Underlining with Silk Organza

My Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress is made from a polyester/elastane satin, and as I wish it wasn’t stretchy (I’m shopping from stash here!), I’m underlining it with organza to make it stable.  The Burda version (#125- 11-2007) uses silk duchess satin which has zero mechanical stretch, and I’m hoping I can make my fabric behave in a similar manner by underlining with silk organza, which also has zero mechanical stretch.

Silk organza is brilliant for underlining – I use it a lot in wedding gowns, hence the ivory colour I’m using here!   It is lightweight, crisp, and is easy to cut, sew and press.  It even makes a great press cloth!  Underlining adds body and stability to your shell fabric, and allows you to catch stitch hems and seam allowances invisibly.  Here’s how I did the bodice:

  • To ensure the pieces are identical, I cut the fabric and organza together – lay the organza on top of the satin, chalk around the pattern, and cut both layers together.  It is less accurate to cut both pieces on the fold, especially when using fabrics of different thicknesses, as the fold itself takes up millimetres.  I am always careful not to cut silk duchess satin on the fold, as the foldline can leave a permanent crease – not great down the CF of a gown!

  • Sew the organza to the satin, and then treat as one layer.  You can hand baste if you have the time, but I like to machine it like above.  I stitched with the stretchy satin underneath, so any stretching that occurred when sewing was counteracted by the feed dogs.  I always work from the centre out.  First sew the fold line of each dart, starting exactly at the apex and sewing to the edge.  Sew the edges within the seam allowance, and cut the threads at the end of each seam for easy removal.  After each pass check that the fabrics lay flat – if not unpick and resew.  You can see I had to do a slight adjustment here:

  • Some fabrics require slight ease in the organza, and some fabrics require slight tension in the organza.  This is something that is decided by trial, error, luck and experience.  For new fabric combinations do an experiment – cut a couple of 20cm squares in each fabric, baste the fabric and underlining together, then sew the two squares together with a seam.  Press and examine – does any bubbling/puckering occur?  Sometimes one layer needs an extra millimetre or two, so gauge the percentage and adjust the amount of ease/tension in your underlining accordingly.  I allowed some ease in my underlining because the outer fabric is stretch, it seems to be working so far… just need to fix that top left…


  • So now the front, back and sleeve gusset panels are all underlined and I’m ready to proceed with the rest of construction.  I sewed the darts next – I think it is easier to sew darts while the panels are still flat, Burda instructs you to do it after the sleeve gussets are inserted, I’ll let you decide!
Next up – the kimono gussets!

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

24 thoughts on “Underlining with Silk Organza

  1. so useful to know – I have only underlined once in my life, and I followed my trusty Reader's digest guide. It wanted you to adjust every piece for turn of cloth so I'm interested to see that you find that unnecessary – this dress is going to be stunning!


  2. This is going to be one stunning dress (and as one who has frequently made unnecessary items of clothing, I completely understand your NEED for it!).

    I've only ever used silk organza underlining once (my sister's wedding dress) and it was fabulous, but it's not cheap here in Dunedin (last time I saw it it was $30 per metre) so I don't use it. I've used ordinary lining, wincyette, lightweight cottons, various interfacings, that type of thing, and I'm curious to know what else you might use if you didn't have the silk?


  3. Ok, I just scared myself looking at this post. When I reached the last photo, I thought : “hum, looks like the bodice from that orange dress back in Nov 08 or 09” and then I clicked the link and…

    I think I should join the Burda Addict blog, LOL!


  4. I am just finishing today, as a matter of fact, my first garment that is fully underlined. It is not a very good garment, just a sun dress in light yellowr, but it is shear and I could not see having to wear a slip all the time. So, I tried the underlining with a off-white cotton. I am glad to see that I cut it out right-with both fabrics together-and I basted only one side of each piece. Lazy. Seems to be fine. I really didn't know what I was doing, so I am glad it turned out all right. I will post it on my blog in a day or two. Now, if summer would only come soon.


  5. Are you going to insert or understitch the gusset? As i commented on the previous entry, I already made that dress. But that time I understitched it. Now that i “rediscovered” the dress on your blog, I want to make a “non-party” version of it! The fabric I am planning to use is a bit thick for understitching, but I wondered how to insert the gusset since there is technically no seam allowance on those pointy “cut outs” on the upper bodice pieces (while there are regular seam allowances on the gusset piece).


  6. Thanks for another great informative post. I'm very interested in your response to Judy about alternatives for underlining. Silk organza is not cheap in Adelaide either!

    I've used polyester organza as it seems to have similar non stretch mechanical properties to silk organza (but is about less than half the price), but I wonder if I am committing a heinous sewing crime every time I use it.

    How does silk organza wash? I really like not having to dry clean garments, especially if the top fashion fabric is washable!

    BTW I love that cocktail dress pattern!


  7. Hello Sherry . I love this, its so timely for me and my “glamour puss “dress. I was wondering if you would ever underline with polyester organza . It seems to have alot more “spring ' in it than silk and I guess I wondered whether you have any reservations with mixing a synthetic and natural fibre . I will iunderline in silk organza , I guess i was just wondering?


  8. ~MaryNanna – it really is turn of cloth that you are adjusting for in most instances, my fabric is stretchy so I'm just taking an intelligent guess! There's always unpicking…lol!
    ~Judy – I think you can use any tightly woven fabric as long as it is lighter weight, works well with the shell fabric, and gives the effect you want.
    ~lakaribane – I'm not surprised you remembered this stunning dress!
    ~Chrissy – This would look amazing in emerald! I inserted the gussets from the inside, I'm not sure about understitching them – is that the same as topstitching them from the right side?
    ~Sewingelle – I've never used polyester organza, it doesn't have the crispness of silk organza, plus I just don't like polyester! You can preshrink silk organza by washing it first, but it is usually used in special occasion garments that require dry cleaning anyway.
    ~Mem – I think it is better to use the same fibre content as they will behave similarly when pressing and cleaning.
    ~Vintage Girl – I'm fine in my part of the country – but unfortunately many have died in Christchurch 😦 It's very sad, thanks so much for caring.


  9. I appreciate the great tips for working with satin and organza. I'm sure I will find them helpful in the future.

    Thank you so much for wishing me congratulations on my pregnancy. I will try to get some baby bump pictures posted in the next week or so.


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