The Importance of a Good Lining

I rarely wear some of my favorite dresses. They fit & need no mending. I can even wear them most places, including work. Frosting Fortnight is helping me confront the reason I don’t often wear these dresses.

Pretty in Polka Dots Dress

The problem is I used cheap-as-sin polyester lining. These are summer dresses.

The Eames Sheath

Linings help form the foundation of the garment. Using a poly lining is like using as cheap of materials as possible so you can build your house larger than you could otherwise afford. You took the time & care to make the house just the way you want it, so it should last. On a smaller scale, the same can be said for your self-made garments. Too much time goes into planning, cutting out the pattern, stitching everything together, & getting a good fit. Using a cheap lining is like taking your hard work, smacking yourself in the face with it & tossing it all in the trash.

The Busty Bunnies Dress

Your clothing may not need to endure hurricanes or tornadoes, but it should stand up to occasional abuse (like old washing machines & children playing dress up). Cheap poly linings can fray before you even wear them the first time.

After a couple of washings the lining has started to fray near the zipper & come apart at the seams by the waist.

In the southwest it’s common to build houses out of adobe, a wonderful material that regulates temperature so your house doesn’t get too cold or too hot. In the southwest it’d be a bad idea to build a house that’s all windows & doesn’t have any blinds. Your air conditioner would have to run double time to keep up with all the sun rays being turned into microwaves as they passed through your glass walls. Likewise, poly linings make things too darn hot.

The slipperiness of the lining helps me get it on over my head- no zippers or buttons. But because the lining is made of polyester, it’s too hot to wear in the summer, which is the perfect time to wear a white dress.

Quality linings, like silk, can be too expensive (although on you can often find silk on the cheap). And if all you have in your town is a chain fabric store, chances are you won’t be finding any silk remnants. In that case you may have no choice but to compromise.

I took the quick route on hemming the lining by just serging the raw edge. After washing the dress maybe three times the line of serging has started to pull away & the lining is fraying.

Rayon is a nice alternative. It’s cheaper than silk & breathes well. If you’re opposed to rayon because it’s a bit squiggly & harder to control than cotton, give it a shot anyway. Rayon really isn’t much harder to control than a cheap poly lining. Just take your time & use a big, clear space to lay everything out. Pattern weights, pins & a sharp rotary cutter are your friends.

After my very poor lining decisions earlier in the year, I decided that if I’m going to use synthetics, they have to be satin. Even cheap satins are more heavy-duty than those $1/yd bargain bin linings. They can hold up to more wear & tear without coming apart at the seams after just a few washings. Plus, they’re absolutely fantastic when it comes to polishing your glasses.

Mad Men Inspired Dress

Still, satin doesn’t breathe & even a winter dress lined in poly can be too hot. If you’re like me & you HAVE to make something when inspiration strikes, but the thought of trekking to the fabric store is too painful you might have to use whatever cheap synthetic you have on hand. In such cases, I like to line the bodice in cotton & only do the skirt in poly. We retain a lot of heat in our torsos, so that’s the area that needs the most breathability. If your skirt is nice & big (room for air circulation) a poly lining might not matter so much when it comes to heat retention. And if you have poor circulation in your legs, you might want that polyester there.

Quilting cotton lining the bodice & poly for the skirt has made for a breathable & comfortable dress. It’s also held up to numerous washings without any tears or visible weakening of the seams.

I’m still learning when it comes to linings. If you have any other suggestions on good, alternative fabrics, please let me know (do those breathable poly linings really work?). Also, in the knitting community silk is seen as something that retains heat. In sewing circles I’ve only heard it mentioned as something that is breathable & good for hot weather. Anyone know what the real skinny on silk is?


My Foundation Garment Challenge Plan

I’m very excited about my Foundation Garment Challenge & have already gotten started on it!

Since I won’t have time to make everything I’d like to this fall, I will focus on three foundations garments to solve my most pressing wardrobe problems. Why three? Three is a lucky number in Chinese & it’s a manageable number, given the rest of my work/life schedule.

I’ve been fantasizing about having a nice jacket & have mentioned this one more than a few times, Issey Miyake Vogue 1186. 

In a previous post I mentioned the expected versatility of this fabric as a camisole. I also want it because I’m tired of my single color camis & have been craving something fresh. The only hiccup is I don’t yet have a pattern in mind. I may draft one. Do you have any ideas?

My work cardigans are boring, bland & ughghghghh. I like this one by Cookie A as a replacement for my snooze-inducing work ones & as a good all-around wardrobe anchor. Plus I’m thinking of making it in a bold orange, an new color for me. 

The Foundation Garment Challenge


The Foundation Garment ChallengeWhat is a foundation garment say you?

  • A garment that goes beyond the simple, solid colors, materials, or construction of basic garments.
  • Any garment that can anchor multiple outfits as the focal point.
  • Often a garment upon which you can layer other things.

The first criterion is the basic standard & can be paired with any of the others. For example, a solid colored t-shirt made in a pattern that emphasizes the seam lines of the segmented bodice would be a foundation garment based on the first criterion. A simply constructed dress in a standout, patterned fabric that can easily be paired with other things in your wardrobe to make multiple outfits is a foundation garment because it meets all of the criteria. But a simply constructed & solid black camisole? Not a foundation garment. That’s a basic.

Read this post for more on how to use foundation garments in your wardrobe.

Will You Play Along?

If you’re interested in updating your wardrobe, will you play along with me? The main rule is that whatever you make has to be a foundation garment for you. What one person defines as going beyond the simple cut or color of a basic garment depends on their own closet & sewing experience. As for numbers, you need to make at least one, but more would be ideal. If your schedule allows, don’t just make a single garment, try to make a foundation for your entire wardrobe. Finally, finish your garments by the end of December so you can begin the new year headed in the right direction.

A good way to start is to assess your wardrobe, see what holes you have, then decide how you want to fill them. Questions to ask yourself include:

Now you’ve found your wardrobe holes, go down the list of things you’d like to make & think of ways to make those items more special. Perhaps you find that you lack a basic shift dress. But how can you make it  a foundation garment? Look for a pattern that has interesting seam lines & that can be easily layered with a few jackets or sweaters you already own. Next, pick fabric in a bold color &/or a luxurious fiber like a silk & linen blend.

This challenge is all about making things you will love & wear on a regular basis. The goal is to help form the foundation of your wardrobe.

Let me know if you’re keen on participating! If people are willing to hop along with me I’ll figure out how to make that little image up top into a blog button. Or maybe you can help me think of a better button design.