I knew underlining existed, but never understood the need for it unless you’re working with sheer fabrics. After reading Couture Sewing Techniques, I learned that most couture garments are underlined, but most aren’t lined! I was surprised – wouldn’t you rather line something and hide all of the construction details? It was an interesting and backwards way of thinking for me.
However, after making the muslin for Simplicity 3965, I thought the bodice could use some extra support. Especially because I chose a lovely vintage rayon fabric, and didn’t want the strain on the fabric, or to possibly damage it from perspiration. (On that note, Couture Sewing Techniques has no problem discussing perspiration and builds the possibility of it into the garments: underlining or ‘backing,’ dress shields, etc.)
In couture, the designer considers the comfort of the person wearing the garment. What would feel nice next to the skin? Imagine an extra layer of silk added to a garment, just to make you feel nice. How incredibly thoughtful! And the more I wear RTW clothes, the more little things I notice that definitely don’t feel nice. Scratchy tags, stiff labels, rough seam allowances, and fabrics that should definitely be lined and not touch the skin! That’s my new goal, for all of my sewing projects to feel nice on the body. We’re worth it, don’t you think?
Ok, so back to the underlining. For this dress, I chose cotton muslin as backing. I wanted a little more structure to the bodice as it was very snug fitting, and I liked the idea of soft washed cotton muslin next to my skin, as well as to protect the pretty vintage rayon.
First things first: pre-wash the muslin! This will make it softer and easier to work with, as well as remove any sizing or finishing from the fabric.
For the underlining, I cut out the bodice front and bodice back pieces in muslin. It’s the same theory as cutting lining, but the application is done differently.
If you look at the photo above, you can see I’ve also cut my facing pieces as well! I decided to use muslin for interfacing as well, I’ve started to move away from fusible interfacings in favour of natural fabrics like muslin. They’re breathable and cooler in the summer, plus then you don’t run the risk of the fusing un-gluing itself from your pieces later on.
After you’re finished cutting, you should have a bodice front in both self fabric and muslin, and a bodice back in both self fabric and muslin as well.
Lay each self fabric piece on top of its corresponding muslin underlining piece. Pin around the edges, smoothing out any bumps and wrinkles. (If your pieces are really wrinkly, be sure to give them a good press first!)
Baste around the edges of each piece. I’ve flipped one piece over so you can see the basting lines more clearly.
When you’re finished basting around the edges of all pieces, we will start working with each piece as a single layer! You can see how this is different from lining, where each layer is handled separately. Give each piece a quick press after the basting is complete.
For the darts, we will make them through both layers of fabric together!
Take the original pattern piece and line it up over the fabric piece. Mark the tip of the dart through all layers with a pin. I use pins with a small head, so I can easily pull the pattern piece off without moving the pin.
Flip the piece of fabric over, making sure the pin stays put. You should see just the sharp end of the pin sticking out.
Now, stitch a line of machine-stitching along the line you just drew. This will anchor the two layers of fabric together and prevent slipping when you sew the dart! Now your dart will be perfectly even through both layers.
From now on, you can work with the bodice front and bodice back pieces just as you would if they weren’t underlined!
Although I have to say, working with underlined garment pieces just feels nice. Each piece has more body and is fun to work with, plus the edges are stayed and stabilized by adding the extra layer of fabric. I’ve never used an underlining before but so far, I’m really glad I did!
It’s starting to look like a dress now! It’s quite exciting to work on this project knowing the fit has already been corrected. It’s faster too, since I’m not constantly trying on the half-finished project.
Stay tuned for more work-in-progress as I tackle the rest of this dress!