The traditional Bavarian folk attire (trachten) for a woman is called a dirndl. This is a colourful, full skirt with a matching tight bodice worn over a poofy, snow-white peasant blouse along with an apron. While the global imaginary of the German beer maiden or Austrian milk maid in feminine dirndls is powerful, German and Austrian women living in the region of Bavaria today wear typical Western clothing and folk dirndls are generally reserved for themed restaurants, during holiday parades or festivals such as Oktoberfest. Making a typical Bavarian dirndl for fun or as a costume entails making a close-fitting bodice, a full skirt, peasant blouse and an apron. It is possible to add embroidery, piping and decorative pieces of horn or buttons to achieve a full, Bavarian folk effect.
Buy or acquire a dirndl pattern. For best results, buy a pattern from a speciality store that stocks German or Austrian traditional folk dress such as Folkdress.com. It's also possible to piece together yourself patterns for a full skirt, a close-fitting bodice and peasant shirt from other skirt and blouse patterns to achieve the Bavarian dress look.
Take the measurements of the wearer's body using a soft measuring tape, noting down the bust, waist, hips and torso (front and back). Based on the pattern and the wearer's measurements, decide how much fabric to purchase.
Buy fabric for the dress at a fabric store or online. Bavarian dirndls are often cobalt blue, maroon or forest green. The peasant shirt should be made from white, 100% cotton fabric, while the apron can be the same colour of white, or a complementary colour to the dirndl fabric.
Read the directions on the pattern carefully before beginning, so that you have in your mind what you need to do before starting. If you are piecing together the dress from disparate patterns, draw on a piece of paper what you want your dress to look like. You can make complicated patterns such as a dirndl simpler by creating a reference point to look at throughout the process.
Cut out the pattern pieces for the skirt and bodice according to the measurements. Lay out the fabric for both the skirt and bodice on a flat surface. Place the pattern pieces on top of the fabric. Pin down. Carefully cut the fabric out following the pattern lines.
Remove the pattern pieces and pin together the fabric to make the full skirt. Sew stitches that are approximately 1/4 inch apart to gather the full skirt into the desired waist size; temporarily baste the gather using loose stitches then inserting a band and basting as well.
Remove the pattern pieces for the bodice fabric and pin the front and back of the bodice into the basted and gathered skirt; baste all together. Try the skirt and loose bodice pieces onto the wearer to ensure the fit is tight yet comfortable, pinning the front and back of the bodice for best fit. Insert into the close-fitting bodice a zipper or hooks and eyes based on the fit and baste. Replace the basting on the skirt waist and the bodice using the sewing machine. Hem the dirndl skirt to the desired length, either knee length or full length.
Cut out the pattern pieces for the peasant bodice based on the torso and bust measurements. Bavarian-style peasant shirts generally are short and include a piece of elastic that hugs the wearer's body just under the bust.
Lay the pattern pieces on top of the white cotton fabric and pin down carefully. Cut out the pieces for both the torso and the sleeves, and pin the torso pieces together. Baste together the torso of the peasant shirt. Use the gathering technique to create puffy sleeves and baste carefully into the torso pieces.
Try on the basted peasant shirt to ensure the fit is comfortable and there is enough room for the wearer's bust. Pin and adjust as needed.
Sew the torso of the shirt and the sleeves into the bodice using the sewing machine. Insert and sew in the elastic into the bottom of the peasant shirt and hem the sleeves.
Cut out and pin the pattern pieces for the apron face and band onto the white cotton material. Cut out and sew together on the sewing machine, hemming the apron last.
Add optional adornments such as embroidery, piping or braiding.
Adjust the patterns to make knee-length or low-calf length dress, the dirndl bodice can have a high or low-neck, and the peasant shirt can have a high- or low-neck blouse. Use medium to heavyweight fabrics for the bodice and skirt, such as cotton, silk, wool, velvet or corduroy. For the blouse and apron, a light or medium weight cotton is ideal, though rayon or blends are also an option. Look through a picture book of traditional Bavarian folk costume for inspiration on fabric types, colours and additional adornment options.
Tips and warnings
- Adjust the patterns to make knee-length or low-calf length dress, the dirndl bodice can have a high or low-neck, and the peasant shirt can have a high- or low-neck blouse.
- Use medium to heavyweight fabrics for the bodice and skirt, such as cotton, silk, wool, velvet or corduroy. For the blouse and apron, a light or medium weight cotton is ideal, though rayon or blends are also an option.
- Look through a picture book of traditional Bavarian folk costume for inspiration on fabric types, colours and additional adornment options.