Monday, May 19, 2014

Dirndl Dirndl Dirndl!

Well, it's a dress, and there's red linen involved, but it's not what I had in mind originally. Things kind of took a left turn. I'm not sure what even started this off, but at some point I decided that what I wanted to make was a traditional dirndl. I've always loved the look of them thanks to an admiration for The Sound of Music, where Maria and all the girls wear them and look so cute.  That's what I'll make! I thought. I love that movie! And I'll look cute, just like that! 

But then I had to stop and check myself. Waitaminit -- I'm no slender hilltop-spinning girl. I'm a thick-waisted middle-aged lady. Am I going to look foolish in this outfit? But then I remembered the hobbits.

Here is a terrible picture (but the best I could find) of an individual hobbit lady wearing something very dirndl-like -- if not an actual dirndl. The curved seams are there, and the apron -- and she looks great. It's modest, attractive, and suits her.

And I know what you're thinking. Hobbits? Really, Wenny? Come on, it's the Austrian national costume, surely you could find at least one picture of a real lady wearing a real dirndl to show us. Well, there are lots of pictures, sure. Go Google them yourself, if you like. But I wanted a picture that showed a figure like mine, where there's about one inch of difference between bust, waist, and hip measurements. I know I'm not going to look like Julie Andrews in th--- wait a second. Hang on.

BAM. There's your real lady wearing a real dirndl. She's no Oktoberfest babe-- that's Maria von Trapp, the real Sound of Music Maria, who preferred to wear dirndls throughout her life. Not costumes -- clothing. So there we go. Let us never speak of hobbit costumes again.

To begin with, I drafted my own pattern on wrapping paper, like I usually do. But I wasn't completely satisfied with the way it looked on paper, and as I'd never done curved front seams before, I decided it would be best to start with a commercial pattern and learn from there. I got Burda 8448 because it was 40% off and was in the Dresses section of the pattern book instead of Costumes.

I rummaged through my stash and found the red linen wasn't enough for the full dress, but dirndls are often made up of different stuff. I have some dark olive green pinstripe and decided that would do for the skirt. Then I put the two side-by-side and my mind said "garden gnome", so I threw the green back and went thrift store shopping. I found three yards of a nice cotton for $3, so you can't beat that price.

I had that red piping in my stash, too, and tried it on the first seam. I could tell right off that it was going to be an added hassle. Even reading the pattern directions was difficult. First of all, wee tiny print! And secondly, there seemed to be steps missing. And  it was hard to see what the illustrations were trying to show me.  I fled to the internet for help, and was very pleased to find a concise online tutorial for this pattern. The writer makes a few changes to the pattern (putting a zipper in the back and doing the skirt differently with an added waistband) but for the most part it was very easy to follow. I spent a few hours stitching and pressing and ended up with this.

Imogene is nowhere near adjusted properly
to my custom size in this picture,
so pardon the loose fit.

I put a light interfacing on the linen to help it stay crisp and look sharp, and I think that was a good idea. It also helped keep the fraying in check so I wasn't as freaked out by the unfinished seams on the inside. (Medieval sewing has made me very particular about finished seams.)  I still need to work the buttonholes and buttons on the front, and I think it's a little loose through the bust, so minor adjustments will be made.  The skirt is made from two pleated and one gathered panel which are simply attached, so that will be easily done.

Except now I'm not sure I like the all-red bodice. I think I'll make another one that's more like the Hobbit lady's, with contrasting side panels. Besides being more decorative, it's bound to give a little more visual shaping to my less-than-curvy torso.

More on that next time!


  1. patterns on wrapping paper! that's genius! Thank you!

  2. It's even more genius if you can get the kind that has a one-inch grid on the back. Makes transferring or enlarging a breeze. =)