Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When Was the Nylon Coil Zipper Introduced?

Many vintage dealers will look to the type of zipper used in a garment to help date it.  Metal zippers were in common use in garments from the 1940s through the 60s and I've even seen them in a few early 70s dresses.  But many people believe if a garment has a nylon zipper, it probably dates to the mid-to-late 60s at the earliest.  Not true.  Today I came across this ad for the "New" Talon Zephyr zipper in a magazine from October of 1960.  While it is true that nylon coil zippers were not immediately popular, you will find early ones from time to time, especially in designer garments.  The new nylon coil zippers were probably more expensive than metal ones at first, as most new technology is.  And they weren't available to home sewers until later.

The dress shown is by designer Hannah Troy.

There is the copy from the ad:  "New Talon Zephyr...fabulous nylon closure with the feel and flex of fabric.  Borne on the high winds of fashion:  A pouf of silk damask unburdened by the look and feel of hardware - accomplished by the new Talon Zephyr.  A new nylon coil design makes it as light, soft and supple as fabric.  And Zephyr's color lives forever, so it can't reveal that metal gleam along a seam.  It's virtually snag proof.  Magically self-healing.  (If fabric or thread should catch in coils, bend it in half to open....remove fabric.  Then zip it down, zip it up and it 'heals' itself!)  Look for the tiny Zephyr in fall's most important fashions.  Hannah Troy designed this one, and put special interest on the sleeves."

I'm not sure if Talon was the first company to introduce nylon coil zippers to the fashion industry, so I can't say that 1960 was the definitive year when the nylon zipper first appears in clothing.  But I can say that Talon advertised it's new zipper in 1960 and that provides a valuable clue when trying to date some vintage garments.

Photo source

UPDATE:  Please note that the zipper I am referring to in this article is the nylon coil zipper, as shown on the right in this photo.  Earlier plastic zippers were available and were most often used as a decorative element.  They were heavier and looked similar to the one shown on the left in this photo.  Please see my follow-up article on early plastic zippers from the 30's.  Nylon wasn't invented until 1935 and it's use for zipper coils did not come until much later.


Casey said...

Fantastic information!!! :) I was just discussing this topic of zippers with the owner of a local vintage boutique, and we were talking about how early (or not) the nylon zipper is. I know I've found a couple pieces that are clearly early 60s that have nylon zips; although they've tended to be what would have been higher-end purchases in the day. Most of my early to mid 60s day dresses are still sporting metal zips! ;)

Mayrozez said...

Wonderful! I have wondered about this from time to time. Thanks for posting this.

Victoria said...

Great information, thanks for the post! I knew nylon zipper were used most often in the mid-60s because my clothes my mom bought for me had them. It seems I also remember sewing with the invisible zipper in the early 70s.

K.Line said...

I've always wanted to know how early nylon zips were available. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow this is so informative! Great find, thanks for sharing!

MeggieLoveday said...

I have a very distinctive 1940s rayon dress, that would be around 1944-46 that has a nylon zipper. It's in perfect condition and the zipper has never been replaced. The dress itself was also overlocked! The brand name is Tucker and Masons constructions Pty. Ltd (I cant find anything on them but if you saw the dress,beautiful lilac floral) you'd agree it was from the 40s!
love your info! keep it up

Penny Dreadful said...

I read somewhere recently that Schiaparelli was one of the first to use nylon zippers, back in the 30s!

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

MeggieLoveday - I'd love to see a photo of your dress. Are you sure it's a nylon zipper and not some other type of plastic?

PennyDreadful - Schiaparelli used plastic zippers a decorative element. Follow up post coming today!

thevintagetraveler said...

Jody, thanks so much for posting those two zippers side-by-side. I'm sure it will help clear up the confusion about plastic and nylon zippers.

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