Tutorial: How to Line a Sleeveless Dress
Life is full of simple pleasures that we easily take for granted. Slipping into a beautiful, fully lined dress is one of them. Imagine the softness and coolness of silk as it glides over your body, skimming your curves (if you have them) just so. No doubt about it, a full lining makes the simple task of getting dressed a little more pleasurable, a little more luxurious.
Lining- may it be in silk, chiffon, or cotton- may spell the difference between a well-made dress and an ill-fitting one. What the skeleton does to a body, the lining does to a dress- it provides support, gives it shape, and preserves its form. For this reason alone, any self-respecting seamstress should master the art of lining a dress. Self-respecting seamstress that I am (or so, I’d like to think), I set out to do just that.
This tutorial will teach you how to attach a lining to a sleeveless dress and will help you achieve that polished, bought-from-a-shop look on your garments. A bit ironic coming from a self-confessed handmade nut like me but let’s face it: the true test of a well-made handmade dress is when people see you strut your stuff and exclaim: ‘What a lovely dress! Where did you get that?’ and not ‘ Oh, you made another one again?’
With that inspiring thought hovering over our heads, let’s begin.
(Note: For this tutorial, I will only show attaching the lining to the bodice of our mythical dress as getting the armhole right is the trickiest part of the show. To complete the dress, all that needs doing is to attach the skirt. You will also notice that the bodice in question has no zipper or fastenings. Of course, you can modify this method for dresses with back or side zippers, but we’ll save that for another day.)
Cut out the front and back bodices of both the fashion fabric and the lining. In the photo below, my fashion fabric cut-outs are on the left while the linings are on the right. With right sides together, join the fashion fabric front bodice to the fashion fabric back bodice only at the shoulders, leaving the side seams open. Repeat this step on the lining.
Open up your joined pieces and lay them on top of each other, still with right sides together.
Align the necklines, pin, and sew. Neaten the resulting seam either by serging (if you own a serger), by delicate french seams, or by using pinking shears to prevent fraying. This seam is hidden from view when the garment is finished but it should still be neat and secure, especially if your fashion fabric is sheer like silk or chiffon. Now reverse the unfinished garment so that the wrong sides of the fashion fabric and the lining are touching.
Next, understitch the lining at the neckline. Understitching reinforces the stitching where the facing or lining joins the fashion fabric and, more importantly, keeps the facing or lining in its rightful place – inside the garment. To start, position the neckline under the sewing machine foot as shown on the left photo below. Note that the neckline seam allowance and the lining are to the right while the fashion fabric is to the left. Next, stitch the seam allowance to the lining about 1/8 inch from the edge where the lining and fashion fabric join, as shown in the middle photo. The rightmost photo shows the finished understitched lining. This step seems unimportant but is essential for a polished overall look. For a simple tutorial on understitching, please click here.
Now that we have the perfect neckline, let’s go about making perfect armholes. Lay the unfinished garment on a flat surface (the floor works for me every time). Roll one side of the garment towards the middle, as shown on the photo below.
Next, make a fabric sandwich. Flip the fashion fabric to the right, like so. This becomes half of the bun.
Now, carefully pull the lining from underneath and ease it to the right. There is your sandwich! The center photo shows what it looks like inside: the fashion fabric is one half of the bun, the lining is the other half, and the rolled fabric is the sausage. Now align the armholes, making sure that the shoulder seams are perfectly matched. Pin and sew, taking care not to catch the sausage. Before proceeding to step 8, make sure that you neaten and secure this seam as this is the last time you will see it.
You will notice that up until now our garment is still the wrong side out. It’s time to turn it right side out. Sounds impossible, but with a little magic (and a lot of pulling), it really isn’t. Grab one end of the sausage and start pulling it through the shoulder gap. The narrower the shoulders the harder this step is, but persevere. Keep on pulling as if your life depended on it, until the whole sausage is out and the garment has reversed right side out. Got it? Good job! Now release that breath you are holding (yes, I know you’ve stopped breathing as did I when I first tried this), press the seams flat at the armhole, and admire your perfectly attached lining! Repeat steps 5 through 8 on the other armhole.
By now your unfinished garment is beginning to take shape and should look like the photo on the left below. With the neckline and armholes done, we are now ready to close the side seams. Open up your garment as shown on the right photo, align the side seams, making sure that the bottom seams of the armholes match. Pin, sew, and neaten the resulting seam by serging, french seams, or using the trusty pinking shears. Repeat this step on the other side.
Reverse the garment, right side out. Press the side seams flat. There, a beautifully lined garment as polished the ones you see in the shops, as pretty outside as it is inside. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done and go make yourself a cup of tea. You deserve it!
To complete the garment, the only thing left to do is to attach the skirt but that is for another day. I hope this tutorial has helped you conquer that fear of lining, as it helped me.
Come again for more nifty tutorials! Hope to see you soon!