Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dirndl Mania

Lena Hoschek dirndl
Readers, I've just returned from the most wonderful trip! My mom and I took a 17 day vacation in Europe. We started in Prague for three days and then took a river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I'd never been to Europe before, and many people told me how inspirational I would find it. It certainly was, though I couldn't anticipate in what way. I didn't plan on any fabric or trim shops visits, or even anything vaguely fashion-related. My goal was just to experience the trip and see what came of it.

The most significant thing that came of it, fashion-wise, was a deep and sudden love affair with the dirndl: the traditional costume of Austria and Germany. You probably already know this, but just in case: the dirndl is an ensemble which consists of a low-cut full-skirted dress with a snugly fitted bodice, an apron, and an underblouse that ends just below the bustline. Adorable jackets, flowered headbands, and hats may be added!
Julia Trentini dirndl
Julia Trentini dirndl
Lena Hoschek dirndls and jackets
I first spotted a dirndl in Passau, Germany, when our tour guide was wearing one. I'd seen this type of costume in person before, but never on a day that wasn't October 31st, and not in such pretty fabrics. I was intrigued, but not yet smitten. I loved the corseted waistline and the little blouse she wore, but was somewhat turned off by the dowdy above-ankle length of her skirt and the overall costume-y effect of a tour guide wearing a folk costume. But then a curious thing happened. As I walked through Passau, I saw dirndls everywhere: on girls walking in the street, in shop windows, on mannequins on the sidewalks. They came in a lovely array of colors, patterns, and lengths (I immediately gravitated toward the "midi" dirndl, a very '50s just-below-knee length.)

Mannequin outside a Pollinger dirndl shop
I walked into a shop, determined to leave with a dirndl in hand, having developed a sudden and overwhelming need to possess one. I wanted one to study and admire and learn from. However, I was also deeply embarrassed by being an American tourist buying a traditional folk costume on a vacation, as well as being stymied by a language barrier. Could I pretend I was buying it as a gift? Not if I wanted it to fit, unfortunately. I conducted the whole shopping trip as if I were doing something illegal and didn't want to get caught. I quickly chose one I liked, a adorable deep blue and pink gingham design, and tried it on without bothering to take off my capri pants or sneakers. The first one didn't fit right (too big in the bust and waist), so I was forced to communicate with the salesgirl. She was equally dismayed by the roominess in the bodice, and brought me a smaller size. I zipped it up and it was like magic. The snug bodice did supernatural things to my décolletage, the little white blouse looked adorable peeking out of the neckline (much like a classic '50s shelf bust dress, I might add), and the gingham apron was perfect. It would be mine, readers. And then, almost as quickly as I had come in, I left, dirndl in hand!

Once back on board the ship, I started some real research on the current state of the dirndl. I discovered an entire world of amazing dresses by a slew of talented designers. I fell in love with the likes of Julia Trentini, Gossl, Lena Hoschek (whose more mainstream retro designs I already knew and loved), and Sportalm

Gossl Dirndl
I learned about the incredible beauty of a well-designed dirndl, the traditions and techniques that go into making one, and that a designer one can run you up to 1,500 Euros (and that's not even including the blouse!). I started pinning madly.

               Follow Gretchen "Gertie"'s board Dirndls on Pinterest.  

I'm not sure what's come over me, but I have fallen head over heels for dirndls: the dresses, the aprons, the fabrics, the jaunty feathered hats, the fitted little jackets, the fact that there are special dirndl bras to enhance that magical décolletage. Perhaps it is my German heritage coming out. Or the fact that there is a retro femininity to the whole look. Or maybe the whole world of dirndls is just something special and anyone who loves pretty handmade things would appreciate them in some way.

What is certain is that I will have a lot more to say on this subject, readers. I can't wait to share more dirndl love with you!

Julia Trentini Dirndl


75 comments:

  1. :) I love the dirndl so much!!! I've been in love with the dirndl since I got my first as a girl. I am so excited for Burda's new patterns. I have made all of the other ones that Burda has produced. I love the dirndl and all the variations of style and color one can make. You can check out my dirndls on my instagram @cribasteba if you want. I love Lena Hoschek, Gossl and Sportalm as well. I am going to check out Julia Trentini now. Thanks for posting!

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    1. This is also a great blog that describes how to sew a dirndl and some of the traditional techniques that go into it. http://b-bloggt.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-sew-dirndl-part-i-introduction.html

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    2. Ooh, thanks for the blog link!

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  2. I've noticed the dirndl-mania on Pinterest ;) Can't wait to see you in yours! (And what a great trip you've must have had; it sounds lovely with 17 days of vacation.)

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    1. Ha! I started to wonder if I was driving my fellow pinners mad with all the dirndls. And yes, the trip was absolutely wonderful, thank you!

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  3. I completely get where you come from. I love wearing a Dirndl, I think it makes you feel very feminine immediately. I ended up sewing one for my wedding. I love Dirndlmag, they seem to currently be rebooting the magazine, but you can check out their instagram: https://instagram.com/dirndlmag/ (I have a bunch of their back issues, they are gorgeous). Can't wait to see what will come out of your love affair sewing wise.

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    1. Ooh, thanks for this! That must have been amazing, to get to wear your own handmade dirndl for your wedding!

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  4. I love them! Planning on sewing an African print Dirindl next weekend to prepare of Oktoberfests here in Seattle.

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    1. Love that idea! Is it a waxed African cotton? I have some of that and it's just lovely. What pattern are you using?

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    2. please check following webside for inspiration: http://www.dirndlalafricaine.com/

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    3. @naehennundmehr Best Link EVER! Thank you! I really liked the shape of the latest batch of Burda dirndls but I don't like the traditional styling so this is the perfect compromise.

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    4. @naehennundmehr This is amazing! Thanks for the link!

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  5. I do love a good Dirndl, but then again, I am German! I remember getting my first one to wear for the festivities following my communion. Nope, you don't wear that dress for the rest of it! This Dirndl was not as much fun as my mum's which was wonderfully modern and fit just right for many a teenage fancy dress party.

    Maybe I'll have to get one for my new UK life!

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  6. I'm Austrian, so that was kinda cute to read. ;-) You don't see dirndls often where I live (urban area), except on special occasions, but I noticed some trend among younger people, too. It's true that there are plenty of designs that come in all kinds of colors and fabrics (and there's a price range from cheap to cost-a-fortune), but personally I prefer the traditional ones. There really are some stunning examples of craftsmanship that you nowadays usually don't find on "fashionable" ready-to-wear versions. ("Traditionals" are very expensive, though, especially when custom-made!)
    Hints for your next trip to Europe, if you happen to come to Vienna: Check out Tostmann Trachten (custom-made dirndls and such) and the number one fabric store Komolka Stoffe (they sell some dirndl fabrics, too). :-)

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    1. Ha ha, I must seem totally clueless to you! Thank you for the Vienna tips, we visited there but didn't get nearly enough time to see everything so I already want to go back!

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  7. Gertie, where is a picture of you in your purchase?

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  8. Every september Burda Magazine has a dirndl.

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    1. I noticed that too, never really understood why?

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    2. Oh, I didn't know that! Makes sense though, Burda is German and it's just in time for Octoberfest.

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    3. Fun fact! Oktoberfest traditionally starts in September (since it's about two weeks, it sometimes goes into October).

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    4. Wow! Good timing! Burda just posted this on their Pinterest today! http://www.burdastyle.com/blog/darling-dirndls-5-new-dress-patterns

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  9. Oh, I love Dirndls! I'm from Salzburg, Austria and I grew up wearing them. I recently made a Dirndl for myself - and just last week I completed a custom fit Dirndl for my mother, with a hand gathered skirt and apron and everything. I'm in a real rush now, planning way to many fabric, colour and pattern combinations for Dirndls I will probably never have the time to complete! Both of my sisters want one now as well, so I'll be busy with those first, anyway.

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  10. Funny. I just watched The Sound of Music and was curious about the costumes. I noticed so many Dirndls in earthy fabrics and was wondering how authentic the costumes were- especially for the time period. The dresses are beautiful, but I was especially smitten with the fitted jackets and the way the full skirt escaped from them. It's really elegant.

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  11. I started sewing two dirndls a four years ago for myself and a friend and didn't get them done before a planned trip...and they still sit unfinished. I used a combination of this Burda pattern and some traditional construction technique.
    I should pull them out and finish them. One is complete except for a hem and button and the other needs the bodice attached to the skirt. The aprons are done but not the blouses yet. My mother had a traditional Norwegian dress (very similar to a dirndl) that I loved and was able to wear for a few years in Jr. High before I was too big for it. I'd love to make one by hand someday and attempt the embroidery.

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  12. Okay, now I want one. Seduced by the magical bust properties (I'm pear shape with a disproportionately small bust!) and the sound of music links. I also love the idea of that fitted jacket with a beautiful full skirt.

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  13. Lovely, now I just want to burst into song! Something from 'The Student Prince' would work.

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  14. I had to laugh at your post. Here's why. My family went to southern Germany and Austria right after I graduated from high school long ago. In evenings, in a small Austrian village where we stayed, girls and boys walked around (the local version of cruising) and to my shock, the girls were wearing (very nice) dirndls. Later, when I saw the tourist versions in stores in Austria, I had to have one. Very impractical, but it was the only thing I wanted. (Yes, I already had been making my own clothes for years and almost never bought any but...) Fast forward a few months to college. My school had a German folk dance group that performed often, all over the region. I joined. They had a very strict costume standard. Yep, my dirndl was the right color and style combination to make the standard. I wore out the blouse and kept the rest of the dirndl and apron. I understand your attraction to dirndls!

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  15. I just checked out your pins - was surprised to see the underblouse as a cropped top, kind of a bra cover with sleeves! I figured it was a tuck-in. Who knew? Allows for a more fitted top to the dress. Fun post!

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  16. I am Geman and never wore a dirndl :-) It would look out of place and costumy here in Northern Germany.

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  17. Have to chime in here, too.
    Within Germany, Dirndls are only prevalent in Bavaria. They originated in the german-speaking alpine region as clothing for female servants in the 19th century. Than they were taken up by the upper classes during summer stays in the country. The current form is almost bereft of any regional markers that are typical for traditional folk costume (which always signify locality, class, etc.).
    In general, northern German Trachten have a much higher waistline, even wider Skirts and long and voluminous sleeves. They are heavily embroidered or decorated with coins and buttons. Check Vierländer Tracht oder Wendländische Tracht on Wikipedia or Google to get a first impression.

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    1. Thank you! I need to learn my history!

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  18. I saw a gorgeous dirndl on a stage production of sound of music that that showed on tv...and I totally wanted one. They remind me a little of a tudor kirtle but with a shorter skirt.

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  19. Nice to read about your Dirndlexperience and I´m looking forward to see a picture.
    When I started my blog a few years ago, it was all about Dirndl and how to make one.
    At the moment I have not much time left, so the blog is "sleeping"
    My favorit inspiration for Dirndl are:
    http://www.goessl.com/eingangseite.html
    http://gottseidank-design.de/
    and a very special one, which had a really good idea: http://www.dierockmacherin.de/

    I buy most of my fabric at a Company called "Höfer" They have an outstanding fabric collection.
    Müller&Sohn offers a wide selection off patterns and patternconstruction books:
    http://muellersohn.com/fachbuecher/trachten

    Every year in january a new editon off "Dirndlrevue" is available
    http://www.stapftextil.at/de_revue.html

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    1. This is amazing, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

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  20. I was in Joann Fabric yesterday looking through the Burda patterns and was reminded that they always have some patterns for traditional outfits (I.e. Dirndls!!). I think you should try one!! The bustline also brings to mind one of your recent patterns just a little bit. You must be meant to love dirndls!

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  21. I can't believe the timing of your post! I went to a Bier Festival on the weekend and some girls were in Dirndl. I was so upset I missed out on a chance to dress up! I thought 'I am making my own to wear next year!' Please do a post if you end up making one! Xxx

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    1. I would be upset too if I missed the chance to wear one! I'm definitely going to make one. Don't worry, I'll keep you all updated for sure ;)

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  22. I visit Austria every year for my holidays ( and have done since I was little) so Dirndls definitely have a place in my heart! The town I visit is where the Sportalm dirndls are made, they are so beautiful! I have always had at least one dirndl in my wardrobe and I always will!

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    1. How cool! What's the name of the town? That's wonderful that they make the dirndls right in Austria.

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  23. But just to say: The Dirndl isn't really a traditionally "German" Dress. It is typically worn only in some regions, mainly bavaria. I live near Frankfurt in the Rhein-Main-Region and I would feel exactly like you (american tourist ;o)) if I was going to shop for a dirndl. ;o)

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    1. Yes, thank you for pointing that out! Would it be more accurate to call it traditional Austrian or Bavarian dress? Or just Bavarian? I'm trying to learn!

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    3. People wear it in Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria. People who live in the bigger cities (like Vienna or Munich) only wear for special occasions, but (more) people on the countryside wear it on a daily basis. There are "Waschdirndl", which are (more) simple versions, made out of cotton that can be easily washed. And there are "Festtagsdirndl" (means: for special occasions), that are made out of silk, wool or very expensive cotton or linens. The cotton fabric of my apron did cost around 100€ per meter...

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    4. I would say it is worn in most of South Germany because it is also popular in Baden-Württemberg. That's the German state between Switzerland, Austria, and Bavaria!

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  24. Years ago, I worked at a restaurant (The Magic Pan creperie) and women waitstaff wore dirndls. They were exceptionally heavy and well-made from a cotton, Provençal print. I think they were imported from Europe. We had a couple choices of colors, but I think the blue was my favorite, and then the red. The little white blouse that went under it tied off with a drawstring right under the bust. I remember a lot of maintenance (stain removal, washing, ironing) with this particular uniform. I was never sure what this costume had to do with French-influenced food but I believe the Magic Pan founders were Swiss. What a time. That kind of gimmicky thing would never go in a restaurant now, which is probably for the best.

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    1. I almost wish I had a job where I could wear one all the time! Did customers hit on you all the time because of it?

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    2. Well, actually . . . yes. I was very young and my hair was quite long and blonde and in a braid. I looked the part, I guess. I bet my mother took a photo of me in my dirndl. Wonder where the heck it is?

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  25. I was "forced" to live in Augsburg Germany while in the USAF and I also fell in love with the dirndl. Most people see the everyday ones but I SWOONED when I saw a wedding one made out of cream & gold brocade...to. die. for.

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  26. Can recommend the Folkwear Dirndle pattern - I used it to make myself one last year for Oktoberfest. It was a great pattern.

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  27. This is great! I had noticed all of the drindls you pinned, so I thought you might be into them. After reading your post, I totally want to sew/wear one too! I guess I better go to an Oktoberfest so I can wear one. I'd really like to see you in yours! :)

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  28. I have a dirndl that my mother purchased when she was a teenager visiting Germany, and I still wear it. Last year at Oktoberfest here in Columbus, I got so many compliments on it. Whenever someone found out it was from Germany, the response was usually that "all the good ones were".

    But I kinda want to make one of Burda's new patterns...And the original blouse is about to give up the ghost so I need a new one.

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  29. I made a dirndl from a Burda mag pattern for visiting a friend in Munich during Oktoberfest. I really enjoyed wearing it and can attest to the fact that I would have felt far more out of place not dressed for the occasion. I was also tipped off that you are sending messages based upon how you tie your apron. http://www.onesprime.de/englisch/235-english/articles/25180-oktoberfest-dirndl-dress-the-bow.html.
    I can't wait to see your further posts.

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  30. Wearability? I understand the attraction but would anyone wear one other than to Oktoberfest or a similar event?

    AnotherStephanie

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    1. Dirndl are still common wear in Austria and Bavaria. For Fairs, Weddings, on Sundays, for going out. To the locals they do not look costume - well , because they are no custum there ;)

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    2. Stephanie: I see what you're saying and I wish I lived in Bavaria or Austria so I could wear them all the time. However, I do think there are ways of making the dirndl more wearable for the rest of us. It's almost like a jumper really. And perhaps omitting the apron would make it more appealing to the rest of the world, though I understand that might be sacrilege in terms of tradition! Anyway, It think it's an interesting design puzzle and I'm working on something right now that is dirndl-inspired rather than full on "trachten."

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  31. I think that it was Vivienne Westwood who pointed out that dirndls are flattering on every woman, and I think it's a shame that outside of Europe they're considered too quaint to be worn as anything but a costume. The dirndl was a popular silhouette in the 50s; let's bring it back!

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    1. That's interesting about Vivienne Westwood! Lena Hoschek interned for Westwood for a year, so that's an interesting connection.

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  32. OMG...Oh my Gretchen! Well, as a fellow Gretchen, I too am all about #FOLKMOTIFS I'm seeing folk designs from Eastern Europe on the runway https://www.pinterest.com/pin/453456256206369824/ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/453456256202471147/ Oh, Let's do a DIRNDL Sew Along! Yes! Gretchen on the Hudson, Dobbs Ferry. PS One of these days you'll just HAVE to come to one of my Hanky #Pysanky Parties to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs!

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    1. OMG right back at you, Gretchen! Those pins are so cool, thank you for sharing! xoxo

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  33. OMG. I went to Vienna many times in the past and actually lived there for a few months.... then a cousin was going to marry an Austrian woman, who decided she was going to marry in a dirndl - and wanted him to wear trachten. Like a typical macho sounthern European (Maltese) guy he was like - no way.... she wanted to get me one to wear to the wedding but I felt it was not fitting since I wasn't Austrian. My sis and I tried on a couple in Salzburg in a very beautiful traditional dirndl place. What a scream. My boobs were pushed up under my chin - bit like Juliet in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet - so weird. The fabric and design of it was lovely and very flattering to me as an hourglassy type, but it just felt so in your face, especially as regards the decolletage. My sis as a big boobed apple would totally disagree with you on the "flattering to all women" thing - she hated how she looked in it and didn't even let us see her in it.....

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    1. Ha! Great story! I don't think I said "flattering to all women" though. I can totally see how it might not work on some body types.

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  34. This blog has reminded me that I bought a version of the dirndl on ebay.fr a couple of years ago. The skirt is made of a sort of Vyella, a rusty colour with an eidelweiss design, and a plain rust wool jacket attached, rather than a blouse, which suits me because I'm a bit too old for low necklines. Made in Austria.
    I've dug it out and am shortening the skirt to mid-calf length.
    Thanks Gertie!

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  35. Retro feminist? Whatever is that, Gertie? I mean, you can simply like an outfit because it is becoming to our body and we are vain ("Frailty, thy name is woman"), but pinning the feminist label to a dress that puts cleavage in display and has an apron under it... with all due respect... is too far fetched.
    Let us call it femenine and leave it at that.

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    1. I didn't say retro feminist! If you reread my last paragraph, I wrote "retro femininity," so we are in agreement on that matter.

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  36. Oooops! I am sorry! You're completely right!
    The line between femininity and feminist is thin, and I am always prone to jump in for a good discussion. Anyways, we want to see your personal rendition of the dirndl!

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  37. My nine year old had been begging for a dirndl all spring, I finally drafted a bodice and got to sewing this summer, and now I've caught the bug too. I currently have a few bodice muslins that I am fitting on myself; I really don't want an Oktoberfest costume, and I am dying to wear this style in an everyday wearable way. The paintings of Carl Larsson started the obsession here, and there's no sign of it dying down anytime soon. I can't wait to see your interpretation.

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  38. I live in Austria so Dirndl is worn often even though this is not my culture (married an Austrian). Tracht was not loved by the younger generations until recently so its going through a revival of sorts which is great for culture in all the dirndl wearing countries ie. Austria, Upper Italy, Germany, Switzerland etc. My personal favourite is Sportalm - they are doing Dirndls with prints on the bodice which is such a modern take with modern colours. Enjoy the journey.

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  39. So I just went down a small rabbit hole of Icelandic traditional costume, and the aldar upphlutur in particular is in line with dirndls (and all those other countries with similarly-shaped garb). Here's a link to the organization in Iceland that regulates what counts as national costume: http://buningurinn.is/

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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