Use Underlining to Make Your Garment Look & Feel Expensive

There is a big difference between lining and underlining. A lining is a shadow version of the garment that is made separately from the garment and attached to the garment after assembly. Underlining is actually cut from the same pattern pieces as your garment and then sewn to the back of the fashion fabric pieces so that the two layers are treated as one.  Underlined garments are generally lined as well.

The underlining can be any sort of fabric, but silk organza is a leading favorite because it’s sheer, lightweight, and strong. Cotton batiste and muslin are other underlining options, depending on the weight of your fashion fabric.

You could also self-underline a garment with the fashion fabric, especially slinky, or sheer fabrics, such as chiffon or charmeuse. It’s a nice option, because the underlining is an exact match to the fashion fabric, eliminating show-through and having the same drape. This can be expensive, however, so the underlining fabric is usually a less costly fabric that will support the fabric without breaking your budget. When you first underline, use silk organza for the best results. Then, once you master underlining, you can experiment with different fabrics.

For instance, I am working on a dress that is a gorgeous silk charmeuse, but it has a tendency to ravel. It’s a limited edition print, and I don’t have enough charmeuse to underline (although tempting, because the garment would feel like butter). I chose to underline with organza because it’s a similar fiber that is stronger and less likely to ravel.

Of all the tricks I’ve learned about couture garment sewing, underlining is probably my favorite. It takes even the cheapest fashion fabric from so-so to fabulous in a matter of minutes. And your garments will wear better and last longer with the use of underlining (also sometimes called interlining).

Pin fashion fabric pattern piece
to silk organza and cut out.

Transfer pattern markings
(thread-tack method
used here).
Hand-baste organza
and fashion
fabric together.
 Sew organza and
fashion fabric
together; remove basting.

Here’s how to underline:

1)   First, I cut my fashion fabric pattern pieces out.

2)   Then, I cut out the underlining. I chose a yellow organza to echo the color scheme of my fashion fabric. It’s important to choose an underlining fabric that won’t show through the fashion fabric.

3)   I cut out the underlining from the same pattern pieces, with the charmeuse still pinned to the pattern piece. The fashion fabric is now sandwiched between the pattern paper and organza.

4)   Before removing the pattern paper, I transfer all pattern markings using thread tacks, sewing through all layers. You can use whatever method you like to transfer markings, but it’s important from here on out to treat the fashion and underlining as one piece of fabric.

5)   After transferring the markings, I  remove the pattern paper and hand-baste the underlining and fashion fabric pieces together inside the seam allowance. This keeps the two layers from slipping.

6)   Then, I machine-baste the layers together, again inside the seam allowance, and remove the hand-basting.

7)   I do this with all of the pattern pieces for the garment, unless they are very small because underlining can become cumbersome. With the underlining now permanently attached to the fashion fabric pattern piece, each underlined piece is now one fabric.

8)   I assemble and line the garment as usual.

You will not believe how this simple step of underlining can transform a garment. It just takes a few minutes of extra time with each pattern piece and the result is stupendous. You will love the way your garment wears, drapes, and feels.

For more great sewing tips, check out the Stitch Workshop DVD: Seams, Closures, and Hems with Liesl Gibson.


I just love applying a quick couture trick to my handmade garments. Do you have any secrets for making your handmade garments look better and live longer? Let us know!

Happy stitching!

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Couture Sewing & Tailoring Techniques, Garment Details, Sew Daily Blog

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

4 thoughts on “Use Underlining to Make Your Garment Look & Feel Expensive

  1. Re: underlining: Instead of hand basting first, have you tried using 505 temporary spray adhesive? Wears off by the next day unless you iron, then it may become permanent.

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