Not Your Oma’s Dirndls!!

At the New Hope Car Show, 2012.
At the New Hope Car Show, 2012.

The other day, my mother posted a picture of a beautiful black dirndl on Facebook which reminded me of a few things:

  1. I have a dirndl of my own, upstairs in the closet, waiting to be altered.
  2. I still haven’t made up my mind about my next sewing project. I just can’t pick a century…

Anyway, before I digress, I should probably explain what a dirndl is. There’s an entry on Wikipedia, of course, but in brief, it’s the traditional dress of women from Germany, which is still wore quite often, especially for Oktoberfest.

Technically, it’s a jumper, with a tight bodice, worn over a blouse, attached to a full, pleated skirt of varying lengths (from sophisticated to trashy), with a decorative apron. Knowing a little bit about historic clothing, I’ve observed that the tight bodice is a little like that of an 16th to 18th century gown. The construction of the bodice offers a decent amount of support without having to use a corset which means a working woman would have been quite comfy in this attire and traditionally it would have been working women who would’ve worn the dirndl. However, along the way, the style got adopted by higher class ladies and today, it’s the official ethnic garb of choice for German ladies.

The best part about the dirndl is that, with a little imagination, it’s a style that works for any occasion. The basic design is fairly flattering on just about anyone, although curves don’t hurt and they come in every style from the very simple and elegant to the more elaborate. And the design is a good foundation for historic, ethnic, lolita, formal or everyday.

The dirndl I made for myself is a blue stripe on white with a fuchsia bird print cotton. It sounds bazaar and I’ve never seen anything similar but I like that’s it’s unique. My great-aunt gave me the fabric and it practically shouted DIRNDL at me so there you have it. I made a coordinating white apron with a ribbon of the dress fabric along the bottom. It’s great for every day wear. However, I forgot to sew in the gussets over the bust and it needs it so hopefully I’ll get that done over the next two weeks.

Or, I can use the fabric to make a little one for the Pumpkin and make a new one for myself. I am totally inspired by Lola Paltinger. She has taken the humble dirndl and made it into a couture garment. Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have both worn Paltinger and you know they wouldn’t just wear anything. What’s more, Paltinger worked with Vivienne Westwood, one of my favorite designers of all time.

I can recreate something similar to what Paltinger has done but it’s so hard to pick one color, or fabric. I have been dying to create a Steampunk dress and it would be infinitely easier to make a dirndl than a bustle gown, not to mention cheaper. But at one point I need to decide what the style will be and I just can’t decide if it’s something brocade, gingham, floral, gray flannel? It doesn’t help that I have literally hundreds of fabric just around the corner.


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