Tutorial: How to Sew a Dress with Attached Lining
With this project, I decided to venture into a different color palette and try out a fabric with some subtle jewel tones—brilliant blue, emerald green, and purple. I was mostly drawn to the metallic characteristics of this French floral novelty blend (I particularly love working with metallic brocades for my dress designs), but I knew this polyester, acetate, and metallic combo was going to be a challenge. I knew two things going into this. First, serging was a must. This fabric has an incredibly soft, wool-like hand to it—super luxurious feeling—but it also has a tendency to fray given its loose weave. Second, I would definitely need to line the dress for breathability, and also to keep the loose threads from snagging.
In this post, I am going to share some helpful tips for working with this kind of fabric and also a tutorial on how to sew a fully lined dress. For my dress design, I wanted to create something modern, wearable, and layerable. I didn’t want to go too “evening” or fitted, so I decided to make an A-line tent dress with a yoke and vertical seaming that I could easily slip on without the hassle of a zipper—something I could pair with colorful tights for a more casual day look, or accessorize with pumps and metallic accents for something more formal and fun.
1 yard Shimmering metallic brilliant blue floral novelty blend
1 ½ yards Bemberg rayon “Ambiance” lining
Coordinating polyester thread
Large self-healing mats
Rotary cutter (45mm)
18” Clear gridded ruler
Flat straight pins
70/10 Size universal sewing machine needle
Iron and ironing board
Cutting Your Fabric
Tip #1: When cutting the metallic novelty blend fabric, consider adding no less than ½” or ⅝” in seam allowance to account for fabric fraying.
For my dress design, I had a total of eight pieces to cut out for the self fabric. For the lining, I cut out the yoke pieces in the self fabric as well to give the neckline more stability and structure. For center front, center back, and all four side panels, I cut the lining in Bemberg rayon “Ambiance” fabric made in Japan.
Sewing Your Garment
Tips #2 and #3: Before proceeding with any sewing, I made sure to finish the raw edges of my self fabric with a serger (overlock machine). To avoid any fabric bunching, find the right combination of stitch length, tension dials, and differential feed on your machine and do a few test stitches on your fabric scraps first.
In my project example, I serged the shoulder seams on my yoke pieces and the side seams and all vertical joining seams on my dress panel pieces.
Next, I sewed my front dress pieces together (vertical seams first, pressed open, then the yoke) and finished the raw edges of the seam allowances together with a serger, pressing the seam allowance toward the yoke. I repeated this process for the back dress pieces as well. Then, I sewed my front and back dress pieces together at the shoulder seams, and pressed the seam allowances open.
Tip #4: Be cautious when ironing metallic fibers or fabric because the heat from the iron, especially at high temperatures, can melt the fibers. I ironed with a press cloth (such as muslin) on the lowest setting (e.g., synthetics) with no steam. Again, this is a good time to make use of your fabric scraps and do a few iron tests beforehand.
Attaching the Lining
I constructed my dress lining the same way as I sewed the self fabric together. At this point, the side seams should still be open and unsewn on the self and lining dress pieces. (Note: For the vertical seaming, instead of serging individually, I finished the raw edges of the seam allowances together with a serger, pressing the seam allowances toward the side seams.)
1. With the right sides together, pin the self and lining dress pieces around the neckline edge, matching up the shoulder seams, and sew. Clip into the seam allowances along the curved edges, just shy of your stitching line.
2. Next, I am going to understitch the seam allowances to the lining fabric. This is a technique that will help the neckline lay flat and allow the lining to roll neatly to the inside of the garment so that no seams or lining will be visible on the outside of the garment. To do this, first press the seam allowances away from the self fabric and toward the lining fabric. Next, understitch the seam allowances to the lining fabric by sewing between 1/16” to ⅛” away from the seam line. Turn the lining fabric to the inside of the dress and press using a seam roll.
Warning: Now here comes the tricky part.
3. Lay the dress down flat, wrong sides together, with the self fabric facing up. On one side of the armhole, separate the lining and self fabric at the shoulder seam/neckline area so that the yoke lining lays right side up beneath the dress self fabric dress.
Roll the other side of the dress toward this opposite armhole. Once you are at the opposite armhole, reach underneath and reverse the lining fabric out.
Lay the lining fabric over the rolled fabric so that the lining and self fabric are right sides together. Pin the lining to the self fabric around the armhole, matching up the underarm seams, and sew around the armhole. Clip into the seam allowances along the curved edges, just shy of your stitching line.
Now, for the moment of magic: Pull the dress through the tunnel created between the armhole and neckline seams at the shoulder. Repeat Step 3 for the other armhole.
4. Similar to the neckline, I am going understitch the seam allowances to the lining fabric, pressing first. It is best to remove your machine’s free arm for this so you can understitch along each front and back armhole as much as possible, sewing toward the shoulder seam.
Turn the lining fabric to the inside of the dress and press using a seam roll.
5. Next, separate the the lining and self fabric at the underarm seams and pin the side seams, right sides together. Sew a continuous seam from the hem of the lining to the hem of the self fabric, making sure to match up the underarm points. (Note: For the lining side seams, I chose to finish the raw edges of the seam allowances together with a serger, pressing the seam allowance toward the back of the dress. For the self fabric, I pressed the seam allowances open.)
Now, all I have left is to finish sewing my hems. I cut my lining fabric 1” shorter than my self fabric. I finished the bottom edge of the lining fabric with a serger, folded the serged hem edge under ½” toward the wrong side of the fabric, and gave it a press before sewing.
My self fabric was a different story as the novelty blend was tricky to work with. Earlier on, I did a few tension tests on scrap pieces of fabric to find the right setting. Since I couldn’t rely on an iron too much to help flatten out my front and back vertical section seams, I decided to create a subtle petal hem instead at these seam joining points. I finished my self fabric hem by serging the hem edge to prevent fraying and sewed it at a ½” hem allowance, then pressing.
This was definitely a sewing challenge, but I’m happy with my dress design and fabric choice. Metallic blends are great for creating a high fashion look and I think this fabric in particular worked great for my aesthetic with the dark midnight blue background and tasteful play with jewel tones. Visit my blog to view more photos of this metallic beauty!