Guestwriter: Elena Tran, BaudekinStudio
The Fabrics to Use as Linings
The purpose of a lining is to cover the construction details of the inside of the garment, any unfinished seams and also to extend the life of your clothes. Historically, lining were mostly used for warmth. You see lots of painting depicting fur linings to provide warmth to the wearer. In the 1900s, the wool lining was featured on men’s country clothing and it was intended for keeping warm during shooting and hunting pastime.
Contrasting lining on women’s clothing first gained popularity in the 1930s and it is still a favorite today. Let’s explore the fabrics used for lining the garments today.
Polyester lining is the most common man-made fabric you will find in the stores. It is produced from petroleum oil and it can almost mimic the properties of cotton, silk or linen with minimal cost. Maintenance is easy. Throw it in the washing machine and voila.
However, if you place polyester and silk side by side, you will immediately feel the difference between the two. Polyester fabric almost sticks to the body when you sweat and I don’t like how it feels and how difficult it is for a novice to cut and sew this slippery fabric. In addition, let’s not forget that this synthetic fabric is not biodegradable and the discarded clothes will linger in landfills for generations. Because polyester is so cheap to purchase, customers feel that it is expendable and discard clothes or fabric without second thought. On the plus side, polyester fabric can also be produced from recycled plastic bottles, although this technology is still in its infancy.
Rayon is also referred to as viscose, viscose rayon, or artificial silk, can also be used as lining and it is widely available in the neighborhood fabric stores. It is a man-made fiber regenerated from cellulose (a.k.a. wood from trees). Technically, rayon is called an artificial fiber because wood chips need a bit of chemical help to convert them into yarn. After the production process is complete, we end up with a beautiful silky fabric and it is a common lining material in Haute couture clothing because it costs less. It feels nice and I would almost go for it. Rayon is very soft to the touch and it absorbs moisture well. But on the minus side (and a big one for me), production of rayon is not the best ecological choice as it releases carbon into the atmosphere, salt into the water supplies and it cuts the much needed trees.
Dressmakers rarely think of natural fabrics for lining because it may prove expensive. But if you are making clothes for yourself, let me encourage you to go for silk lining. Silk is produced from the protein secreted by the larvae of the silk moth as they lay in their cocoons. The only concerning part is that the cocoons are cooked with the insects still inside to begin the silk production process. However, I like the fact that the silk moth is cultivated specifically for silk production and the process of silk manufacturing is sustainable and eco-friendly. For some of you price is a factor when shopping for lining fabric. I consider that a good thing. The fact that silk is an expensive fabric makes us more careful about the quantity we purchase. Buy only the amount of material that you need for your garment, eliminate the waste, recycle the remnants into other projects and always think long term slow fashion.
There is another reason why silk is perfect to use as a lining. It feels warm in winter and cool in summer. The best silk lining choices are silk habotai and silk charmeuse because they are light enough and they are available in many shades of colours. The lining fabric can match the fashion fabric or you can choose a contrasting fabric for your design. The lining fabric can also be used as a trim on cuffs and collars for a special effect. This technique was used by Chanel, as well as by another famous designer, Madeleine Vionnet. Great designers like Chanel, Dior and Balenciaga were adamant about using the best fabrics as linings. Chanel went as far as using the expensive fabrics that the matching tops were made from as linings on her skirts and jackets.
As for the lining construction, there are rules that you learn as you sew different pieces. For example, when cutting the lining for a jacket, you design the lining slightly bigger that the garment to allow for ease of movement. That’s why you often see a small pleat in the center back of the jacket lining. Another trick is to attach the lining to the skirt by means of a thread chain. You can also quilt the lining and the main garment together. Chanel used this technique to support the loosely-woven tweed fabric on her skirts and jackets.
When you are making your own bespoke clothes, I encourage you to use the best lining material you can find. You will have a better sewing experience, more satisfaction from wearing a quality garment and you will enjoy the feeling of silk next to your skin.
BibliographyClive Hallett, Amanda Johnston. Fabric for fashion: The complete guide. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2017.
Smithsonian. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Art. New York: DK Publishing, 2012.