Overexposed: zippers take the spotlight on even the most formal of dresses

Perhaps it’s the insouciance of being just a little “undone,” or maybe it’s the brazenness of revealing a traditionally concealed element that gives the exposed zipper its cache on today’s style stage. While wearing an unzipped garment used to be considered a fashion faux pas, the current look is to quite obviously show off your partially-zipped (or, partially un-zipped, depending on your psychology) dress, skirt, blouse, or even pant leg.

While the exposed zipper has made an appearance on casual items for quite a while (see: 1980s, most acid-washed denim), designers are now using this obvious bit of hardware on cocktail attire, formalwear, and even couture red-carpet gowns. Marc Jacobs has created a line of women’s dresses that have the lines of classic shapes but feature this rock star-inspired trend either on the back or side where a hidden zipper would have otherwise been installed. For an even more formal interpretation, check out Sharon Stone’s Cannes Film Festival dress by Balmain: with all the trappings of a black-tie dress, like ruffles, black silk, and a long, flowing train, the salient silver zipper certainly makes a bold statement.

To make the exposed zipper a little more wearable for your everyday wardrobe, try out small pieces to incorporate into staples you already own. Many designers have parlayed this new trend in their clothing in very subtle ways, perfect for those not willing to commit to such an overhaul on the zipper: a casual, non-functional zipper on a blouse is just enough of a statement to put you in the avant-garde without going overboard. Take a look at the Graham and Spencer tunic in a deep mulberry, with just a hint of exposed zipper to the neck. Pieces like these understated yet fashionable ones can be casual or work-ready, depending on your accessories. While many high fashion houses are trying out this new style, plenty of lower-budget stores offer clothing with this new look. Target’s house brand Mossimo has produced a line of day dresses that feature an exposed zipper, another way to slip in to this bold new style.

As with every new trend, there are definitely a few practices of which to steer clear when wearing the exposed zipper. Avoid wearing more than one zippered item; to wear any more would be to cease being fashionable and begin looking costumey. In addition, while zippers may look great as an accent on heels, avoid zip-up Keds, which are more orthopedic than au courant. Most importantly, however, keep accessories to a minimum. Added flashiness from bangles, baubles, and beads can take an expensive piece and make it look cheap and tacky. While your look should be highly charged, you certainly shouldn’t be able to actually conduct electricity.

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