My mother-in-law noticed that I had done Up-cycle Project using a vintage dirndl for a customer and she was wondering if I would be able to do the same for her. Of course I was super excited and was totally ready for the challenge!  

Gerti found this traditional dirndl dress back in 1990 when she was visiting family in Austria. She bought this magenta plaid, one-piece dirndl at a Kastner & Öhler (or K&O) in Graz, Austria. She said, "I loved the color and I remember it was on sale."

Well, who doesn't love a great traditional dirndl on sale?! Gerti was with her two young sons so this dirndl holds great memories of that trip and her time abroad with her boys.

Three women in traditional german attire celebrating german heritage

She was fine with the skirt and apron remaining the same, but the bodice, "is a bit dated and the sleeves are a bit too poofy." I suggested  making the bodice a solid cotton, ditching the sleeves and using that fabric to create a neckline trim and then adding a chic ribbon lace up front. Gerti loved my suggestions so she said goodbye to the old dirndl and I got the scissors ready!  

updating a traditional dress

First I carefully removed the buttons and the lace from the neckline. I wasn't sure how or if I was going to use them, but I wanted to make sure that if I did they were in good shape. I then removed the sleeves and pressed the fabric. There was a remarkably large amount of fabric to use from the sleeves.

It turned out to be a bit tricky to turn the fabric into a trim because of the plaid. If I cut the strips for the trim in one direction, the trim would be mostly white... and if I did it in the other direction, it would have been mostly pink.

So I decided to add a woven fusible interfacing to the fabric and then cut it on the bias. This means it was cut on a 45 degree angle which would include an equal amount of pink and white!  

updating traditional garments

I placed the fusible strategically so that the fabric would no longer stretch when I cut it on the bias... and yes, I pieced smaller pieces of fusible together to use up some scraps. Since it was just for the trim, it's fine, but I don't do this for dirndl bodices... don't worry! 😉  

update traditional clothing to be more modern

Eventually, I found a perfect magenta to match the plaid and I used that as the bodice. The white piping added at the princess seams and the armholes popped perfectly and tied the skirt into the bodice, but I felt like it wasn't enough.

After I reattached the skirt, I saw the lace sitting to the side and thought... what if I sew that around the neckline first and then the pleated trim over the top. There was literally juuuuuuust enough lace. Booya!! Getting closer...  

upcycling a vintage dirndl dress

Finally I added silver hooks to the front that have a floral motif to accent the little purple flowers in the plaid. With the final touch of a white ribbon and chain to lace up the front... it was just enough balance of magenta and white, modern and nostalgia, elegance and fun. If I do say so myself... Nailed it!     

a close up of a traditional dirndl
traditional bavarian dress with a modern twist

I surprised Gerti with the finished piece for Christmas and she was overjoyed with the results. I was so excited and couldn't wait to see it on her. About 6 months later, in July, she posted this photo to Facebook with the caption, "From old to new! I bought this Dirndl in Graz, Austria in 1990. Thank you Erika Neumayer of Rare Dirndl for updating it and making it even more beautiful... and it still fits after almost 30 years."  

woman wearing a traditional Bavarian dress with long skirt length

I was elated to see how flattering the updated look was and how gorgeous Gerti looked in the color. Another up-cycle project - CHECK. Another happy customer - CHECK. Happy designer - DOUBLE CHECK!

I do wish I took more photos of the original dirndl dress, but I was just so excited to get started... I only thought about taking the pictures after it was too late... oopsies. If you have an old dirndl that’s been in your family for years… or a prom, special occasions, or bridesmaid’s dress, and you would like me to up-cycle it into a fresh and new dirndl send me an e-mail and we can get the ball rolling.

Pricing is the similar to a custom dirndl, Click here for a PDF of the process and pricing. These are some of my favorite projects to work on and I can’t wait to work with you!!

Ever wonder which dirndl style you are? Click here to take our quiz and find out now!   

January 30, 2018 — Erika Neumayer

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