What is a Split Seam?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A split seam is a seam in a garment that is intentionally open. This is a common feature in pants and shorts, especially pants and shorts that are intended to be worn for athletic purposes. In some cases, such as with dress trousers and in trendy denim designs, the purpose of a split seam is entirely aesthetic. In sportswear and active wear, on the other hand, a split seam is usually used to improve the wearer's range of motion. For example, a split seam may be used in the design of yoga pants because so many yoga poses require a great range of motion, especially when they are being practiced by someone with a great deal of yoga training.

Yoga practitioners might use split seam pants because of the range of motion required.
Yoga practitioners might use split seam pants because of the range of motion required.

There are some cases in which split seams are used in dresses and skirts. A pencil skirt, for example, often has a split seam in the back. There is a seam that begins at the small of the back, which is sometimes where the skirt can be zippered or buttoned closed. This seam extends over the rump and down the back of the legs. The seam often splits for one to three inches (between two and a half centimeters and seven and a half centimeters) at the end. This kind of split seam is both functional as it can improve the wearer's range of motion and is also an aesthetic part of a pencil skirt.

A split seam featured in sportswear or active wear is typically used to improve a person's range of motion.
A split seam featured in sportswear or active wear is typically used to improve a person's range of motion.

It is also common for dresses and gowns to have split seams either in the back or on one or both sides of the garment. Much like with the pencil skirt, this design feature can improve the wearer's range of motion but can also offer a bit of glamour if the intention is to show off the legs of the woman wearing the dress. In most cases, the seam begins to split around the knee area. In some more risque fashions, the seam may split much higher.

Another type of garment that is often designed with at least one split seam is the coat. This is especially true with coats that follow classic patterns such as trench coats. A trench coat, for example, usually has a split seam in the back. There are also heavier coats made out of materials such as wool that also include a split seam in the back and, sometimes, on the right and left side of the garment. Sometimes, especially with coats, designers use split seams in order to show off interesting linings.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


My weight tends to fluctuate with the seasons. For this reason, I love my dresses with split seams near the zipper.

My favorite one is a yellow summer dress with a floral pattern and a big yellow bow on the front. It zips up the side under the arm, and the area extending from the top of the zipper down its length has a split seam with a yellow mesh lining.

Because the lining is there, I can zip up the dress only partially until I reach my comfort level. The yellow mesh just looks like part of the dress that is supposed to show through, and I don’t have to feel confined while wearing it during a fat phase.


I am glad for split seams in pencil skirts. I believe that they prevent me from ripping the seat out.

I have a somewhat curvaceous rear. Because of this, I am often leery of very tight pants and skirts with no leeway. I have ripped seams in the past and had to go home and change. Now, I will only wear tight clothing if it has at least one split seam.

A skirt that I wear with nearly everything is a gray split seam pencil skirt. It goes great with all the pink and purple in my wardrobe of blouses, and I feel confident that I will not be suddenly betrayed by a ripping sound while wearing it.


My workout shorts have split seams on the outer edges of the legs. Beneath the seams is a white mesh lining. This material lets my legs breathe and allows air to get to them and cool them.

I intentionally sought out split seam workout shorts. In the past, I have worn ones without any cooling properties, and I was miserable during my workouts.

The lining is perfect for me, because I don’t like to show off my skin very much. It extends from the bottom of the leg up to about four inches, yet it gives me the coverage I want.


My favorite skirt has a long split seam. The skirt is a polyester blend. The top layer of material starts out purple and fades to orange at the bottom.

The split seam starts about ten inches from the bottom and extends all the way down. Its purpose is to reveal the bright yellow, silky material underneath. This material is speckled with glittery dragonflies.

In addition to enhancing the beauty of the skirt, the seam allows me to walk easier. If the skirt did not have the seam, I would probably walk a little stiffly while wearing it.

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