I grew up in a family of tailors. As a small child, I remember my mother, aunts, and uncles creating beautiful garments, jewelry, and furnishings. Some of my earliest memories are images of vivid colors, interesting patterns, and the feel of wonderful textures of the fabrics and materials that surrounded me. I was fascinated watching my relatives work with these textiles and other materials, and I felt so proud and excited when they allowed me to help in some small way. And so, my love of design and creative expression was born.
I looked for any resource I could find to help satisfy my hunger for creating garments and accessories. Unfortunately, in the 70s and 80s, there were no online magazines, shops, or social media sources where people shared ideas and how-tos like Pinterest and Instagram.
However, there were some magazines like Vogue (the most famous at the time) that I poured over and tore pages from for inspiration. Luckily, Anne Burda’s BurdaStyle monthly magazine included printed patterns, and I anxiously awaited each issue’s release. I especially loved her quarterly and seasonal publications because they always included a children’s section.
Every season, I anxiously awaited for my mother to sew me a lovely Dirndl dress with apron. I was the only one of my friends to wear a Dirndl. Even though they weren’t popular at the time among my peers, I loved how the full skirt, fitted bodice, puffy sleeves and adorable apron made me look and feel special.
I was especially proud that this was the traditional garment worn by so many young girls in Bavaria and Austria for hundreds of years. Back then, Dirndls were designed to represent what region the girl was from, or her family’s origin. Sometimes, they were simply functional garments, and other times they signified a family’s social status.
Wearing my own Dirndl, I would sometimes pretend I was one of those girls from so long ago, and I secretly wished other girls would appreciate and wear them too.
After years of traveling and living in different places, a few years ago I moved to Salzburg, Austria – the city made famous by the American classic movie, “The Sound of Music.” In the opening sequence, you see Julie Andrews in her Dirndl, spinning around on top of a hillside filled with joy. Here, in this traditional city surrounded by the majestic Alps, I too am filled with joy like Julie, because my childhood wish came true.
All around me, I see women and children wearing colorful Dirndls at weddings, Sunday church, Easter, Palm Sundays, and for festivals and special occasions such as Rupertitag and Maibaumfest (Maypole). Dirndls are even a popular garment at Ocktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
Wearing Dirndls again is something very special to me. It reminds me of my childhood days helping my mother choose the right fabric and color for the season and waiting for my mother to finish my unique dress so I could wear it. It brings back warm memories of my mother’s patience, love and caring attention, which I hold close to my heart since I lost her when I was still teenager.
I look forward to sharing more about the traditional cloths of Austria, and Germany, and the festivals and special occasions of heritage where Dirndls are worn.