When I first started sewing, I would line all of my handmade garments. As an overachiever, I felt that I needed to create the most intricate pieces of clothing, lining and all. All of my dresses and skirts from this sewing phase are properly lined. I am extremely proud of the extra work I did from the beginning. It set the foundation to some great sewing practices.
Sewing a garment with a lining is sewing two garments—one that will be seen by everyone, and one that will remain hidden. The extra time it took me to add a lining started to take its toll. I started using rayon almost exclusively, and I decided that I’d rather wear a slip under my dresses than jeopardize the natural drape of the fabric.
As I was sewing yet another version of the Megan Dress by Tilly and the Buttons , I noticed that the fabric I chose was a bit more revealing than I wanted. I had to go back to my lining days, and I am glad I did. A properly lined dress (or skirt or jacket) is a beauty to behold. I chose some black cotton to line the black and white fabric I had chosen, and the result is a dress that is as pretty outside as it is inside. I might be falling back in love with linings.
What is a Lining?
Lining in sewing refers to a separate layer that goes between your body and the outer shell of your garment and is attached to it. There are many reasons why you would line a garment:
- To make sheer fabrics more opaque
- To provide a layer of insulation
- To give your garment more structure
- To offer comfort when working with fabrics that upset the skin
- To hide unfinished seams, pockets, or interfaced pieces
- To give your garment a more professional finish
- To prevent creasing and stretching of the outer garment
- To allow for easy wearing on and off of the garment
As you can see, the advantages to adding a lining to your garments are many, and they are well worth the extra time and materials. Many patterns come with pieces and instructions if lining the garment is essential to the success of the project, but drafting a lining for a dress or skirt is very easy.
Full, Half, Partial
A fully lined garment is one where all pattern pieces are lined—a dress or skirt, for example. Sometimes, however, lining the whole garment is unnecessary or undesirable. In such cases, going for a half lining allows that only strategic parts of the garment are lined. Some garments only need partial lining—a skirt with a scalloped hem, for example, only gets a lining where the scallops are.
When choosing a fabric to line your garment, pick something similar or lighter in weight. Natural fibers are the best option for lining, but they can get quite expensive (silk… cough…cough). When I sew cotton dresses, I use voile or cotton batiste as lining. When sewing cotton skirts, I use a cotton/polyester blend designed for quilting.
In the rare instances when I line rayon, I also use rayon for the lining. It allows the garment to feel light and airy, and it gives a bit more opacity. For the only coat I’ve ever sewn, I used peachskin—100% polyester with a nice, soft hand. The fabric feels amazing, but I have never worn the coat long enough to see if the polyester makes me overheat.
Creating a Lining for a Dress
I use the exact same outer shell pattern pieces to create my lining pieces. I do not line the sleeves of my dresses. If you want a tutorial for a dress lining with long sleeves, Billie’s Sewing Corner has a really good one.
Once you have all of your pattern pieces, you will sew two dresses—one in the fashion fabric, the other in the lining fabric.
TIP: Start by sewing the lining. This way, even if you run out of steam, you will have to sew the fashion fabric to have a dress.
Place both dresses right sides together. You will be attaching the lining to the neckline of your outer dress. Make sure to match shoulder seams and center front.
Sew the two dresses together at the neck. Clip the seams (I use my pinking scissors to do that). Then, press the outer dress seam toward the lining; understitch. Don’t know what understitching is? It is a technique that attaches the lining to the seam of the outer shell, preventing the lining form rolling out when you wear your garment. It is used with collars, pockets, and other parts of a garment lining that have to be hidden.
Once you clipped the collar, make sure that the seam of the garment is pressed toward the lining. Take your garment to the machine, and attach the seam to the lining like in the video below (the mustard-color piece is the lining):
You can attach the lining to the zipper using the sewing machine. Match the center back seams of the outer dress to the back seams of the lining and pin in place. Using a zipper foot, sew as close to the zipper teeth as you can without sewing over the teeth. You will be able to see the ridge of the zipper teeth as you go.
Place the lining inside the dress. Give the neckline a good press. You can give the center back seams a press, but be careful to iron the fabric and not the zipper teeth.
You can finish each armhole separately, or you can serge them together. From there, add the sleeve like you would do in an unlined dress. Only one more thing to do! Hem each dress. I hem them separately, making sure that the lining is one inch shorter than the outer dress.
When and Why Not to Add a Lining
There will be times when you might not want to line your garment. Maybe you want to avoid adding bulk to a drapey fabric. Or perhaps—much like for me—adding a second layer of fabric might make a garment too hot. Sewing linings can get expensive; purchasing a couple of slips can go a long way in saving some money. Cotton-lined garments do not like other cotton garments like leggings. These are all great reasons to make you think twice about lining a garment.
To Line or Not to Line?
Adding a lining to a garment is a decision that you as a sewist will have to make. There are oh-so-many reasons to line your handmade pieces, but there are times when you might decide that you are totally okay with doing without. The beauty of sewing is that no one tells you what to do: You are in control.