a pair of pants; The buttons cost only two cents. Things remained like this until 1934, when the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and his second cousin Dickie Mountbatten suddenly started wearing zipper flies. After this, the zipper was suddenly declared “the new idea in men’s tailoring,” according to the Smithsonian Institution.

After some time, the zipper finally won the hearts of the general public with its practicality. The zipper was incorporated into the uniforms of American sailors and, as fashion offered less and less formal clothing, the zipper gained popularity. By World War II, zippers were widely used in Europe and North America. After the war, they spread to the rest of the world. The first urban garment to incorporate it was the leather jacket. And, in the 1950s, NASA began manufacturing space suits with zippers capable of maintaining air pressure in the vacuum of space. They were used by astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, the first landing on the Moon.

The zipper began to become popular in leather jackets.Key Features (Getty Images)

Today, we can say that the zipper is a fundamentally practical invention. But still, controversies have intermittently marred its history. They were disliked in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in women’s clothing. This was because they allowed one to take off clothes more quickly and, therefore, allegedly encouraged sexual activity. In fact, musical director Busby Berkeley took advantage of the zipper’s attractive possibilities by introducing a female-made version of the zipper in the film. footlight parade, strengthening the sensual component that will later be attached to the zipper. Several years later, Madonna took advantage of this idea by wearing a corset made by Jean Paul Gaultier for her Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990.

Going back to the origins, zippers moved from the front or side of clothes to the back in the 1940s thanks to masters like Cristóbal Balenciaga. The zipper then became a common resource for outfits… but interestingly, it was always exclusively within the scope of women’s clothing.

Madonna during her Ambition Tour.G Naps (Getty Images)

The current review of this pattern raises the question why only women’s clothing has a zipper on the back. Aesthetic reasons may be given – after all, this type of rear closure allows the garment to be placed seamlessly in the front, which is especially interesting in thin or tight clothing. But another possible reading is that back zippers only exist in women’s clothing because of the idea that a woman only travels from her parents’ house to her husband’s house (because she has the freedom to get dressed and take off her clothes). help is needed).

In an interesting reflection on the matter, journalist Celeste Hadley – author of the book We need to talk: how to have conversations that matter — You have written an article on the self-publishing platform Sway. She discusses the freedoms that women have been allowed to achieve in terms of clothing, which each era has provided for them. For example, a back zip may be a patriarchal reflection of how women should dress.

“I have four arms and three of them are perfect for seeing the zipper, getting a good grip on it, and zipping it up. So why? Why, in the name of all things sacred, do clothing makers insist on putting a zipper on a side of my body that I cannot see and cannot reach without engaging in extreme yoga? To me, this is a feminist issue.

Hadley continues: “Do men’s clothes have zippers and buttons on the back? Is there a single piece of men’s clothing that has a zipper on the back? No! It is only women who need help getting dressed. “This is a continuation of discrimination against single women.”

Victoria Beckham’s design was seen on the catwalk in 2011.

WWD (Penske Media via Getty Images)

To this day, gender differences still exist when it comes to installing zippers on clothing. While in women’s fashion they are usually closed with the left hand, in men’s fashion they are usually closed with the right hand. This is because of a heritage that predates the zipper, when women’s buttons were designed for someone else to wear.

The zipper has also made its way into pop culture. Marlon Brando (absolutely wild1953) and James Dean (the rebels1955) created the image of a tough and tough mid-century man… thanks to the biker jacket decorated with zippers.

Two decades later, the Zipper bit the dust again. In 1971, the Rolling Stones released their famous album sticky Fingers, with a cover designed by none other than Andy Warhol. The original idea – photographed by Warhol’s art group, The Factory – featured a close-up of the fly of a man (allegedly Mick Jagger) wearing very tight, open jeans, with the zipper down. Is on the side. But that cover was very expensive to produce and it damaged the vinyl. So, finally, only the package photo was left. The image was a scandal: in some countries, it was censored for obscenity, leading to alternative covers being designed.

Cover of The Rolling Stones’ album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

Why do (almost) all zippers say YKK?

Look at any zippers on the clothes you’re wearing right now – on your pants, on your jacket, or on your bag. You see the letters YKK, right? But this engraving is not witchcraft. The acronym in English means “Yoshida Kogyo Kabushiki,” or “Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation.” This is the name of the company which was founded in 1934 by Japanese manufacturer Tadao Yoshida. Today, the company produces more than 1.2 million thousand zippers or about seven billion units every year (according to data). forbes, Nearly two centuries after the original zipper was invented, it continues to be ubiquitous, maintaining its popularity.



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