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Sep 23, 2013

The Dirndl -- YEA or NAY?



Readers, as September winds down, I know many of you are eagerly anticipating Oktoberfest, the 16-day German beer festival that is celebrated in many parts of the world -- I am!

But to be honest, that's not what got me thinking about dirndls today.

I'm a nice person, and I never intentionally offend anyone, so imagine how embarrassed I felt when I chose the pattern immediately below, which I found on Etsy this morning, for my "Worst Women's Patterns Ever" board on Pinterest, not realizing it was being sold by my sewing friend, blogger Lisette, through her Etsy shop, Sleuth Patterns



I learned this when Lisette left a comment on my board, saying she thinks this pattern should be filed under "CUTEST Women's Patterns Ever" (With those palazzo pants, Lisette???)

Friends, I must ask: Do you have an opinion about dirndls, and if so, what is it?

If you are not Austrian or Bavarian, should you be wearing a dirndl at all?  Isn't the mainstreaming of the dirndl one of those insensitive cultural appropriations, like pole dancers wearing American Indian feather headdresses or Miley Cyrus twerking?  (And speaking of Miley, only the other day, she appropriated my cultural heritage: the faux fur shrug and sheer net mini dress.)



But let's get back to dirndls.

Readers, I know my frame of reference is a little lowbrow, but all I can think of when I see dirndl outfits is Heidi, The Sound of Music, and bosomy, beer-toting strippers.







You can read more about the origins of the dirndl here.  Basically, it was the traditional garb of Alpine peasants.  Like many traditional folkloric styles, it was popularized far beyond its area of origin, and has been revisited often by Western fashion designers, particularly in the late Thirties and Forties.

Dirndl patterns are easy to find -- I even own a few myself (the top two below):

















Even Already Pretty's Sally McGraw sports a dirndl-inspired dress occasionally.



And late songbird Deanna Durbin looked born-to-the-dirndl in Spring Parade (1940).



Readers, what do you think of dirndls and dirndl-inspired styles?

Is this a look that can too easily turn costumey, making you look like a life-size, kitschy Hummel figurine?

The dirndl -- YEA or NAY?

76 comments:

  1. Cute on little girls and/or folk dancers in performance. Not so much, IMO, for grown women in ordinary life. Just too costumey.

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  2. Yea for a Halloween costume. I hate to say this just after Zinnia was just released but unless you're skinny as a under-fed model (which I'm not) I say nay.

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    1. But the Dirndl is especially for not-underfed women! Well, I am bavarian and live in Munich, so my heart is really in this, and it is sooooo flattering for curvy figuers. BUT it really has to be classy, a dirndl is never short, always hits below the knee. It really celebrates women, and Munich at this time of year is so full of colours and braids and yes, I admit, cleavage. The overall effect is really wonderful!

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  3. I'm going to say, I'm not ashamed to admit that I OWN a dirndl - an authentic one, although modern-styled - which I purchased in Munich when we lived in Germany. While it may seem that the dirndl is outdated, the fact is that the Germans who live in Bavaria are often really proud of their heritage and regularly dress in traditional styles, some modernized and some not. The European clothing store, C&A, has even got its own label of Bavarian wear, called Landhaus. It produces dirndls of a more traditional style, as well as more modern takes on traditional Bavarian style (known as trachten), including sweaters, pants, jackets, etc. I own a really lovely suede jacket by Landhaus, as well as a Bavarian-influenced purse and a lighter weight quilted outdoor jacket. The only thing that makes the jacket recognizable as Bavarian are the snaps - they have edelweiss imprinted on them.
    Here is a link to C&A's Landhaus online shop:http://www.c-and-a.com/de/de/shop/product.html?mlid=548.484.139799.08a94e7c0c208c2297c19ffa47d7223f.276291.1817364685042181120.0.1379978306.1.1382570306&cid_af=548#/Women//Landhaus%20&%20Trachten
    Many Americans who live in Germany make a point of buying dirndls for Oktoberfest and end up wearing them for other events - particularly wives of American soldiers stationed in Germany. I've been to various functions for military wives where it was normal for people to be wearing dirndls and it wasn't Oktoberfest.

    The traditional dirndl is separates - blouse, dress and apron. However, the modern ones are often dresses that have the look of separates. My dirndl is the latter type, and it's a beautiful linen. I've worn it to Oktoberfest celebrations but also to the Ren Faire when my first son was an infant, since it made nursing really easy, lol! It makes a good Halloween costume in a pinch, too. I haven't worn it lately because until a month ago I was pregnant. Hopefully it will still fit me this October.

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  4. No to dirndls, Except if you are in the country of origin. Like Aloha shirts should only be worn in Hawaii. Men in kilts in Scotland. Etc

    Some things only look right where they were created/designed/whatever.

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    1. I have to disagree with you on the kilt. My husband wore a kilt in his clan tartan when we got married and likes to wear his Utilikilt (olive green twill) whenever possible. Our 4 year-lold son loves his tartan kilt and wears it to preschool in cooler weather; he wants me to make him a 'utility kilt' in olive twill so he can wear one in warmer weather as well. You've never seen how cute a little boy can be until you've seen him running around in a kilt.

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    2. Aloha shirts are great in San Diego ... anywhere where ukulele fests are happening. And even for every day wear at the Yacht Club here, etc. No problemo: muy casual.

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    3. Ambrose Bierce said that a kilt is an item of clothing worn by Scotsmen in America and Americans in Scotland.

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    4. Okay Jen, I stand corrected on the kilt. 8-) As for aloha shirts, maybe they just need a warmer climate to look right, where I live the look just doesn't work.

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  5. Coincidentally enough, I saw a woman today wearing a dirndl in our local supermarket. This being Ireland it was a bit unusual. I'm assuming she was celebrating some national celebration, as judging by her trolley, she was doing a last minute dash for party snacks. She certainly drew enough bemused attention.

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  6. I am all for the dirndl!!! I love the folksy charm, the opportunities for trims, and the ability to evoke almost any European country represented in the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland. Dirndls are a constant source of inspiration for me. I love the pattern...then again, my preference is for wacky tacky!!!

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    1. So, I guess that's a YAY! Also, I LOVE Deanna!

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  7. I'm actually looking for a pattern like that McCalls 3121 to adapt for something.

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  8. I also own an authentic dirndl, and I love wearing it... for folk dance parties and occasionally for Halloween. I can't imagine it being appropriate for daily wear, in any other occasion, although it is a gorgeous, comfortable, super-cute garment.

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  9. I LIKE the dirndles...it depends entirely on what fabric and trims you use,,,as to being costumey or fashionable.
    I find the 30's kimono robe just as questionable.

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  10. Yea! I had several dirndle-inspired dresses and separates as a little girl that my mother sewed and they were really cute. I love the forties patterns you have here, and I would wear them.

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  11. I must say the canine version is adorable! Now, on a woman here that isn't stick thin... probably not the best idea.

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  12. I think they're really cute, but I can't imagine wearing one myself. Perhaps they are better on little girls, or in the Alps. I don't think one would be flattering on me, anyway.

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  13. Nay, unless you are at October fest, or are a little girl, or it is your halloween costume. Plus they are not that flattering.

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  14. I quite like the idea of dirndles, but unless you are living in Bavaria the opportunities for wearing one in polite company have to be somewhat limited. The shape and styling is potentially flattering to a variety of body shapes but let's face it, the 'boobs popping out of the top' version is the one that everyone thinks of! Speaking of boobs, I'm having a hard time concentrating on dirndles after seeing that pic of Miley Cyrus - what the heck is up with her and that tongue these days? Tack-o-rama. She makes the stripper dirndle girl look positively wholesome...

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  15. First of all, I do enjoy your blog and your enthusiasm. With regards to Dirndl, have a look at this website for a modern and quite sophisticated look of traditional Alpine clothing: http://shop.mothwurf.com/looks/serenissima-herbst-winter-2013-2014.html

    PS: I am not based in any Dirndl country but New Z
    ealand.

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    1. These looks are awesome! I think a big part of it is that they appear to be very high quality. Look at those fabrics and that tailoring!

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  16. Peter, you are so wrong, that pattern is adorable! I must admit that I like the older examples of drindl patterns as well - they look much less slutty.
    That's the problem I have with a drindl - it's become, in my mind, an accompaniment to lecherous beer-binging culture, something where half of the bust is exposed, and your bust has been flattened to the shape of cereal bowls, just for ogling. I do object to that, it was, as you say, a traditional form of dress and it is now so slutty that when people say drindl I immediately think of the photo you have in this post; the busty blonde giving a not-subtle wink with a huge mug of beer.
    My boyfriend is a real beer nerd and has asked if I want to go to an Oktoberfest party at a craft beer bar. Perhaps I ought to make and wear one of those lovely, more demure and sophisticated styles!

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  17. I'd wear a below-the-knee dirndle with a Kiki Riki or Pea Bee & Jae long-sleeve crewneck shell, ballet flats, and stud earrings. Any fullness in a top, even just a bit in the shoulder, makes it cartoonish.

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  18. Yay - but only in the "right" fabric and worn with a close-fitting top.

    I used to wear them quite a lot in my teens and 20s but retired them all when my waist went AWOL (still looking for it).

    Spud.

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  19. Hey, I did the twist in a dirndl skirt. Hot times!
    A

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  20. As a bavarian it It´s funny reading about Dirndl at an american Blog. At the moment it is a real Dirndlboom around here, but I must admit, I don´t like all those partystyle dresses with the short skirts.

    Some of your first pictures really show some sort of sterotype Dirndl.

    In nearly every european country you can find "Trachten" which have a special shape with different details. If you are a very well informed person you can immediately see, from which part of a country one is coming from. In Bavaria nearly every region has a different style also showing if the area has been wealthy or poor in former days.

    For example the "Gäubodentracht" from a very rich area I live close by. They have a lot of real golden embroidery. Those Trachten have been and are used for special occasions only. Then there have been the "working Tracht" which has be plain but sometimes very colorful and made from cotton or linen.

    One of my favorit Dirndlmanufactors is Gössl from Austria.

    All their cloth do really have style and do not look cheap.

    I really love to sew Dirndl and I own 3 at the moment a further one in progress.

    At my Blog you can see all the Dirndl I did sew during the last few years. The last one shows my

    american sister in law with her "welcome Dirndl"

    We can buy a special patternmagazine from Austria called Dirndlrevue . It is featured every year in January/February and always has around 20 different patterns in it.

    In Munich you can find a lot of different smaller Dirndlmanufactors, one I find particularly interesting, is Dirndlafricaine.

    Thanks for bringing the Dirndl to your blog.

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    1. Fascinating! How wonderful that there is an annual Dirndlrevue! My cup (if not my dirndl, as I don't have one) runneth over.

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    2. I had to google- translate that ;-)

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  21. Sorry for saying, but is not correct, that Dirndl have been the traditional garb of Alpine peasants only. My example "Gäuboden" is one of the most flat areas in Bavaria. As I said, there is the Tracht which is more festive and the "Arbeitstracht" and both can be find in nearly every part of Bavaria and even Germany, Sweden, Poland ..................

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  22. As (nearly always) with a style it depends on the interaction between fabric, the occasion and the wearer. For comely wenches serving beer at festivals to all and sundry no no no!. For comely wenches at home enjoying beer with loved ones- if that's what thye like , then yes yes yes. For dear little teapot me now -no no no regardless of occasion! But on dear little and slightly less teapot me years ago, in a nice little sprigged liberty cotton a dirndl-ish skirt and a plain dark fitted top (no cleavage) looked IMO qauite naice and very respectable.

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  23. It's pretty. It is flattering on many body types, imo. Especially pears.
    Here is a link to the BBC complete with Vivienne Westwood's endorsement of trachte.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19976271
    However, if you are not from or in Austria/Bavaria. It looks a little costume-y. OK a lot costume-y.

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  24. have a customer currently making Burda 7443. She is Bavarian, been in NZ for 7 years now. I think it is awesome as have several German friends I know have dirndls in their wardrobes for appropriate occasions.

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  25. YAY FOR DIRNDL!!
    The most "female" and flattering way to dress for a woman, in my opinion. Basically any woman can look great in a Dirndl!
    Even here in Köln around Oktoberfest time, many women wear Dirndl. Although most women wear their Dirndl (German plural for "a Dirndl" is "two Dirndl") made by retailers and naehenundmehr wrote about those. By current fashion way to short for my taste ...
    Usually Dirndl are separates, so you don't have to always wear the whole Dirndl. You could just wear "the top" with some nice jeans or the skirt with something else.
    Ever since I started to sew I've been plotting to sew my first own Dirndl ... I know that many German seamstresses feel the same! And that's why there are always Dirndl patterns in Burda magazines which seems to puzzle the non-Germans! :D

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    1. So that's why there is an annual Dirndl Burda issue?? As you say, it's always puzzled me before now.

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  26. I love that Simplicity pattern and I own it. I also adore the 40s McCalls Dirndl. I think it depends on the wearer and the fabric. So I say Yay!

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  27. I wouldn't worry too much about insensitive cultural appropriations - I've noticed that the usual dirndl girls are wearing here in Germany is about as historically accurate as the average flapper costume is. However, there are some updated dirndl styles that I really like, especially "Noh Nee", a company that makes their traditional Bavarian dirndls from African prints. What an beautiful result of the melding of two cultures they are. Here's a gallery of some of them: http://www.dirndlalafricaine.com/collections/dirndl-a-l-africaine-en/tere-var28?lang=en

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    1. The African Dirndls are just incredible! They are not quite in my price bracket, otherwise I would buy one of them in a heartbeat! Thanks for posting the link!

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  28. I suppose I shouldn't keep throwing in my two cents, but I think a dirndl skirt on a slim figure is very lovely (hence why I never wear them - really unflattering on anyone with a stomach, especially in a heavy material). Once you get into the trims and suspenders and corsets its much too costumey.

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  29. I just scrolled the Süddeutsche Zeitung, feel free to translate the text via Google. Mybe it is even more fun to read the translation. ;-)
    http://www.sueddeutsche.de/stil/fashionspiesser-zu-pseudo-dirndl-heiliger-rupfensack-1.1776367

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  30. How timely your post is Peter: It is Oktoberfest in München now! Ja für the dirndl and pass me a hefeweisen. I haven't worn one in years (for reasons that Lisette has outlined). But I grew up wearing them to festivals and family events. My daughters have these vintage ones now, but after 44 more days on the 17-day diet, I might purchase one of those patterns. Schuss!

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  31. Dirndls will always be associated with 7th grade Home Ec in my mind. The Home Ec teachers (a higher percentage of bitches seemed to teach this subject) let us "heavier" girls know that dirndls didn't suit our shapes. We were only allowed to make A-line skirts.

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  32. They're a bit tricky for those of us who aren't very slender, but I tend to just wear a top that comes down a few inches past the waist of such a skirt, and it works out pretty well. As long as we're talking only about the cut, and not about the full traditional style, I don't see how it looks costumey. It just looks like a fairly standard kind of skirt to me.

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  33. Dirndls look wonderful in the following circumstances:
    1. In Germany;
    2. On children;
    3. On a grown woman who wears it with a tight bodice - any loose blouse or sweater will make a her look dumpy.

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  34. Didnt Kate Hepburn wear a monochromatic dirndl somewhere in The Philadelphia Story? Also, is Sally McGraw does it, it's automatically awesome.

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  35. I wore and enjoyed two woolen dirndl style skirts in my 20s and 30s. They had wide waist bands and I belted them. It was a good look for me, being long waisted and slender. That was then, this is now. Not with someone else's bargepole, as they say. I would thrift one made of good fabric, mind, because there is a lot to be salvaged for something else... To each his own, right?

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  36. Almost all my skirts are dinrdl style, and they are my favorite. I don't go to the extent of shoulder straps, because with an hourglass figure, it's too hard to downplay your chest to modesty even without cleavage, But yay dirndl!

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  37. I've been interested in dirndls for a few years, especially after first seeing the designs of Lola Paltinger http://www.lolapaltinger.com/kollektionen/couture/dirndl --nothing cheap or racy about those! I discovered the whole style movement called Landhausmode, which is the idea of rich people (those who own land and big houses) dressing in what they perceive to be the style (mode) of rural people--Landhausmode is all about fantasy, and is, as I've gathered from reading various things online, completely different from proper, traditional, heritage-displaying tracht (it's quite easy to find people online who adore tracht and think Landhausmode is abominable...) So! Exploring Landhausmode can lead to all sorts of sumptuous styles that aren't expected to be the least bit 'authentic.' I would also suggest looking at Kerstin's http://www.kerstins-landhausmode.com/ , Angermaier http://www.trachten-angermaier.de/ and Trachtenhimmel http://trachtenhimmel.de/ to see what other glories constitute the modern dirndl *grin*

    And thank you so much for asking! The way you always ask what people think is one of the things I love about your blog.

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    1. Try to get a translation for this (sorry for writing it twice) http://www.sueddeutsche.de/stil/fashionspiesser-zu-pseudo-dirndl-heiliger-rupfensack-1.1776367

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  38. Dirndls: Yes. Yes. Yes, and Yea-yes. Also I ADORE that pattern from Lisette because of the palazzo pants. IMHO it's a super duper example of excellent 70s does 30s: so very beach pajamas-esque. I'd make up that outfit in a heartbeat.

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  39. For me a dirndl is is big Nein! But that's more because they are a bit to pretty for my style rather than because I object. I think a less costumey dirndl (a la Sally McGraw) is pretty and fun and can be a Jawohl!

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  40. Cute dirndl on an adult who isn't a performer. NO. The gathered dirndl skirt as a basic concept is one I use often. In a black tropical weight wool it is a comfortable work skirt and not recognizable as a dirndl skirt. I can knock one out with a yard a fabric and no pattern pretty quick.

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  41. You can steal all you want from white people without fear of cultural appropriation.

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  42. Coming from Austria- in more rural areas you are always appropriately dressed in a dirndl- no matter if for everday wear or for special occasions. In a town like Vienna, it is even here not so common to wear dirndl .
    I personally like the style because it is really feminine and there are so many new takes on this traditional garment, maybe you want to have a look for inspiration.
    www.roosaroth.com/
    http://soell-dirndl.de/kollektion/dirndl-couture-2013/
    http://dirndlherz.at/

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  43. Oh, definite YAH! Even though I am a Bavarian (born in Munich no less) I have never had a dirndl until very recently. And I actually love it. And because everybody is wearing one these days I don't even feel like a peasant. So I guess everyone who likes the style should wear one.

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  44. I have no words to describe my feelings about dirndls but the dog outfit made me laugh! Perfect. Are you going make dirndls for your dogs?

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  45. Meh on the dirdnl. Too much fabric at my waist, thanks, though I like the volume at the hem. I like the stitched down pleats of this one that just came out though:
    http://www.colettepatterns.com/shop/zinnia
    I suspect that changing hte gathers to pleats and stitching them down makes it not-a-dirdnl.

    Dog dirdnl = yay!

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  46. My mother wore Dirndl quite a lot, but she was from Austria and we lived in a rural part of the eastern Netherlands, so no one batted an eyelid. I don't think the dirndl style is either costumey or dated; it's simply a classic.

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  47. It all depends on the shape of the wearer, if you are curvy with a slim waist, a dirndl can be a fantastic look, if you are an apple shape it will make you look like a sofa in a slip cover.

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  48. Since I've moved to another part of Germany more than ten years ago I do not own a dirndl any more. (At least none that fits my todays body...)

    But I grew up in the northern part of Bavaria and even if we are proud in not being Bavarians wearing a Dirndl was not unusual in summer. Also for local fairs and such.

    And since the Dirndl has been worn in everydays life and activites it is a very functional and comfortable thing to wear.

    Where I am living now people would think it as part of a carnival disguisement, so I stopped wearing it.

    (And in case you ever come to Germany and meet a person who is serious about traditions: Never mix up "Dirndl" and "Tracht".... It is very important to know both and not to confuse them. While the Austrians tend to use both terms to indicate the same.)

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  49. Yay! But not on dogs and not the Playboy version, please. (I work out to about half German-American so I think I'm allowed.)

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  50. I have German origins on both sides of my family, but being 3 or 4 generations removed from the emigration, I'd feel quite be-costumed in a traditional dirndl. The gathered rectangle skirt part is ok, but when it starts to have suspender straps and brightly embroidered trim I think I'd have to be planning a weekend at the O-fest to get away with wearing it...and if I did that, I think my (Mexican-heritaged) husband would probably make good on his ongoing threat to wear lederhosen to accompany me. Dirndls, ok in the right setting or with some restraint on the trim. Lederhosen, that's where I draw the line.

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  51. With a knee length skirt, very much yes! Too short and it looks a little like those stripper costumes.

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  52. Love it. I own an authentic dress purchased in Lichtenstein 30 years ago. I love it.

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  53. Having having just moved to the south of Germany and this weekend being the first of the fest season they are EVERYWHERE. I'm currently sewing a "fashion" version (far from traditional) of the Burda pattern and I love it. Being an hourglass shaped lady they suit me & are so fun to wear

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  54. Doesn't Michelle Obama wear modern dirndls. She keeps the tops slim, either showing off her arms or a slim cardigan

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  55. Ditto-Elizabeth ! Poor doggie.
    Love, Sandi

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  56. In 1968, I was forced to take Home Ec, I wanted to take wood shop. Our teacher chose a high waisted cotton dirndl skirt as our introduction to sewing. Mrs A never explained why we did things just that we had to, and had to do it perfectly. She was new to teaching, she made us pin baste and then hand baste before she let us sew. I got my first D ever in that class because of that skirt. It was totally out of style and probably the most unflattering thing a short waisted girl could ever wear.

    That sewing experience was so horrible, that I didn't sew again for 10 years, when somehow I found myself managing a yardage department.The alterations lady gave me lessons, a very different experience. I've been sewing ever since but have never ever wanted to make another dirndl.

    regards,
    Theresa

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  57. The New York Times reports on this today (Sept 29): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/world/europe/dirndl-dress-of-past-makes-a-comeback-in-bavaria.html

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  58. I have a dress I made using the folkwear dirdl pattern as a starting point and it looks fantastic on me. I never fail to get compliments as it is extremely flattering.

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  59. dirndl is ok any time......so many styles have the style in so many varitions...I would be willing to bet people are wearing a form of dirndl and don't realize it.....

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  60. yes to dirndls, especially the ones worn by the waitresses in bavaria. The gastronomie dirndls are not so low cut, are mostly just black with coloured apron. They look very smart. I would wear one here in New Zealand but without the apron. Is there a gastronomie pattern to sew.

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