Today I’m going to show you how I fully line a sleeveless dress with absolutely zero hand sewing. As much as I enjoy hand sewing, it is very time intensive, which is why I love finding ways to sew as much by machine as possible. This method will result in a very long-lasting and professional-looking garment – once you’ve tried it I know it will be your go-to as well!
I’ve used my Karri dress and simply left off the sleeves. This is a great variation for anyone who lives in a hot climate like me! I also used cotton lawn as the lining as I find it to be a cooler option.
Ok ready to learn how to fully line a sleeveless dress, zipper and all?! Let’s do it!
The first step is to prep all your pieces. Sew the skirt and the skirt lining separately. Stay stitch along the waistline seam, and clip into the curve being careful not to cut through the stitches. Now is a good time to finish the raw edges of the centre back of the skirt and skirt lining as you won’t be able to later.
Sew the Bodice and Bodice lining separately and do not sew the side seams yet. Your pieces should look like the above images when laying flat. Don’t worry about finishing the raw edges as they will all be enclosed.
Place the bodice and boding lining right sides together. Sew around the armscye on both sides through the bodice and the lining – your seam allowance will depend on your pattern, for Karri the armhole sleeve allowance is 5/8″ (1.5cm). Sew around the neckline beginning and ending about 1″ (2.5cm) from the centre back where the zipper will be installed later. The seam allowance on the neckline of the Karri dress is 1/4″ (0.6cm).
Either trim back your seam allowances or notch along the curved portions. My favourite trick is to trim back the seam allowances with pinking shears as this has the benefit of creating lots of little notches. So easy!
Now we will need to pull the back bodice through the shoulders of the blouse to turn the bodice right way round (right sides facing outwards). The easiest way to do this is to separate the lining and bodice, put your hand through the shoulder of the bodice, grab the back of the bodice and pull it through. You’ll need to do this on both sides.
Press the neckline edge and armscye edges well. Be careful that all the curves are smooth and that the lining is not peeking out to the right side of the garment.
Now we’ll need to sew the side seams together.
Separate the bodice front and lining front as shown in the image above, and make sure that the side seam raw edges are laying flat, and you can see the right side of both the bodice front and lining front.
Now open up the bodice back pieces as well so that you can see the wrong side/inside of the back bodice and back lining. The side seam raw edges should be flat and in a straight line.
Now place the back bodice side seams on top of the front bodice side seams and ensure that they line up with right sides facing each other. Sew 5/8″(1.5cm) from the raw edge along both side seams.
Press the side seams open, then fold the bodice back down so that the raw edges are in between the bodice and lining.
Now it’s time to attach the skirt! Open the bodice up so that the right sides are facing outwards. Place the skirt on top of the bodice with right sides together. Ensure that the seams of the skirt and the seams of the bodice are lined up correctly. Sew along the waistline 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge. At this stage we are sewing only the bodice and the skirt together, so be very careful that you don’t accidentally attach the lining to the skirt.
Now that the bodice and skirt are attached you can attach the skirt lining to the bodice lining. Separate the main dress from the bodice lining as shown above, with right sides facing outwards.
Place the skirt lining on the bodice lining with right sides facing and so that the waistline edges are aligned. Make sure that the notches and seams on the skirt lining match up with the appropriate notches and seams on the bodice lining. Sew the skirt lining to the bodice lining 5/8″(1.5cm) from the raw edge. Again be very careful that you are only sewing the lining and are not sewing the main dress to the lining.
Press the waistline seams open on the dress and the dress lining.
Now you can insert the zipper into the back of the dress! At this stage, you will only attach the zipper to the main dress, not the lining. I find the easiest way to do this with an invisible zipper is to lay the zipper right side facing outwards, and dress right side facing outwards. Unzip the invisible zipper and leaving the bottom of the zipper tape and pull unmoved, flip open the top of the zipper tape on both sides, and pin it to the dress so that the right side of the zipper is facing the right side of the dress. I like doing it this way because I can see everything very clearly and can prevent twisting the zipper unnecessarily. If you have a way you prefer, do it that way instead :) Be wary of your zipper tape width. The seam allowance on the centre back of the Karri dress is 5/8″ (1.5cm) and as you can see my zipper tape was narrower, so I placed my zipper so that my stitches would be 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge of the CB.
Zip up the zipper and press the seam. You will notice that the seam below the zipper is still unsewn.
Line up the centre back skirt seam below the zipper with right sides together. Sew 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge, and start as close to the zipper as you can. Press the seam open.
Next we will attach the lining to the zipper tape. As you can see in the image above, the lining is still loose after we inserted the zipper.
We will work one side of the zipper tape at a time.
As best as you can, turn the bodice inside out so that the centre back bodice and centre back lining are right sides together. The idea here is to attach the lining to the zipper tape and close up the back of the bodice.
Sew down the remaining section of the back neckline, then down the zipper tape as far as you can. I usually sew under 1/2″ (1.2cm) from the raw edge. You are just attaching the zipper tape to the lining, so you don’t need to go too close to the zipper teeth.
Turn the side you completed right way round, and then sew the lining to the zipper tape on the second side.
When both sides of the lining are attached to the zipper tape it will look like the above image on the inside. Press the neckline and the zipper.
Now to close up the skirt lining seam under the zipper. Place the skirt lining centre back edges right sides together. Sew 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge down the centre back. Sew as close to the zipper as you can.
One final detail I like to add is anchoring the zipper tape to the skirt at the bottom. I find this makes it easier to zip and unzip the invisible zipper as the tape is never working its way out to the front of the garment, it’s secured. All you do is sew a few short stitches on each side of the zipper tape attaching it to the seam allowance of the skirt only. Easy peasy.
And that’s it! You’re done! You fully lined a sleeveless dress neatly using only a sewing machine. Now you just need to hem the skirt and the skirt lining, give everything a final press and you’re ready to wear it out!
LOOKING FOR MORE TUTORIALS?
Here’s the full list of Karri tutorials:
- How to do a Full Bust Adjustment on princess seams
- How to sew princess seams
- How to make piping
- How to insert piping into seams
- How to sew lining to a dress (covered in this tutorial)
- How to line a sleeveless dress
- Karri dress pattern tester roundup!