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Sewing vintage patterns

dancingribbon | Posted in Patterns on

I have recently become interested in sewing patterns from the late 60s. I notice that they call for underlining on all pieces, or at least most, on these unlined garments. Since I’m new to this idea, can someone with experience from this era explain to me why underlining seemed universally necessary at the time? New patterns do not call for this like those from the late 60s seem to. Thanks!


  1. sarahkayla | | #1

    The aesthetic  of the time required fabrics to be stiff and to stand away from the body.Underlining gives a flimsier fabric more body. Now we are into drapey and clingy.

  2. mygaley | | #2

    Underlining is just another "underpinning" to help support the style, shape and weight of your fashion fabric.  As I recall in the late 60s we were not using very many knits yet and there were a lot of cottons and natural fibers around and of course rayon.  We also were stuck in a "mutant" time where many sewists remembered lining everything and were not willing to give up the structure this provided; also this was the beginning of "easy" sewing patterns designed to encourage sewing and of course they did not have the details like lining, etc., or the fitting standards.

    Personally I am a great fan of underlining, and have never been sorry when I used it, but have regretted when I have not.  My private resolve is never to sew another bridal or Formal without underlining--it does too much for a garment.  I also have noticed in this forum that more and more are interested in underlining their garments.  Galey

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    Oh, dear, those fashions from the late 60s!  Easy to sew, easy to wear, but so hard on the eyes....  The underlining was necessary because those shifts and tents were very architectural; Mary Quant was very popular. 

    The ideal body at the time, Twiggy's, was rail thin and flat-chested, basically a coat hanger for the very structured minis.  There was a lot of color blocking and contrast panelling, a lot of abstract and geometric prints, and the fabric was always stiff, stiff, stiff.  No wonder we went nuts over drapey rayons in the next decade!

    1. dancingribbon | | #4

      Thank you so much for your reply. It makes sense. I can see underlining a shift dress or the bodice of a low waisted shift with pleated, attached skirt, but not the skirt part. Anyway, I'll give the underlining thing a try...

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #5

        Actually, what used to be considered a Couture garment (a la '60s) now often finds itself in the Sportswear or Designer Sportswear category of many pattern catalogs.  They are much the same.  While it is true that today's fabrics trump yesterday's in many ways, there are also universal construction techniques that never die.  Underlining is one of those.  My mother (Audrey Childress) frequently underlined pants for the purpose of making them more durable.  It certainly worked.  I still have some of the pants she made in the '60s, and they could certainly be worn without anyone being the wiser today.  She used underlining to back eyelet and lace or fabrics with an open weave, or even used them in sheerer fabrics to mute the tone or to create a totally different color.  The possibilities are endless.  I do not believe it is necessary (although it certainly may be desirable) to underline today's fabulous blends for the purposes of, say, a blazer -- as a matter of fact, it would probably be too much structure in some cases -- but I often use it in the matching skirt rather than a lining (it's faster, easier, and just as effective), unless, of course, the top fabric is required to be more structured for purposes of the jacket and a little more flowing for purposes of the skirt.  The garment dictates the technique.  There is no wrong technique for any garment, only one that either does or does not produce the results we are looking for in the finished garment.  I would suggest that if you're constructing '60s style garments that you stick with the underlining technique as closely as possible, as was suggested by one of our Gatherings members previously.  She is correct, in my opinion, that the garments were more "architectural" in style and function.....

        1. dancingribbon | | #6

          Wow! Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. I have one pattern that is a drop waist dress with pleated skirt attached to the bodice. I can see underlining the bodice, but would you also underline the pleated skirt part? I'm afraid it wouldn't pleat well or hang well. Let me know what you think. Thanks again!

          1. DONNAKAYE | | #7

            I thought about this after I posted my first reply: to underline or not to underline even a '60s style garment is still dictated by the current fabric selection, so my question is, what is your fiber content/blend, what is the "hand," i.e., the drapeability (soft and flowing, heavy cotton, stiffer, etc.)?  Can you send me a picture of the pattern?  I would probably still underline the skirt, but it really depends on your choice of fabric for the project.  Your fabric selection will also dictate the type of underlinings you may choose from.....

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