In March of 1983, my Grandparents set out for their first adventure in Africa. They visited Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. They had been to Central and South America in previous years, but this would be their first trip to Africa and they were very excited. “I remember really looking forward to the new experiences. I never went into a trip with preconceived ideas. I always went with an open mind; ready to take it all in” said Grandma Rosina.  

Their tour took them from Casablanca to Taraudant, Marakesh to the Atlas Mountains, Fez and Meknes. Their time in Morocco ended in Rabat before they headed east to Tunisia.

While going through the photo album with Grandma she reminisced with me about how much she loved the unique architecture. It was unlike anything they had seen before and the intricate dome shaped cutouts around building entrances would be something they would only see again in Spain (because some of their buildings were designed and made by Moroccans).  

The souks (market places) were another memory of Morocco that stood out to my grandma. She talked about how one could spend days in some of the souks, not to mention get lost. The images in her album were so mesmerizing but I knew those photos couldn’t do justice to the scale and intensity of the open-air market. Bustling with shoppers and hundreds of sacks and baskets overflowing with spices, nuts, seeds, and fruits. She recalled how she had her very first taste of a date in Morocco and now when she buys Moroccan dates at the supermarket, she is reminded fondly of this wonderful adventure with her husband so many years ago.   

Looking through the photos in the album, I was struck by the image of her with the water sellers. She said these men in their elaborate outfits, covered in cups would sell cups of water and tea to passers by.   

After their time in some of the larger cities, they headed towards the High Atlas Mountains. They saw a completely different way of life there. From the nomads who pitched tents wherever they’re journey took them, to the people who made their homes in these small mountain villages. In Ouarzazata, there was a stark difference in the way people dressed from the primarily Muslim cities to the Berbers who were adorned in rich costumes and jewelry. The architecture also changed from large fortress Kasbahs to individual houses.  

Listening to Grandma Rosina talk about her first trip to North Africa and seeing the photos from their adventure in Morocco I was inspired to design something that reminded me of the epic souks and the striking beauty of the architecture of old Kasbah Mosques. So, for this dirndl I started with black suede that reminded me of the soft blackness that you see when you look through the sculpted dome-shaped archways of the buildings. Then I used a soft taupe for the skirt and piping to bring in the feelings of warm sand of the Sahara. To pull it all together I used a coral, brown and black burnout apron with coral apron ties and a coral lace up front to add pops of color like the spices, nuts, seeds and fruits in the baskets at the markets.  

For my grandparents, their trip to Morocco was just the beginning of their adventure in North Africa… and just the beginning of what would become an over 20-year span of epic travels throughout the world. They’re open mindset and thirst for cultural knowledge and experiences is something that I admire and hope to someday follow in their footsteps… all over the world.

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Below is an image of the dirndl that I designed to go along with this story and some reasons for the decisions that I made. What do you think? Do you see the inspiration in this design? Have you been to Morocco? Tell me all about it in the comments. I would love to hear your story!  

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Dirndl Design Inspiration-2
August 10, 2018 — Erika Neumayer

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