The Disney Dirndl Challenge

Sometimes you wish you could bring the flair, cut, construction and finishing techniques of historical clothing, and the magic of Disney costumes, into real life. A dirndl is almost something in between, and when some of us Disney cosplayers/historical costumers discussed this a few months ago, the Disney Dirndl Challenge was born. It’s hosted by the Historically Accurate Disney Costuming group – another result of the discussion mentioned above – on Facebook, but as not everyone is on Facebook, I will post about it here too.


What is a dirndl?
A dirndl is a female outfit from Austria, South Tyrol and Bavaria. It’s originally the middle class’ romanticized version of Alpine folk costumes, and, following current trends and fashions, looks quite different today from its beginnings in the late 1800’s. Despite the changes in style, fabric and colours, a classic dirndl consists of these elements:

– A blouse, usually white, reaching to just below the bust, and with a vast variety in neckline and sleeve styles. It’s not quite the thing to wear a sleeveless dirndl dress without a blouse.


– A dress with a tightly fitted bodice and a full skirt. The bodice closes in front with hooks, buttons or a zip and decorative lacing, depending on what area it’s from, and how traditional it is. Though usually sleeveless, short or long sleeves is an option, especially in winter. The blouse can then be omitted. The skirt typically consists of straight panels pleated to the bodice, but in modern fashion dirndl you sometimes see flared skirts. A classy dirndl skirt shouldn’t be shorter than to just below the knee, but can be longer – for formal events it’s often ankle length, but mid-calf is also pretty. It can be made from the same fabric as the bodice, a matching fabric or a contrasting one. It usually looks better when worn over petticoats: tulle is fluffy, cotton comfortable and swishy.


– An apron. This is a vital part of a dirndl, or it’s just another jumper dress. The apron is often tightly cartridge pleated or stroke gathered to a waistband. The apron ties in front, off to one side: there is a modern myth that you can tell a woman’s relationship status by the placement of the bow, but it does not have any base in tradition – seeing how widespread this myth is, however, maybe it will become truth in time?


Dirndls are not typically worn on a day to day basis in Austria, Bavaria and South Tyrol, but rather for formal wear, during Oktoberfest/Wiesn, or by women in tourist businesses. However, that is not a rule written in stone. Over the years dirndls have influenced regular fashion all over the West, gone in an out of popularity. There is currently a sort of revival of dirndl mania – we’re jumping on the bandwagon with this challenge.


Cut and Construction
Dirndl construction uses several sewing techniques familiar to historical costumers, like flatlining, cartridge pleating and piping, details that give a beautiful result to the finished garment, seldom seen in most modern clothing. There are several patterns available for dirndls. Some are more costume-y: avoid those. This is a pretty good summary of what’s available.


What patterns you use – the cut of bodice and blouse – can greatly enhance the look of the character you are inspired by. There are thousands of images of dirndls online, so there is lots of inspiration and research possibilities.


Material and Colours
A dirndl is usually made from natural materials: cotton, linen, wool, silk, or a mixture of these. The dress and apron can be made from solid colours, stripes, flowery prints or, less frequently, checks and plaids. Mixing and matching is perfectly all right. There are some colour combinations that are typical of certain regions, but there are also an endless variety of combinations in fashion dirndls. For the purpose of the Disney Dirndl Challenge, choice of colours will be decided by the character you want to channel. Fabrics made especially for dirndls can be got in Austria and Germany, or ordered online from there, but other fabrics can be used too.
Dirndls can be as plain or as heavily trimmed as your taste and patience allows. Look at dirndls online for inspiration. There are also online tutorials for several kinds of trims.



The challenge
There is no time limit to this challenge, as we know how many other projects you might already be working on, or have on your to-do list. Rather, the research, creating and wearing of the dirndl is a challenge – especially the latter might prove challenging in an everyday setting.


1. Do the research. Look at pictures, read tutorials. Learn to see what makes a real dirndl, and what’s merely costume. Questions can be discussed in the comment section of this post, or in the Facebook group, and tutorials and other helpful resources will be posted there too.


2. Design a dirndl fitting your chosen character. This is more akin to a Disneybound than a cosplay, as it’s real clothes, not a costume, and your hair and skin colour doesn’t have to match those of the character – the character doesn’t even have to be human to inspire a dirndl. Be creative.


3. Put the dirndl together, whether by buying, commissioning or sewing the different elements. It has to be a proper dirndl, with all the clothing pieces, the proper style and materials, not a cheap beer chugging costume. Play with fabrics, prints and trim.


4. Wear it. Just like with a Disneybound you can, if you like, accessorise with hairstyle, jewellery, shoes, purses etc. to further accentuate the character, but still be yourself. Of course you can also use your dirndl to do a cosplay, with wig, makeup, props and all, but that is outside the actual challenge.


We’d love to see pictures of your progress and finished dirndl, whether used for a Disneybound or a cosplay! There is a photo album dedicated especially to this challenge in the Facebook group. You can also use the hashtag #DisneyDirndlChallenge if you post elsewhere.


With this challenge we hope to encourage the wearing of clothes that are not only nerdy, but also pretty, more often – life really is too short to reserve the nicest clothes only for events or conventions.

2 thoughts on “The Disney Dirndl Challenge

  1. Sounds pretty and fun and I wish I had the time, I’ve recently started blogging on wordpress, how do you get it to look so nice? . I hope someone does Olaf


  2. Christine Kelsey 19 September, 2018 — 21:59

    I am about to start on my journey to sew a Suzy Mouse or Perla Mouse, depending on who you are talking to, Drindl to wear to the Mickey’s Halloween Treat.


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