Clothing, Culture, Sewing

Auf Wiedersehen Oktoberfest, wir hatten Spaß /Goodbye Oktoberfest, we had fun!

Autumn is my favorite time of year for so many reasons, but most of all because I love Oktoberfest. The tradition of Oktoberfest began when a Bavarian prince and princess who were wed in some fields outside of Munich, Germany on the 12th of October in 1810. Today, it is celebrated in Munich and throughout the US in various forms. I enjoy all of it – the music, the food, the beer, the dancing, and the dress. I hope to some day attend Oktoberfest in Munich, where they have huge beer tents for the adults, and carnivals/amusements/fair grounds for families to enjoy.  For a take on what celebrating Bavarian culture means to young Germans, check out this article from the NY Times about dirndls in the disco!

This year my hubby and I were invited to attend the Oktoberfest at Pittsburgh’s Teutonia Maennerchor, a private club which celebrates German-American heritage. We had a wonderful time – the food and drink were excellent and plentiful, the company was warm and relatively well-behaved, and the entertainment was great. Everyone looked so fesch, decked out in Trachten, and it was so nice to have another occasion upon which to wear my handmade dirndl.

Something that I am especially proud of is the fact that this summer, I sewed a dirndl for my good friend, Julie. She looks so lovely in it and appreciates the beauty of a custom dirndl! Here we are together at the Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh 🙂

Clothing, Culture

Altmodish Trachten / Old Fashioned Clothing

Instragram recently led me down a rabbit hole of really talented sewers and seamstresses who create reproductions of clothing from bygone eras. This got me wondering how I could perhaps take inspiration for my own designs not only from today’s Trachten styles, but also those of the past….

Thanks to friendly, hardworking librarians, I’ve had the pleasure of looking at some fascinating books on the topic. Last week I visited the Carnegie Public Library in Oakland and I’d love to share with you some of the images I found.

This first illustration shows what people in Oberbayern (upper Bavaria) were wearing in the mid 1800s – surprisingly similar to the Trachten still worn today! The detailing on the menswear is just lovely. I am wondering if the girl with the yellow scarf is wearing her Hausschuhe?!


Once again, mid 1800s, these ladies are from the Black Forest. I have a little doll that is wearing the same outfit as the second lady, red pompom hat and all! I also love that the lady on the far right has what appears to be a donut?!? on her head…must do more research into that!IMG-3701

Just when I was beginning to think that today’s trend of big hair bows had reached its climax, I see that one can go bigger!! :-O And she is OWNING it. lol


My greatest find was a book called “Original Tyrolean Costumes” published in 1937. Now, at first I thought, oh wow! this Baron Georg Franckenstein loves Austrian clothing as much as I do! and while this might have been the case, the date of publication makes me suspicious because it was clearly printed for an English audience. A bit of stealthy prewar propaganda, perhaps? Anyway, I love the book’s illustrations and the forward so I’ve included it below.

The fashion illustrations in this book are of such high quality! The children’s outfits are so cute! The artist made sure to show the intricate craftsmanship of the clothing, often including the backs of bodices and jackets.



I am a big fan of puffed sleeves, even though they aren’t flattering on everybody. These ladies are rocking them, and I especially love the fluffy white hats – they looks so soft and warm!


And finally, remember to wear what you like – embrace your personal style and if this includes “putting a bird on it”, then so be it! lolIMG-3734


Das fertige Dirndl / the completed Dirndl

I, my friends, have finished sewing my dirndl!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a beautiful new dress to wear to the biergarten, and to be able to say that I made it myself.  The weather yesterday was unseasonably bright and warm, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures of my latest creation (thank you to my mom for taking the pics)!

My hard work paid off, but it has been quite the road to get here. We left off in my last post discussing the completion of the red bodice. From there I pleated, pinned, and sewed the back skirt panel onto it – I ended up having to completely remove this later in the process to adjust the waist. I’m glad this happened, because even though it took me longer, it meant that I was able to adjust the pleats to have a more flattering appearance. In the photos below you can see how the pleats are a little funky.

Next, I needed to attach the front skirt panels. But I really, really need POCKETS in my dirndl because every girl needs pockets in everything. Fact. So I made them out of red material to be cheeky, but had not intention of letting them show when I’m wearing the dress. So when the side seams turned out not to leave much depth, I added 4 inches of matching blue fabric onto the pocket sides, pinned and sewed them in. It was tricky because each side front panel had to connect to the back panel for about 4 inches, then come away to create the pocket, and then reconnect for the remainder of the skirt length. It was fun solving this puzzle, and as I have never installed pockets before I pinned everything a million times before I sewed to make sure that I was getting it right.

Sadly I only have one picture for the process that was putting together the front skirt panels, because it took so much brain power that I simply forgot to document! After sorting out the pockets, I pinned each front skirt panel into pleats, while keeping about 3 inches free so that I could wrap the fabric around the open bodice front to create a finished front (and a way to get into the dirndl). Then I sewed it all to the bodice and then sewed the two panels together to form a neat seam down the front of the dress.  This took patience and a lot of planning, and when I had finished I thought I was done (HA! YEAH RIGHT!)


I excitedly put on my new dirndl and looked in the mirror – and was instantly pissed off. It was too big around! Dirndls should fit nice and tight, and when I tied the apron around my waist, fabric was bunching in the small of my back. It was back to the drawing board!

I decided to take in each side seam by 1/2 inch, which meant that I did not have to undo the existing seams, but rather simply sew a new seam and then cut the old seam off and finish the fabric. However, I needed to adjust the top of the skirt as well to take in the waist, so I ripped the seam out that connected the back skirt to the bodice. After a little work and making sure to be careful, I had everything the way I wanted it. Hooray! Sometimes things are just meant to be. This adjusting of the side seams also gave me a chance to clean up the joining of the piping at the bottom of the arm hole, and I’m now very happy with my craftsmanship on this dirndl.

Sewing a dirndl is not for everyone, since there are so many steps to the process, but I am very glad that I did it and I would like to make another one (because I am nuts!) If you are interested in creating your own, check out this neat group on Facebook: Dirndl & Tracht: Nähen, Trends & Tipps  They are walking participating members through the process of sewing a dirndl one month at a time. So cool!!!


Dirndl Update: Blut, Schweiß, und Tränen / blood, sweat, and tears

This dirndl was never going to be a simple weekend project. I knew going into it that I would have to learn around a dozen new sewing techniques, and you can bet that I have worked my butt off! I am proud to say that I am not giving up, and persevering despite the challenges.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that sewing in piping is fun! and somehow makes sewing on the curve easier. I really like the finished look that it gives to my seams (here you can see I did the back seams first).


Then it was time to sew the arm holes, which went smoothly, and then the neck line. This went well, and then it was time to turn the whole thing inside out and see the results! I did this by pulling it through the open bottom and through the shoulder hole (see below) – this sort of thing always makes my head spin a bit as it’s so funky to look at, but it works!



While I was admiring the glory of my piped bodice, I noticed something odd…


This evil bit of piping had escaped! and right smack dab in the middle of the front panel – luckily I kept my cool and positioned it properly and sewed that devil into submission.


AHA! VICTORY IS MINE! I thought as I stood admiring my bodice (over my old dirndl blouse). Then I began to see the error of my ways…that by taking the side seams in quite a bit, I had inadvertently pulled the front seams too far toward my arms, and now my boobs were not happy. ↓


So it was back to work for me, and a nip and a tuck led to a much better fit. I think part of the trouble was that this pattern, like all patterns, is made for some person out there who is NOT ME. Naturally I have to alter it to fit perfectly, and I am happy with the results. But it took me quite a while to achieve the proper look; I was frustrated until I had the brilliant idea to put it on OVER my old dirndl in order to decide where to place the buttons! (This was the sweating part).

I carefully finished the edges of my front panels and folded them over and sewed them down. Then I carefully marked the positions of where the buttonholes should go (this required math, so bonus points here). I pulled out my sewing machine manual to refresh my memory on how a buttonhole foot works, and quickly recalled my distaste for the finicky plastic thing. After much patience and swearing, I had 9 relatively straight buttonholes that needed opening. In order to do this, one must cut the fabric very carefully, so as not to cut the thread as well. The manual, and my own experience, said “use your seam ripper!” Well I really wish I hadn’t because on the third buttonhole the blasted thing ripped straight through my fabric and INTO MY HAND. (This was the blood and tears part).


I may have screamed out in frustration, and I definitely called my hubby to complain for sympathy. This mess happened right on the front of my bodice; I am very lucky that the thread I have matches perfectly and it is pretty much camouflaged unless you really look for it.  A small pity party was thrown at which I drank a beer and ate junk food, and immediately felt better.


The easiest part of this whole thing has also been the most satisfying – sewing on the buttons! I chose little silver hearts because they are adorable and it is almost Valentine’s day, so why not? Here’s a pic of what I have accomplished so far! Stay tuned for (hopefully) the final chapter of the dirndl dress saga!!!



Discovering my Dirndl / mein Dirndl entdecken

New Year, new resolutions, right? I am proud to say that I have jumped into sewing my dirndl again. This is going to be a long process, done in a few spare hours every week – but this is a good thing! It means that I’ve had time to research all the new skills I am gaining and execute them well, with very few mistakes. However, it’s tough for me because if I could, I would lock myself in the sewing room for a week and just crank it out 😉

IMG-2296   IMG-2297

As you may recall, I decided to cut out the bodice from white cotton fabric so I could see how it fit and make adjustments. I’m so glad I did that, because it allowed me to take in the side seams! Then I cut out all the bodice pieces from my good fabric and a plain red liner to match.

I have sewed a few seams and now you can see it taking shape – so exciting! This week I hope to install piping along the back seams, which I have never done before. Piping is one of those beautiful details that make a dress look even better, I hope I can do it – fingers crossed.

I also cut out and assembled the apron, which was fun and enlightening. The pattern was way too long (90 cm!) for the length of dirndl that I want so I will hem it once the dress is complete. Here’s a pic of the fabric before stitching:


Gathering is the technique used to create the beautiful cinched look at the top near the waistband, and this I had also never done before.  It was time consuming, as I had to sew 7 rows of basting stitches close together to create this effect. Vielen Dank! to my Tante Viv for helping me figure it all out.


And here it is all put together! The tie length is a bit shorter than I would like, but I think I may have a way to fix that…


Here’s a picture of me sporting my new apron with my old (but still wonderful) dirndl. Check back for more updates on my dirndl project!



Clothing, Culture, Food

Vorbereitungen für Oktoberfest / Getting Ready for Oktoberfest

We are heading into my favorite time of year – FALL! I am a fan of sweater weather, pumpkin foods, and the gorgeous Pennsylvania foliage.  Part of what makes this season so great is that it provides the perfect weather for Oktoberfest celebrations, and I am really looking forward to partying with my friends this weekend down at the Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus.


You don’t need to speak German or wear traditional clothing to enjoy Oktoberfest, but it sure doesn’t hurt! I am lucky to own a dirndl that I love and still fits me even after popping out twin boys, and I can’t wait to wear it. My loving husband does not currently own lederhosen, but he gets in the spirit by wearing a blue and white checkered shirt, reminiscent of the Bavarian flag.  Our boys have outgrown their lederhosen so I will be searching for replacements soon because they look so stinking cute in ones like these <3

I wish you all a very happy and healthy Oktoberfest, and make sure to keep well fed and hydrated in between Maß. PROST!!!


Clothing, Culture

5 Things You Need to Know About TRACHTEN

1. The term “Tracht” refers to traditional garments worn in German-speaking countries. Every region has their own version of dress, and some occupations do as well (nurses, carpenters, religious orders).

2. Trachten is still worn and enjoyed by many people, especially in southern Germany (Bavaria) and Austria. 

3. People wear Trachten to religious celebrations, weddings, holidays, and any day the biergarten is open!

4. There is Trachten for every budget, and every occasion – some people even choose to be married in it <3

5. Wearing Trachten is a great way to celebrate your heritage and it looks great on every body type!


Dirndl bodice trial-run / Dirndl-Mieder-Testlauf

While I am not surprised that preparation of my dirndl pattern took me a long time, I must admit that I am getting nervous about the amount of work it is going to take before I have a completed dress! I have cut out the basic bodice pieces in plain white cotton in order to practice sewing them together and see how the fit feels before I take the plunge and cut up my good fabric.  Yes, this is an extra step that is taking up time, but I’m glad I’ve decided to do it because trouble has already arisen in the form of a princess seam.  You’re only trying to sew two very differently shaped pieces of fabric together to form a perfect 3D curve, why should that be hard? SMH well, it’s a good thing we have talented sewers in the family from whom I can get advice! I’ll share the solution with you once I know what it is…Here’s a pic of the front without the back sewn on yet – slow and steady wins the race, folks!

dirndl muslin pic

Something that made me smile today was when my man showed me this wonderful inflatable pretzel on sale now at Toys’R’Us…only $10! I feel an intense need to go buy one, and we don’t even own a pool!

inflatable pretzel


The Dirndl Challenge

Something you should know about me it that I LOVE DIRNDLS. A dirndl is a dress typically worn in Southern Germany, Bavaria, and Austria; while it derives from traditional folk garments, the dirndl has morphed and changed over the years and is still worn by many women today, especially during Oktoberfest. Designers offer everything from traditional frocks to haute cou·ture masterpieces, and I can’t get enough of them. I first fell in love with dirndls as a preteen – I was a young girl, about to hit puberty HARD, and I drooled over those pretty dresses in the shop windows.  (Pig nose, hot breath on the glass, you get the picture). I’ve always relished interesting details and intricate fabrics, so am naturally drawn to the dirndl, which even in it’s more traditional form still boasts a high level of complexity.  When I visited meine Tante in Munich as an adult, we combed the racks of C&A until I found one that I felt was truly “me”.  I’m proud to say that I still enjoy (and fit in!) my one and only dirndl, but I am getting antsy for another!  If my pinterest board could speak it would say “Halt, bitte! Genug ist genug!”  😛

My dream that I am currently working towards is to run my own online boutique where I can sell dirndls, lederhosen, and other Trachten (traditional garments) accessories to Americans.  But before I attempt to do that, I want to understand what makes dirndls so amazing, through and through. Therefore, I have decided to attempt to sew a dirndl for myself (GULP! GASP! FINGERS CROSSED! KNOCK ON WOOD!)

I have downloaded and printed out this Burda pattern, and now must begin the pain-staking task of taping it all together, tracing it (adding a seam allowance too!), and then creating a muslin because I dare not skip that step and end up with too much or too little fabric in places. Being a very busty girl, I anticipate quite a bit of tailoring. But I found the CUTEST fabrics at Wal-Mart of all places and am excited to work with them.

Please say a little prayer for me as I begin this (possibly insane) endeavor and let me apologize in advance to my husband, parents, and neighbors for any swear words that reach your ears in the process!!! Updates and pictures, however gruesome, to follow….