October 3, 2016

Prost! An Upton Dress dirndl hack for Oktoberfest

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!

Upton Dress dirndl hack

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”!

Upton Dress dirndl hack

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.

Upton Dress dirndl hack

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”:
Upton Dress dirndl hack

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….

16 thoughts on “Prost! An Upton Dress dirndl hack for Oktoberfest

  1. KG says:

    This is so cute. You look like the St Pauli Girl! Prost!

  2. Cool to read about your “hacking” process and I love how all the little details work together to really give a dirndl look. It makes me want to do some purely creative costume sewing!

  3. your creativity is so inspiring, I’ve not made a costume myself but this one looks so cute, love your dirndl pose!

  4. Dalia says:

    You do know that “Uptondirndlkleidhack” is the appropriate German term? And it turned out fine, never mind the fanatics. Burda Magazine had a slew of specifically plus-size Dirndl in their Octover-Issue, should the urge ever hit you…
    But pray, what does airing their duvet mean?

  5. erniek3 says:

    Ya look swell, love the ‘lacing’; the pose you are looking for involves holding the stein! You lucked out with the blouse matching up. Yes, Burda has always had a dirndl pattern forfreakingever, but I mixed two different ones and had more bodice than blouse. Itchy.

  6. Tanya Maile says:

    I love the way yours turned out! You’ve actually got me inspired to make one myself to honour my Germanic heritage. Although….I’ve never even seen anyone on that side of the family actually wearing one, but I’m sure that somewhere on the family tree it’s been sported. I’d likely make mine for the same reason as yours and hit an Oktoberfest with Das Boot in my hand.

  7. Sandra Quick says:

    Your outfit looks fabulous! I’m looking forward to your tutorial on converting to princess seams. I have instructions from FFRP, but haven’t tried theirs yet.

  8. jessica says:

    Adorable! I converted the Upton Dress to a princess seam and absolutely LOVE it! I love to sew but in a size 12 H cup, alterations from a standard pattern were always a little overwhelming. Converting our pattern was really easy, once I made a muslin and the fit is perfect. I’ve made 4 dresses… all fit like a glove. It was my first time sewing one of your patterns and it left me swooning! I bought every pattern after that…. Time to get sewing!

    1. Sandra Quick says:

      Jessica, could you post photos of any of your dresses please?

  9. I’ve been talking about making one for our Oktoberfest for like four years and still haven’t gotten around to it. It looks sooooo amazing!!!!!!

  10. Jennifer Kepler says:

    Love it – i happen to have a proper, though not fancy, dirndl- there are very posh event type dirndls and there are everyday dirndls (afterall it is hausfrau clothing) – Ulla Popken and C&A are both great resources for inexpensive authentic Dirndls as well as costume-y ones (though posh ball gown type dirndls must really be custom made). I mpst recently wore mine last night because my almost 3 year old wanted me to dress-up like a princess- well I dont have any princess clothing so up to the attic I went. Now I see you also have a post on “not quite a disney princess” – I will check that post out now!

  11. Mikey says:

    You look spectacular in it as well. I love women who are not too thin, they give better hugs. ^_^

  12. karen says:

    Great hack! I am in the process of making a dirndl too and always wonder, why am I having to fit a new pattern to my not standard body, once again? Thank goodness the skirts and aprons are a very forgiving design to balance out the whole fitting the bodice exercise.

  13. katengland says:

    Found this while searching for octoberfest ideas. So many good ideas

  14. Carla Blair says:

    I love the whole effect! I so enjoy the learnings in your projects. I especially love the Upton hack top and I think that it would be perfect as a faux corset/vest top for layering under the Cashmerette blazer as we approach fall. (Trend 2022) while I have no ideas how to do this… Hmmm! The Upton hack and seams could be perfect for this, and the maybe replace the gingham with a velvety ribbon… Thanks for sharing creative vibes!

Let me know what you think!