Southwest Employee Creates Extraordinary Dress From 800 Lost Zipper Pulls

The airline employee turned a daily task into a fashionable project.

Sometimes its possible to take an ordinary task of an everyday job and make it into something extraordinary — like this Southwest Airlines employee who made a chic dress out lost zipper pulls she found while on the job.

"When I started with Southwest in 2011 and was picking up several zipper pulls every day, I announced to my coworkers that I was going to do something with them," Valerie, a ramp agent based in Phoenix, said in a statement shared with Travel + Leisure. "At first I was thinking something small, but then I settled on a dress."

Zipper pull dress made by Southwest employee
Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

The airline employee — who learned to sew from her grandmother and does seamstressing work outside of her day job — chose a sturdy dress from a thrift store and began sewing on the zipper pulls in a pattern, using fishing line (normal thread wouldn't have been able to hold the weight).

Dress made of zippers
Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

"The challenge was sewing them on in a straight, even line since fabric moves and stretches," Valerie told T+L. "Slowly but surely, I attached each pull. I put it down and picked it up over the years, then forgot about it for a while."

As her 10-year anniversary with Southwest began approaching (which meant she'd been collecting zipper pulls for 10 years), she told herself that it was time she finally finished her project.

"I dug out the half-finished dress and several buckets of zipper pulls and went to work again," she said.

And after a decade, and more than 800 zipper pulls sewn, Valerie completed her impressive, wearable ode to luggage.

A table with buckets and cups of zippers
Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

The finished project has a few hidden details, with all of the zipper pulls organized by brand: all Samsonite, U.S. Traveler, Dockers, and other brands are all clustered together. And although the zipper pulls at the top of the dress are closely sewn onto the dress, those on the bottom are sewn so they can "swing and jingle, making the dress sound like a coin machine," she explained.

At the end of finishing her 10-year project, Valerie donated the dress to the airline, which has put it on display at corporate headquarters.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles