It’s often tempting to skip linings. They can almost double the time it takes to sew a garment; they may not show from the outside, and lining fabric costs money. On the other hand, linings can do more than just give a professional finish.
You’ll notice that couture clothes and the more expensive types of garments – winter jackets, wedding dresses and woolen pants – are typically lined. This isn’t just snobbery, although the luxurious touch linings give is a good enough reason to add them!
How Linings Make Clothes More Comfortable
Silky linings are delightful to wear, making a scratchy garment as comfortable as a silky nightgown. With tight-fitting sheath dresses, the slip of the lining helps the garment slide smoothly over the skin so you don’t get stuck. With a woollen coat, a cotton lining will prevent chafing and irritation. In skirts and dresses, a lining can function as a built-in slip, preventing friction and clinging.
Natural linings also “breathe” better than many fashion fabrics, helping to keep the body cool and dry. Conversely, lining garments can make them warmer!
How Linings Make Clothes Look Better
Not all linings are invisible. Linings under sheer or translucent fabrics provide modesty, and can enhance or contrast the colour of the fashion fabric. A lace or crocheted dress lined with silk blurs the distinction between lining and dress entirely. The opacity linings provide for sheer fabrics doesn’t just make the garments more modest, but helps to conceal seams and darts, which otherwise stand out as more opaque than a single layer of the fabric.
However, even invisible linings can make their presence known. Take the lining out of a soft, drapey dress and it just won’t look the same. The fabric may cling to panty lines and tummy bulges, wrap awkwardly around stockings, or hang flabbily limp where it should have body and curve. Knitted garments are often lined with woven ones to prevent the knit fabric sagging and stretching out of shape.
Tight skirts and pants also benefit from linings, which help prevent the garment stretching and sagging in areas of tension such as the seat and knees.
How Lining Can Make Sewing Easier
Lining is generally considered to be a pain, and I have some sympathy for that point of view! But in some cases, lining can actually save you time. Many necklines use facings to strengthen them and provide a clean line without any topstitching to finish the seam. A lining can double as a facing – on garments with multiple facings, using the one lining can be less hassle than making several individual facings.
Linings can also get you off the hook for finishing your seams. With fabrics that don’t fray too badly, a lining provides enough protection against seams chafing against the body that finishing by serging, felling or French seaming is unnecessary. This can be true even when linings hang free, but is a particular advantage in garments where the lining is stitched all around the edge of the garment (such as most jackets).
In some cases, lining is necessary to conceal an interlining – a layer usually used to give stiffness and structure to the fashion fabric. Interlining materials tend to be uncomfortable and unsightly, so a lining is needed to sandwich the whole thing together neatly.
How Lining Garments is Psychologically Fulfilling
Yep, you read that right. There’s a satisfaction in creating a couture-quality garment that looks neat and pretty on the inside as well as the outside. Lined garments tend to last longer; they’re pleasanter to wear (as long as you don’t use a nasty sticky lining fabric); and they can even add a bit of whimsy to your garments. Try lining a sober grey coat in a vivid poppy print, or pairing a classy skirt with a hideous 70s fabric in orange and turquoise. Nobody will see it, and you’ll grin every time you put them on.
Do you use patterns or just wing it? I’ve toyed with the idea of improvising a lining, but it’s a bit intimidating.
Sarah Tennant says
It’s pretty easy for some garments. For a skirt, you just make the skirt portion (the panels or whatever) in the lining fabric – you can make the seam allowances just a teensy bit bigger if you want, but I’m not convinced it’s necessary. Then just sandwich the fashion skirt and the lining skirt wrong-sides together and sew them as one to the waistband (if there is one).
In theory you could do a similar thing with most garments – just use the regular pattern – but it can get tricky with armscyes and necklines. I know that for jackets, the lining is supposed to have a single pleat of about an inch or so at centre back, making it “bigger” than the fashion fabric… I don’t know why, though!
Is it necessary for the lining to be a different kind of fabric than the main part? I’m thinking of my cotton sheet skirt that came out way wonky…could it be because the 2 layers of cotton rubbed each other weirdly?
Sarah Tennant says
Possibly. Slippery fabrics are the best for skirts. I have seen cotton clothes lined with cotton, but usually on fairly tight bodices – skirts need to drape and flow, so cotton can be too “sticky”. Usually the lining is much lighter-weight than the fashion fabric, too – so a cotton lining with twill, but muslin or “official” lining rayon/polyester for cotton.
I line a lot of my things. I prefer cotton with cotton tho, simply for the ease I find in sewing with it. That and I have a few thousand yards of it to use. I do simple A line skirts, tiered, patchwork, and some that are more of a looong tube (most of my skirts are ankle length regardless of style). On heavier fabrics, like the suedes and the like, I don’t usually line it. The suede I’ve bought has a slippery backing, so the fabric glides.
I also line jumpers, dress bodices, etc. i sew a lot for my stepdaughter, and her dresses/jumpers/etc are all lined, or else they look horrible.
Also, for making a lining, I just cut from the same pattern. I use binding to bring it all together. I also French seam things as well. Holds all the layers together, with same lengths.
David Young says
Linings are lovely – and I’m just learning about them.
I make aprons, and have lined a couple of them – but I’m not sure of the best way to do it,. Should I sew the outside pockets on first before sewing the lining to the front fabric, , or should I do the lining and then sew the pockets right through the front and the lining, to hold the whole apron together? What do you think?
Using a lining enables me to sew neck and waist tapes in very neatly, instead of having to do boxes and crosses.