Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dirndls and Boning

Lodenfrey Dirndl, which uses boning at center front, concealing the hook and eye closure
I've always loved the subject of adding structure to fitted vintage-style dresses. Boning, padding, underwires, underlining, interfacing, interlining: no topic is too minuscule or technical for me to obsess over! So when I caught Dirndl Fever in Germany recently, one of my first questions was about dirndls and boning. Since dirndl bodices are so fitted, it seems like using boning would be a common technique. However, I was surprised to find that the Hammerschmid dirndl I purchased in Passau has no boning in the bodice (though the entire outer layer is interfaced with what appears to be fusible Weft interfacing).

After buying my dirndl, I shopped again in a couple dirndl shops in Rothenburg specifically looking at the structure of the bodices. Evidence of boning was found! A few of the dirndls in the Pollinger shop had just two rows of boning, one on either side of the front zipper opening. The closest example I could find online was this Lodenfrey dirndl on eBay. See how there's a centered zipper with topstitching, and then two more rows of topstitching to either side of the zipper? The bones are inserted into the channels formed by the topstitching.

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This center front boning placement seems fairly common, and would be especially helpful if you were concerned about keeping the front opening of your dirndl sturdy and wrinkle-free (functioning like a busk on a corset). A few resources on this type of boning placement:


I was curious if there were other ways of placing boning in a dirndl. Some more obsessive web searching brought me to Gössl, a traditional Austrian design house that seems to use boning much more liberally in their dirndl bodices. Bingo! Check out these photos.
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You can see a boning channel underneath the bust and then one that extends diagonally from the underarm to the waist.

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These dirndls also have a line of boning on the back bodice. The back boning extends from the underarm to the waistline, near the side seam.

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In these cases, it's interesting how the bones appear to be inserted into a stitched channel between the outer bodice and the lining, much like a corset.

On a side note, I went down some interesting rabbit holes with Google Translate. Gössl refers to their boning as miederstäbe, which translated back to me as "bodice rods." Lodenfrey uses the term formstäbchen, which Google translated as "shape chopsticks." Shape chopsticks! I love that! (On a side note to my side note, I obviously need to learn German if I'm going to really sew some dirndls.)

So readers, this is just a collection of my initial research into the use of boning in dirndls. All this said, it's also very common for dirndls not to use boning at all. I wrote to the kind ladies at Limberry (a site that carries some rather high-end designer dirndls), and they quickly wrote back saying the only designer they carry who uses boning in her dirndls is Sonia Fellner, whose designs incorporate a lot of corseting details.
Sonja Fellner dirndl


Now, I know I'm not the only one out there who's spent time pondering this very subject. I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts on the matter of dirndls and boning, readers!

33 comments:

  1. Well I haven't been lying sleepless on this matter. I may now however. ;)

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    1. Yeah, it's all fun and games until you're up at 2:00 am, wondering how dirndl boning casings are sewn . . . Argghh!

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  2. As far as I know, Dirndls with square necklines and this small triangle (I guess I'd call it gusset in english) at the bust use boning most of the time - the neckline is very low and the bust needs extra support so it stays 'inside' the bodice, the fabric alone isn't enough. Dirndls with higher, rounder necklines tend to have princess sseams in the front and therefore won't use any boning. Except when they are closed with a zipper! Then it helps to create a very straight front, without waves or anything.
    But I'm not sure if this is correct, it's just based on what I saw on Dirndls and it does make sense to me :)

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  3. Originally Dirndls were the dresses of the rural population, quite simple dresses and the bodice was often made for all circumstances of a Women's life: pregnancy and all changes of a women's body. Therefore the bodice, called Mieder, was often fastened with strings and it was made out of simple fabric. Over 100 years ago Drindl became popular in the urban population, who liked the idea of pure countrylife and originally simple comfort dresses. Traditionally there is no boning in Dirndls.
    I've sewn a few Dirndls and read some books and articles about Dirndls and traditional german clothes called Trachten, but my english is sadly very bad so I cannot explain it in a few words. A Grand Dame for Dirndls and an expert is an Austrian woman called Gexi Tostmann, perhaps you can find a translation in english of one of her Dirndl and Trachten Books. Greetings, Julia

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    1. Julia, your English is nowhere near very bad! But I understand that it's probably hard to fully explain if you don't feel like you have a grip on technical terms in both languages.

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    2. Julia is absolutely right. There is also an distinction between Dirndls and traditional costumes. Dirndl are fashion, and worn in Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland. But they have also "Trachten", what means the traditional costume, that looks a bit like a dirndl, but has many other details (like coins, special hats, specific colours or patterns).

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    3. Yes, your English is excellent! Thank you for your input!

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  4. i really love reading your "dirndl-fever-posts" :-) lots of greetings from vienna/austria -land of the dirndl!

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    1. I can't wait to visit Vienna again! I was only there for a day. We did a city tour in the morning, I got to have a fabulous espresso with whipped cream, Schonbrunn palace in the afternoon, and a Mozart concert in the evening. I didn't really get to explore though! And this was before we went to Passau, which was where Dirndl Fever began. Had I known about all the amazing dirndl designers in Vienna, I wouldn't have been able to leave!

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  5. I love that you are back at blogging! Your dirndl posts have got me wanting to make one too. I was thinking of adapting B5882 bodice.

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    1. Hi Erika! I love the idea of adapting B5882!

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  6. I got dirndl fever a few years ago* and quickly discovered the whole Landhausmode thing (and the arguments people have online about whether or not Landhausmode is "real" tracht or not)...so...any reason to scrutinize the links in my Landhausmode folder... *grin* There might be a few bits of boning in some of Lola Paltingter's Happy Heidi dirndls, especially on the seams supporting the fancy hooks for the lacing. Some of the Kerstins dirndls have piping on every bodice seam, but there's a definite lack of boning. Angermaier...oh, Angermaier, your photos are beautiful but they're also so very very small... Krueger appears to use boning around the zipper, but it's not obvious anyplace else. Then there's Stockerpoint...boning, yup, boning *and* underwire, too, in at least one collection...

    *That said, I still haven't made anything with the Burda dirndl patterns I have--the more traditional 8448 and the more modern 7443. I'm fangirling immensely over your dirndl posts!

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    1. Oh gosh, I had to google Landhausmode. There are so many internet rabbit holes one can fall into with this obsession! Going to Google Lola Paltinger Happy Heidi now . . .

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  7. I have drindl envy too! After four years living in Germany, so regret not getting one while I lived there. Dare I hope that there will be a drindl pattern design in your future?

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    1. I can't believe you managed to live in Germany for 4 years without buying a dirndl! Where did you live? And yes, I'm definitely inspired to do some dirndly patterns!

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  8. at least in austria there is no boning at all in traditional dirndls. having at least shoulder straps and an attached (heavy) skirt there is no need for boning. only "Miedertrachten" (bodices with narrow or no shoulder straps and laced in the front or back) use some kind of boning. boning is also called "fischbein" in german because once it was made of whalebone.
    another tip for a good fitting: traditionally the edges of the armhloes and neckhole are piped. The piping is made of a bias tape folded around a cord, that floats freely in the tape tunnel. you can use this cord for fitting by lengthen or shorten it to get the edges to the body.
    Have fun making your own,
    peterle

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    1. Thank you for this! I'm so intrigued by your idea of fitting with piping. Do you mean that you stretch the bias around the piping to get the edges of the garment to fit?

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    2. It´s done like this: first you sew one edge of the selfmade unfolded bias tape to the edge of the garment. right sides together. iron the seam in the way, the SAs lie to the inside of the garment and the tape is pointing to the outside. then put the cord along the seam on the backside of the tape, and fold the tape tight around the cord. Now you can sew the bias tape in the ditch, zipperfoot recommended. make sure you dont catch the cord when sewing, it must be able to be pulled. the inside edge of the bias tape can be attatched by hand felling to the inner lining fabric.
      All this is done BEFORE the side seams get closed, because the piping has to continue over the SAs and inlays as well. After sewing the sideseams you can adjust the length of the cord while fitting and secure the ends with a few stitches.

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  9. I am so excited about your recent obsession with dirndls! Literally my last finished sewing project was a dirndl for my friend who's going to Germany. (They're still in the Italy leg of their trip right now so I don't have any pictures of her wearing it at Oktoberfest, yet)
    I used Burda 7443. Her inspiration was actually one of the dirndls you put in another post-- the mint green with small pink roses and a pink apron, but she wanted a dark green apron. So here is the finished product!
    On my dress form: https://flic.kr/p/ystTqZ
    On my friend as she was packing her suitcase: https://flic.kr/p/yqXLph
    I wondered about boning, too, but since she'll probably only wear this once, I didn't worry too much. But if I ever get to go to Germany some day (it could happen!) I will definitely make one of these for myself and I'll probably include boning.

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    1. OMG YOUR DIRNDL IS BEAUTIFUL AND YOU SHOULD BE SO PROUD. (Sorry for the yelling, but it was necessary.) What a good friend you are! Did you make the blouse too? Where did you get the fabric? How did you do the shirring on the apron? So many questions! :)

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    2. THANK YOU!! I'm honored that you liked it! :D
      So, yes I made the blouse, the Burda pattern included all 3 pieces. The blouse fabric is shirting from Joann. The other two are from fabric.com. They're just basic cottons but the main dress fabric was a little lighter weight and had a nice drape. Here is the link https://www.fabric.com/buy/0348842/michael-miller-brambleberry-ridge-rosemilk-metallic-mint
      I had to improvise on the waist shirring since I didn't have the gathering tape stuff the instructions called for. I sewed about 6 rows of basting stitches 1/4 inch apart and then pulled all the bobbin threads at the same time. When I got it to the right width I knotted all the threads off in the back. It was pretty simple but worked out well, I think.
      Thanks again for looking at my pictures :) Of course I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have!

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    3. The shirring is best done by attaching gingham to the back of the fabric and then shirring by hand. No need for expensive specialty tape. If you really want more info on Dirndl and how they are traditionally made I recommend www.heimatwerk.at . They also have an English website and they carry all the traditional patterns, books and such for their respective region. They usually even have classes if you are up for traveling. Beware though, they preserve tradition so you will learn things the old, and often hard, way. Thotally worth it though. You will never look at a dress the same way after you made your own, tradtitional Dirndl with centuries of history and meaning in every fold and color.

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  10. Burda Style (the English-language U.K. [international] edition, not the new U.S. edition of Burda) dated 9/2015 had a feature on dirndls, with patterns included. Also Burda patterns online list a few (under the category of dresses, not historical costumes).

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    1. Yes! Here is the link to the PDF patterns: http://www.burdastyle.com/blog/darling-dirndls-5-new-dress-patterns

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  11. Woohoo! Evidence for boning in modern fashion dirndls. Now I won't feel so anachronistic when I put some in my own. BTW, I'm going to use the Burda 7443 pattern. I love the bust gussets and the V back neck. However, I think I'll try to hide the boning channels rather than have them show on the outer layer.
    Thanks for sharing what you've learned, Gretchen!

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  12. The thing about Dirndls is that they are not actually traditional dress. The dirndl is modern take on "tracht" - actual traditional Bavarian/Austrian dress. There is little reason for it to be boned because it is is something you put on but you do not live in it. You wear a bra under it, spend a few hours doing folksy things and then go home and wear jeans and t-shirts. Its bosom support is whatever it can be in relation to your bosom but it's not a 24/7 wearable corset.

    Funnily enough, actual Bavarian tracht's bodices were corsets in terms of chest support. They were very boned, and resemble something that is halfway between Renaissance, 18th Century stays and Regency dress. They are very beautiful and are still made commercially (If you consider commercial made by hand and only by order. Needless to say, they are not cheap.) but the dress they belong to are not 50s type of dresses. At best they are 1850s.

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    1. I love this info!!! I've personally concocted a form of vest-lke bust support for my own perosnal comfort, (and it's lovely for my posture-improvement too, having less "weighing down" in front does wonders!!! :-) )
      Anyway, after reading this post I was surprised that a bra was worn under the dirndle, but now your comment makes everything make sense! :-) Thanks!!!
      I do use a chanel of plasitc boning on either side of the front zipper, to keep the support strong there. Other than that it's just double layer heavy denim, which has worked well for over 10 years for me now. (I think each garment probably lasts about 3 years before it looks very worn, and of course the support begins to lag a bit.)
      Anyway, thanks for the info, and now I'll have to research some Trachts!!! :-) I'm endeavoring to wear only natural fibers, etc, for my wardrobe, and I really love looking to the past for solutions that still work today!
      (I am by no means an actual "reproduction-ist" or anything, I LOVE heavy duty zippers, and zipping on my bodice in the morning is way, way easier than the lacing I originally started with. :-) )

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    2. Anonymous, thank you for that additional info. I had read that dirndls are a 20th century interpretation of tracht, but as it's now the 21st century, I think modern dirndls deserve recognition as having their own kind of tradition, even if it's based on a romanticized view of rural life. Boning may not be necessary in dirndls that are worn once a year, but I plan to wear mine as an everyday dress, so a little extra support in the bodice--for the sole purpose of keeping the fabric unrumpled, not bust support--seems like a good idea to me. I get enough support from my bras, but I want to keep the dirndl bodice fitting smoothly on my non-smooth torso.

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  13. I've never previously given a moment's thought to dirndls but I've enjoyed reading this post!

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  14. Dear Gertie,
    only German but very interesting, here another type of "Dirndel-" bodices.
    http://www.boards-4you.de/fullhosting/fh_kostuemkram/thread.php?postid=217779
    For the chanels they use rattan.
    Greetings Mema

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  15. Coming from Norway, I don't know much about dirndls, of course, although our own folk costumes may seem similar and possibly also be inspired from the fashion in Continental Europe. What I wanted to chime in with regards to boning in traditional folk wear, is that a Norwegian sewing blog focusing on the construction of folk costumes recently had a post on "spilesøm", literally translated as "boning seam". (I don't think this is the correct English term for the technique.)

    So what is this "boning seam"? It is a special type of hand sewing technique that makes a sturdy seam while constructing the bodice, giving the impression of boning, but being more wearable for the everyday woman. Maybe this also was used with the construction of dirndl bodices?

    The blog post is here: http://frustorlien.blogspot.no/2015/09/spilesm.html, or with Google translate: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=no&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Ffrustorlien.blogspot.no%2F2015%2F09%2Fspilesm.html%23comment-form&edit-text=&act=url

    (I read through the translated version, and it wasn't too bad ;) )

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    1. Oh, dear...I'm reading this late at night, thinking I wouldn't be pursuing dirndls, and Hilde presents a new technique. While I found it entertaining and informative to read, I did miss a basic point or two. However, reading through the comments led to links written in English, and...you know how it goes! I think I need to leave some things open to read tomorrow (oops, later today).

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

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