A couple of years ago, I made an unlined dress to wear to a summer wedding – just as a guest, so think cocktail length and fairly formal. I had fallen in love with a dress on Pinterest and was determined to make something similar, which meant scouring every pattern binder and fabric roll in town.
I even drafted my mum into the search, and eventually we found the perfect pattern for an unlined semi-formal dress, and the perfect mint green polyester slub satin along with a polka dot mesh to layer over the skirt. The final results were just what I had imagined, but I’ve always felt like a lining would have made this dress extra special.
Maybe it’s time to revisit the dressmaking decision of lined versus unlined dresses that’s been burning a hole in my wardrobe for two years.
The Best Things about Unlined Dresses
My mint green dress is essentially an unlined summer dress pattern made more formal with a little satin – make the same dress in a ditzy print and you’re all set for tea and scones in a café terrace. In other words, unlined dresses are versatile, so what else have they got to offer?
– Love fast results? Ranges like the 1 Hour Dress from McCall’s are often unlined, and require just a few pattern pieces with easy-going elasticated sections. So that means less cutting, less sewing, and less of the tricky final matching up stage.
– Jersey girl. Not every fabric needs a lining. For instance, you can line a soft jersey dress, but the majority come from easy-to-make, easy-to-wear unlined patterns.
– Lining isn’t the only formal option. You’re not tied to simplicity. Though there are tons of simple unlined summer dresses around, you can find hundreds of fancier ones too.
– Add and subtract separates. You can always wear a separate vest or underskirt, which is more of a hassle if there’s already a lining in situ.
And now the negatives:
– Missing that added magic. As I found with my mint green dress, sometimes going unlined means sacrificing that extra finishing touch.
– The secret life of seams. If the wrong side of your fabric doesn’t feel as good as the right side looks, you might find yourself wishing for a lining.
The Most Fabulous Things about Lined Dresses
Because there really is something fabulous about a well-lined dress. Here are a few reasons why I’m tempted by lined dress pattern projects:
– Great combinations. Where there’s a structured bodice, princess seamed bodice or boning, you’ll usually find lining is vital to achieving that look.
– Live luxe. Make the most of your luxury fabric’s potential. Lining instantly gives your dress a high end feel.
– Super soft and extra fresh. A good, satiny lining means you don’t have to contend with uncomfortable seams (velvets and metallics, I’m looking at you). Meanwhile, cotton will keep sticky, clingy fabrics from doing their worst.
– Meet in the middle. If you want a polished final result that’s still got a free spirit feel to it, that’s totally achievable. You can absolutely find patterns that combine structure and drape.
Now it’s time for the negatives:
– Work, work, work. There’s no getting round it – cutting out what is essentially an extra garment, then taking care over sewing the layers together. You can expect to put more time into a lined dress versus its unlined equivalent.
– Precision is your friend. If you’re looking for the finesse a lining could bring to your project, set aside plenty time and take care over the details, from cutting to pinning to pressing.