the importance of an underlining. a what? an underlining! just read on…

i finally got around to cutting my fabric for simplicity 2692!

i am using a lightweight woven material and, having used similar fabrics recently, i know i will need to stabilize it somehow. i am a stickler for lining my dresses. i think the inside of a garment should be beautifully finished. yeah, i’m probably the only one who will see it, but who cares? interior finishes lend integrity to the structure and longevity of a garment. what use is making a dress if it’s all wonky and ill-fitting after only a couple wearings?

for this project i have decided to use underlining for the bodice, and facings around the armholes and neckline. in the past i have used just a regular lining—basically a second dress stitched to the inside. for this particular fabric, that sort of lining won’t be enough. the material is loosely woven, almost gauzy. for added stability i need to underline all the bodice and midriff pieces. in various sewing books i’ve read about underlining but really just thought of it as an option and not so much a necessity. working with this particular fabric i realized that sometimes it really is necessary.

okay, so what is underlining? in short underlining is fabric sewn directly to the wrong side of the main fabric. each piece is underlined individually before constructing any part of the garment. knowing how to do this gives you so much freedom in fabric choices. say you want a structured dress, skirt or even jacket but you fall in love with a lighter weight fabric? underline it! this is such an easy technique and one favored in higher quality garments. while i certainly don’t profess to know anything about couture finishes, i do know that underlining is one of them!

have i convinced you yet? here’s how to do it!

cut your main fabric then, using the same pattern pieces, cut your underlining. i am using muslin as my underlining because it is stable, easy to work with and it feels nice against your skin. this is a dress that will be worn in the summer and i don’t want anything clingy or stifling!

once cut, pin then sew each piece of underlining to the wrong side of it’s corresponding piece of fabric. the goal here is to have these two pieces act as one once sewn together, so care must be taken that there are no wrinkles or shifting. sew around the perimeter of each piece about 1/4″ from the edge (fyi: the distance between the needle and the right edge of the presser foot is usually 1/4″).

very important tip: do not pivot at the corners!!!

instead sew right off the edge then stop and move on the the next edge. this is to decrease the possibility of the fabrics shifting and ending up rippled. once the pieces are sewn together, give them a good steam press with your iron. the iron is your best friend when sewing, don’t be lazy! if you get out your sewing machine, get out your iron too!

see how sheer the fabric is on it’s own?

see how much better the pattern stands out once underlined? okay, it’s hard to tell from these pictures… just trust me! also, i have to say, the underlined fabric just feels good. it’s stable, it won’t shift when you start to sew it all together, you just know it will be a high quality garment.

so while i just got finished telling you that you must underline each piece individually before any garment construction takes place! i have one optional exception: where the bodice joins at the shoulder. this particular pattern came with separate lining pieces because the outer fabric is gathered at the shoulders. to reduce bulk at this seam, i gathered the shoulder seams and sewed together the bodice front and back of the outer fabric and the underlining separately before applying the underlining to the outer fabric. i’m sure that made tons of sense… here’s a picture to show what i mean.


i’m pretty sure this one little shortcut won’t ruin the dress.

once your fabric is underlined you can decide whether to use facings, bias tape or a regular lining to finish off the edges. i will be using facings and show you how to make them in an upcoming post!

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