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Installing an Underlining

Support and shape fashion fabric with a hidden layer
Threads #183, February/March 2016
A rayon underlining provides support for this handwoven wool dress, conceals the stitches anchoring the hem and facing, and prevents fabric distortion during wear. Pattern: BurdaStyle October 2009 no. 115. Fabric: plaid wool and rayon SiBonne underlining, author’s stash.

Once a staple of fine sewing, underlinings have fallen out of favor in today’s quick-to-sew world. Installing an underlining takes time and attention to detail, but the results are oh, so worth it.

An underlining is a separate layer of cloth mounted to the back of each garment section. During garment construction, the two layers are handled as one. An underlining gives a silhouette a more sculptured look and adds strength and durability to the garment. It provides support and some wrinkle resistance to the fashion fabric, and can make sheers and lace fabrics more opaque. Underlinings prevent seams, hems, facings, and other construction details from showing on the garment’s right side. You can use an underlining on its own to finish a garment’s interior or conceal it with a standard lining. An important advantage of an underlining without a separate lining is that fit adjustments are much easier. 

Skirts benefit hugely from underlining—I rarely make a skirt anymore that isn’t underlined. Construction details are supported, and the skirt travels more smoothly over the body. Like a built-in slip, only better, an underlining is about support, and who can’t use a little extra support in life?

Select and prepare an underlining

You’ll find many choices for underlining, but opt for fabrics that are thin and crisp. They should support the fashion fabric, but not compete with it. If an underlining you are considering doesn’t have these characteristics, look further. Be sure to prep the underlining.


Samples of polyester lining and interfacing.Sew-in options

The most common underlining fabric is silk organza. Dharma Trading (DharmaTrading.com) has some of the best prices for 5.5-mm (momme weight) silk organza, available in black or white. Since silk is a protein fiber, silk organza can be colored with acid dyes to match…

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