Sometimes, you just have to make a dirndl.
I confess, I’m not much of a dress-up, costume person. Maybe it’s because I’m British, where Halloween is mostly the domain of sugared up 6 year olds in ghost costumes, but the whole American obsession with silly outfits has never quite sunk in, even after 10 years here. However, a few weeks ago when the chance arose to go up to an Oktoberfest in New Hampshire I decided, what the hey, I’m going to make a dirndl, the traditional German outfit that ladies wear to such events.
Before we go any further, one note: I am more than aware I didn’t go a traditional route! In many fabric and construction ways, I’m sure. But really this was just for fun and will get worn maybe once a year, so I wasn’t going to invest too much time and effort. I will leave the exquisite vintage and culturally accurate garments to sewists much more dedicated than I!
I began my plan with the obvious route: Burda Style. Burda are known for having dirndl patterns every year, and so I checked out their offerings. The Weisn Dirndl seemed the most promising, as it goes into plus sizes and is straightforward, with the traditional dress, apron and blouse pieces.
Then, I came crashing down to reality: there’s no way those princess seams were drafted for an H cup, so I’d have to do extensive adjustments to not have a gaping mess, and I didn’t want to invest that much time in a costume. Luckily, inspiration struck soon after: I could use my very own Upton Dress and hack it! My Uptondirndldresseshacken as my German friends would have it.
The Upton follows the same fit-and-flare shape as a dirndl, which makes it ideal for hacking. The first step was to convert the darts into princess seams – I’ll write a tutorial about that soon, but it worked really well and I ended up with the best fitting princess seams I’ve ever had! And I was instantly glad I took this route rather than adjusting the Burda. I did the same to the back bodice to make princess seams, made even easier by the fact the Upton has shoulder darts.
I also adjusted the neckline to have the very low and slightly squared off dirndl shape – that was simply a matter of cutting down my muslin until it fit.
For the skirt, the dirndls I looked at online all had fairly traditional gathering at the waist, so I used the pleated skirt version of the Upton (View A), and simply gathered it at the top using three rows of basting stitches, pulling it until it matched up with the bodice: easy!
To add a little dirndl-y flair to the bodice, I added piping in the princess seams… and oof! That was the hardest bit: my Japanese piping was really just a little too stiff, especially in comparison to the stretch cotton I was using for the bodice, and so it’s not perfect. But hey! No biggie.
Then, I ummed and ahhed for a bit over whether to put buttons or lacing down the front. In the end, my trip to Gather Here for supplies solved that one: Carrie and I found this ADORABUBBLE pink gingham bias tape with a crochet edge, and it was destined to be fake “lacing”. I simply hand stitched it on in a triangle shape on the front – not traditional, but gives it the dirndl “look”!
For the cropped blouse underneath, I did end up using the Burda pattern, and it was pretty straightforward. Luckily it also perfectly matched the neckline of my Upton bodice! As a little fun accent to tie it into the bodice, I also used the gingham trim around the sleeve hems.
Finally, for the apron, I used an old sheet (always keep them for muslins and dirndl aprons, folks!), added on some fun white cotton trim, and made the belt with a fun 70s-inspired vintage embroidered ribbon again from Gather Here.
Here’s my attempt at an “authentic dirndl pose”:
So there you have it! An entirely inauthentic but nonetheless fun and reasonably well-fitting dirndl, perfect for an Oktoberfest. And I did indeed have fun – yes, I was the only female over the age of 10 wearing a dirndl, but it was much admired!
Finally, to get some good photos, Carrie and I snuck out behind the studio… and naturally, a random person decided to come and “air their duvet” (!) right by us as I was standing in the middle of Somerville in a dirndl in the afternoon. Great! This is how I felt:
So, lovelies, have you ever made a dirndl? Are you a fan of using already-fitting patterns to make a costume? I must say that while I’m probably not a costume convert, I did enjoy the creativity of the process! Who knows, maybe you’ll see something more from me in the future….