~tricks of the trade: a shift dress lining pattern

How often do you buy a dress pattern, vintage or modern, and wish it had a lining?  I love to line my dresses – they sit more smoothly on the body and the fabric holds its shape better, plus it just looks and feels nice from the inside!

My sixties shift dress that I sewed recently came without a lining pattern, so I’ll show you how I made it – then you can give it a go yourself!

  • First trace around your dress pattern, transferring all markings like the grainline, darts and zip notch:
  • Place the neck and armhole facings in position over the shell pattern, and outline the bottom edge of each facing.  My pattern has a back neck dart, so I needed to pivot the facing at the dart apex:
  • My facing pattern looks a bit smaller than the shell pattern, but that is because I have trimmed 2mm from the armhole and neckline edges, an adjustment made for cloth allowance so the facing turns neatly to the wrong side.  
  • The lining will be sewn to the lower edge of the facing, so we need to mark a seam allowance.  Mark a line twice the seam allowance you intend to use above the bottom edge of the facing.  This will be the cutting line for your lining:
  • At the hem, mark the foldline of your shell hem – this is also the cutting line for your lining:
  • On the back lining, place an additional notch about 1″ below the zip notch – the CB lining seam will be sewn up to this point:
  • Now you are done and you can cut around your pattern on the lining cut lines.  I’ve just shown you how to make the back here, but the front is made in exactly the same way.   I sometimes notch midway along the facing seam so I can sew those curves together accurately – just draw a perpendicular line to mark where both notches will go:
A couple of assembly notes:
  • Sew lining CB seam up to the notch-below-the-zip-notch.  When sewing the shell and lining zip allowances together, match the zip notch on the shell to the upper notch on the lining:   
  • This causes the lining zip opening to be set 1″ below the zip opening on the shell, and reduces stress at this point.  This area often rips as customers try to squeeze into too small a size!  Lowering the lining seam stopped this problem for me, but sometimes I also fusetape the area to further reinforce it.
  • Hem the lining using a 1cm or 1/2″ double folded hem – this will bring the lining hem to the correct length 2cm or 1″ above the dress hem:
You should end up with something like this:
But hopefully you won’t have a little pucker at the base of the zip like mine has!  I was a bit rough at matching my zip notches – next time I promise I’ll put that quick-un-pick to use…..
Happy sewing!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

18 thoughts on “~tricks of the trade: a shift dress lining pattern

  1. ahh well, with all those fantastic tips you share we can ignore that little pucker!

    Your dress looks gorgoues inside as well as out – I think that is very important in solid garment construction.


  2. Another superior tutorial. I'm ashamed at the inside of my clothes. Sometimes I line but never this nicely. Might make a resolution to try a bit harder in 2011.

    and you know what else I'd love to see you do ? The join of the seam below the invisible zip. I can put the zip in well enough but I'm NEVER happy with the seam below it, there's always some issue or another.

    Look forward to seeing you have a big year !!



  3. At first i was confused as to why you had doubled the seam allowance on the lining – but of course! you have transfered the seam allowance for the facing onto the lining so that you only have to add one set of seam allowances. I am so used to Burda which gets you to trace off your facings and add only one set of seam allowance, but of course, you have to add seam allowances to everything in Burda, facings included, so you have already added an extra allowance.

    I must remember that for future use, because often I add a lining for things not lined, and don't add anything to the facings …


  4. Thanks so much for this demo, very clear! Much appreciated. I'm not real fond of plain facings but they make so much more sense when attached to a lining.


  5. Hi Sherry,

    Thanks for the tutorial! I have a question, though. Last year I made a shift dress for my step mom and I was trying to figure out a way to line it. I decided to skip the lining altogether because there was nothing I could sew the lining to: no zipper or waist seam whatsoever. Can you line a dress like this? I used Simplicity 4789 (http://www.simplicity.com/p-2191-missplus-size-sportswear.aspx).



  6. Hi Rebekah – is there a binding around the neckline and armhole on this dress? If so, you could cut the dress and lining to the same pattern, join them together at the neckline/armhole, then bind the edges. Hope that helps!


  7. By “shell” do you mean the actual dress (purchased fabric)? To my knowledge that word is not used in dressmaking in the UK.
    My pattern has instructions for facings and interfacing but nothing for a lining. There are sleeves. I want to line all of it. Do I attach the interfacing to the lining pieces and ignore all facings, and proceed as normal, or do I do something similar to what you have done above?


  8. Thank you
    Any response to the second question — do I add the interfacing to the lining pieces and ignore dress facing pieces? i.e do I re-make the dress out of lining and apply interfacing to its neck edge etc, then fit this to the dress like a facing? Or do I make the dress with facing and interfacing then add the lining…….this would mean that the top of the dress has outer material + an interfaced facing + lining — too bulky?


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