Underlining the Lonsdale Dress

For the Lonsdale Sew-Along, you may want to underline or line your dress! Especially if you’re using a lovely, soft sheer fabric and don’t want to see the print through both layers of the bodice, or want a little coverage through the skirt.

If your fabric is a light colour, even if it’s not lightweight, underlining and lining might be a good idea! Underlining can brighten or change the colour of your dress fabric, too. It’s completely up to you.

I have this pretty cotton voile print for a Lonsdale dress, that’s too sheer and light to wear on its own.

If you’re not sure whether to underline your dress or not, test the fabric by draping it over your hand. Can you see your fingers? Try draping it over your shirt sleeve. Can you see the hem of your shirt through the fabric?

Bottom line: if you don’t feel comfortable in your dress, you’ll never wear it!

This fabric is borderline. There’s enough colour and distraction in the print to make it somewhat opaque. It’s mostly the light weight that makes me want to line the skirt, for modesty.

I’m underlining it with a lightweight cotton. I wanted a natural fibre next to the skin, so the dress would stay cottony and soft. You could also use rayon lining fabric, for a slippery lining. The advantage to using lining fabrics is they won’t stick to your main fabric. Layers of cotton on cotton have a tendency to grab onto each other – but I’m willing to deal with that in order to keep the dress all-cotton. Just something to think about, for your project!

What we’ll do is sandwich our underlining between the bodice layers, and add a layer of lining to the skirt.

Underlining the Bodice? Cut these pieces:

  • Bodice Front (2 pieces)
  • Bodice Back (2 pieces)


  • Waistband (1 or 2 pieces)
  • Loop (2 pieces)

If your fabric is sheer, really sheer, you might want to underline the loop and the waistband so the colour is the same as the bodice. I’m not going to underline either piece on my dress because this fabric isn’t quite that sheer. Plus, I’ll use white interfacing on the waistband and on the loop, which will make my fused pieces the same colour as the underlined bodice.

When in doubt, sew up a little swatch to be sure! Cut a scrap of interfacing and test to see what it will look like next to the underlined sample.

Lining the Skirt? Cut these pieces:

  • Skirt Back
  • Skirt Front – fill in front pocket section

Fill in the cutout on the skirt front, using the pocket piece as a guide. You can also use this technique to omit the pocket completely!

For more on how to fill in the pocket, check out this post: How to Eliminate a Slash Front Pocket

Other Underlining Thoughts

You can use underlining to change the colour of your dress! If I wanted to tone down the whites in this fabric, I could use red, or peach, or another colour to change the colour slightly. This effect would be more noticeable on a sheerer fabric.

Underlining can also be used to add structure. If you’re using a very soft and drapey fabric, and you’d like it to be crisper, choose a stiffer fabric to underline with. Silk organza is often used in couture sewing for a crisply structured garment.

Once you’ve cut your underlining…

Baste it to your cut fabric pieces – bodice front and back. With right sides up on both your fabric and underlining, lay your fabric on top of your underlining. Baste in place, and work with this double-layered piece as if it’s a single layer.

And for the skirt lining…

Sew up the sideseams, and centre front seam. Finish the seam allowances. (You can do this step later on, when you sew the skirt seams.) You can either sew it to the main skirt, and work with the centre back seam using both layers. Or, you can sew the centre seam below the circle, and keep it out of the dress’s centre back seam. Attach it to the inner waistband, and either slipstitch it around the zipper opening or leave it hanging free.

Need to see it, in order to follow the steps? I’ll work on this dress and include some photos as I go! It may be near the end of the Sew-Along, so that I can keep up with the regular posts.

I wanted to include this post now, so you could get started with your underlining or lining! Any questions? Leave a comment below!

More posts on underlining your sewing projects:

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22 Responses to Underlining the Lonsdale Dress

  1. Marina August 2, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    Hi Tasia,

    Thanks for the underlining post, I just wanted to ask about it yesterday when I started cutting my fabric. Would you underline entire front bodice, including bands? or would you recommend using underlining only up to shoulder height or similar? Also, do you think, underlining will also strengthen the bands? Thanks a lot!

  2. Reader August 2, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    I recently underlined a cotton dress that was made from quilting fabric. The cotton batiste I used was a little too heavy. This time around I’m trying cotton voile as an underlining fabric.

    I basted the underlining at 2-inch intervals. It was suggested that baste the two pieces together before cutting them out, although I imagine that basting the cut fashion fabric piece is fine.

  3. RobinDenning August 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I am using a super lightweight fabric that I purchased from Metro Textiles in NYC just recently. It is an amazing blend of silk & cotton. It needs to be underlined so the floral print from the self-lining doesn’t show through. I lucked out and found some old white cotton pillowcases in my stash to use for underlining. It so soft & supple.

    For the skirt I will line with rayon. I have found the rayon lining doesn’t bother me in the skirt, but I do prefer all cotton in the bodice. Cotton breathes so much better.

    And, for what it’s worth, I will be underlining the straps – for my fabric, it needs that extra strength, and the extra heft to make the knot look nice.

    I hope to get some pics up on my blog soon! I just love this fabric I am using.

  4. Tabatha Tweedie August 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Ooh thanks for reminding us about filling in the pocket section. I would have totally forgotten! I’m using a very light cotton for my first Lonsdale, but I think the self-lined bodice will mean it isn’t too see-through. For the skirt I’m going to use the main fabric as lining!

  5. Tasia August 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    @Marina: Hi Marina! I would underline the whole bodice, including the straps, for a consistent colour and for added stability. If you really didn’t want to, or didn’t need the extra layer of fabric in the strap section, then you can stop at the shoulder point. But I’d underline the whole thing if it was me!

  6. Lucy August 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I wasn’t going to underline my bodice, but looking at it more closely you can see the big black outlines of flowers…so I think I will. Luckily, I have an old cream op shop sheet, which I was going to use for muslins, but it will work beautifully here! I wish I hadn’t written all over the muslin I did make because that would have been great too and saved a step…unless you can get ballpoint pen out of cotton? ;-)

    I’m going to line my skirt in a pale yellow cotton that matches the base colour of my main fabric…when you do the back seam where the zip goes, can I do what you did for Twin Spruce and sew up to the start of the zip, and then sew the rest of the seam inside to make a nice tidy line for the zip? Or would that be a problem for this dress given the waistband? I might wait for pictures ;-)

  7. Tasia August 4, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    @Lucy: Hi Lucy! Yes, you can do what I did on the Twin Spruce dress – I would suggest to do it before you attach the skirt to the bodice, so you’re attaching two layers of skirt (lining and main fabric) to the waistband. It will make a very tidy opening for the zipper! I’m picturing it in my head and I think it works. When you get to the ‘finish the centre back edges’ part, you’ll want to finish JUST the bodice edges, as the skirt part will already be finished.

    Or, finish the centre back edges of the bodice before attaching the skirt. Yes, that’s what I’d do! Serge/zig-zag your bodice edges, finish the skirt like the Twin Spruce Dress, and then sew them together at the waistband. It will become clearer when you have the fabric pieces in your hands I’m sure!

    And as far as I know, you can’t get ballpoint pen out of cotton, not if you write on it forcefully like I do!

  8. Jane Elise August 7, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    I’m using a voile which is translucent so I’m underlining it with white batiste. I’m also going to follow Sunni’s tutorial for creating padded cups. Am I right to make the whole lining for the front and back of the bodice plus straps and just attach the padded cups to the lining then sandwich it all between the two layers of fashion fabric? I don’t need an extra layer for padded cups, do I?

  9. Jane Elise August 9, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    Gah, I didn’t fill in the pocket when I cut out the skirt underlining.

  10. Tasia August 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    @Jane Elise: Hi Jane Elise! I just re-read Sunni’s bust padding post and it looks like she’s added a THIRD layer of muslin to add the padding to.
    Then this middle layer goes between the other two. You could skip it, and sew your pads right to the inside layer of fabric, but you’ll be able to see the stitching that holds them in place.
    I’ve also thought of adding ‘pockets’ to hold the bust cups, you know, like on swimsuits or workout tops where you can take them out or put them in depending on your mood. To do that, you could sew a patch pocket where the pads go, on the inside bodice layer, and then place the pads into the pocket. (And take them out when you want to!)
    Hope this helps!

  11. Tasia August 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    @Jane Elise: Oh no! If you haven’t already re-cut it, you could sew it to your skirt layer, and cut a pocket out of underlining. Then baste the two layers together, and treat them as one! If you’re nearly out of fabric, you could cut the ‘fill-in’ piece out of underlining, and sew it to the ‘unfilled’ underlining piece to make the piece whole again. It won’t be quite as smooth but it will do the trick if you are short on fabric! Hope this helps!

  12. Lynda August 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    I am making a Simplicity cinderella dress for my granddaughter and upon reading the instructions I have to do underlining. I have never done this before so I have been reading up on it. I am using a satin for the dress and organza is suggested for the underlining. I don’t want to use organza, can ordinary rayon lining be used for this. Also the instructions say to pin right side of underling to the pieces, why would you have the wrong side of the underlining showing. I just can’t grasp that. Any help would be appreciated.

  13. Tasia August 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    @Lynda: Hi Lynda – I would guess they’re asking for organza to add stiffness and body to the dress. If you use rayon, it won’t add the crispness that’s part of the design – I am guessing but that seems right to me! Underlining can be for sheerness, but it can also add structure and body to a garment.
    You pin the right side of the underlining to the wrong side of the main fabric – this is easiest to picture if you lay them both face up on a table, and slide the main fabric over to cover the underlining. Right sides of both fabrics are facing upwards that way! Hope this helps.

  14. Lynda August 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    Thank you Tasia for getting back to me. This dress calls for stiffening (net) on the sleeves topped with the satin I chose then organza on top of that for a shimmering look.
    It’s the same for the puff that goes around the waist. The hem of the skirt has horsehair and I also have a crinoline for it. So I’m not getting why I would need more stiffness.

    I’m still not getting the other part, Although organza or rayon lining looks the same on both sides it wouldn’t matter. But lets say you have underining with a distinctive right and wrong side. By doing it that way when you look under the dress you would see the wrong unattractive side of the underlining. Am i wrong and still not getting it.

    Frustrated lol

  15. Jane Elise August 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    @Lynda – I am by no means an expert but if you think about lining a skirt, as opposed to underlining, the right side faces out and the wrong side faces in. If you don’t line or underline, the wrong side of your fashion fabric faces in anyways. I would have thought, if you wanted the inside to look nice, you would add another layer which would be a lining. All sounds really interesting though, so good luck!

  16. Jane Elise August 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    @Tasia – Thanks for your help with the underlining. I do have some spare fabric so I will do as you suggest and make a lining for the pocket too. What a silly thing to do! It is all because I was trying to quickly cut it out before my family came home and wanted to trample all over everything. I have a separate sewing room but there is no room for cutting out in there so I have to run the gauntlet of the living room.

    Also, on the subject of the padded cups, I already have three layers with the batiste underlining so I guess I was wondering whether I have a fourth layer for the cups or just add them to the batiste. My gut instinct is to just have three layers and attach the cups to the batiste.

    Thanks for everything. The sewalong posts are so detailed and helpful. I’m running way behind but that’s ok, I’ll catch up sometime :)

  17. Amanda November 21, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Hello Tasia!

    I hope you had a lovely weekend!

    I was hoping to complete my Lonsdale practice run this past weekend, but was nervously awaiting the step where I line the skirt, and I’ve become stumped.

    I referenced both your entry, above, and a book I have on the subject (called “Easy Guide to Sewing Linings”), and I think because this is my first time drafting a lining I’m just making it out to be too complicated.

    Your description above makes sense, the only thing I’m worried about is attaching the lining to the zipper after I sew it in place. I’m not quite sure I understand when you say the following:

    “You can either sew it to the main skirt, and work with the centre back seam using both layers. Or, you can sew the centre seam below the circle, and keep it out of the dress‚Äôs centre back seam. Attach it to the inner waistband, and either slipstitch it around the zipper opening or leave it hanging free.”

    Do you think you could maybe clarify that for me, when you get a free moment? I know you’re super-busy getting ready for your next sew-along in January, but any extra advice you can offer me here would be really helpful!

    I am planning on attending the next sew-along in real time for the Minoru jacket, so hopefully there’s no backtracking when I have questions! ;)

    Thanks ma’m – have a lovely day!

  18. Jane Elise November 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Amanda,

    Obviously I’m not Tasia but I underlined my Lonsdale and lined my crescent skirt. With my Lonsdale I sewed the underlining and main fabric as one piece and the zipper was attached to both.

    With the crescent skirt, I finished the edges of the lining at the CB seam and then sewed down from the circle which leaves an opening at the top. I just left it like that hanging free. Because the zipper closes the outside fabric it doesn’t matter that the lining doesn’t close.

    The other way is to line up the lining opening with the zipper on the inside and just
    handstitch it in place.

    Cheers, Jane

    • Tasia November 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      Thanks Jane! I was thinking the same thing – if you sew the lining and the skirt, to the waistband, when you insert the zipper, you’ll see right away that the zipper has to get sewn to the opening through all of the layers. You won’t be able to separate the lining from the skirt even if you wanted to!
      If you skip ahead to this post – http://sewaholic.net/lonsdale-sew-along-14-sewing-the-zipper/ you’ll see how the zipper goes in through all layers of the back seam.
      Hope this helps!

      • Amanda November 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

        Hello Jane and Tasia!

        Thanks so much to you both for your help here! As I suspected, I believe I was over-thinking my question. ;) That tends to happen when I get stuck on a sewing problem.

        I’ve just completed sewing together the skirt lining tonight, and tomorrow morning I’ll sew the top edges of the lining and the skirt together. It sounds easy enough to sew the zipper as if it were one piece! It’s as if I were both lining / underlining the skirt and lining, does that sound right?

        I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow… ;)

        Thanks again! Hope you both enjoy the holiday and weekend!

        Take care,

  19. Manda January 23, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    Hi Tasia,

    I’m a beginner and have added bemsilk lining to my cotton skirt. I’ve read all the replies so will put the zip in treating both layers as one….

    My question is, do I hem each layer separately or fold the bemsilk with the cotton?? I want to add the seam binding too.

    Cheers from Australia!


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