If you have read some of my really old posts I have spoken about my Auntie Gwen, who pretty much raised me as a child and from whom I got my love of old fashioned films, style and clothes. Especially the bright technicolour musicals.
Every weekend in the 80’s you could pretty much guarantee there would be films from the 1940’s and 1950’s. She would send me up to the local shop, Gilbey’s for a quarter of cough candy and a quarter of sweet peanuts, both sugary and terribly bad for your teeth. Along with a big bottle of fizzy pop; usually limeade or cream soda, we would get ourselves ready to see what the weekends offering was.
It really didn’t matter what it was; cowboy and westerns, Biblical epics, Sherlock Holmes, Abbott and Costello, the Carry On films, you name it we watched it.
But my favourites without a doubt were the musicals. The beautiful glamorous ladies, their stunning costumes, the dramatic story-lines; we spent hours sobbing into packs of tissues. You could guarantee we would be singing the songs from them for at least a couple of days.
So what has this got to do with dirndl’s?
Or you might even be asking yourself, WHAT is a Dirndl?
For those of you that have seen the wonderful ‘Sound of Music’ (which is in fact one of my favourite ever films) there is a lot of Dirndl wearing in it. Yes, a Dirndl is a traditional dress that is worn in Austria and mainly in the Bavarian area of Germany. It consists of a dress or skirt, a blouse and an apron.
I have loved these outfits since I was around 6 years old when I first saw the film. When I was smaller I wanted to be Maria and then as I grew up, I wished I was the beautiful Liesl. The eldest daughter, almost a woman who gets swept up in the first flush of love, only to have her heart broken.
She was ethereal. She had a beautiful face and a charm and innocence that not everyone could pull off. I wanted to be her.
Since then, I have wanted to wear a dirndl. A bit of a fascination for me, however I never expected I would get to wear one. And then, my wonderful friend Rhina invited me to Stuttgart for Cannstatter Wasen (a type of Harvest Festival) when everyone dresses in their best Dirndl and Lederhosen.
So, I was all set to get as authentic as possible and Rhina said she would visit a few of the dirndl shops to scope out what was available for me. This was when we hit a bit of a problem. Needing a European size 56, they are not in easy supply and Rhina started to struggle to get anything for me.
Then she told me about a pop-up Dirndl shop around 5 minutes walk from where she lives. She popped in a few days before I was due to arrive and saw the lovely Toby and explained what she wanted. She told him all about me and my dream to own a dirndl and then showed him my social media.
His response was a beautiful lady such as me HAD to have a dirndl for the festival.
Although the shop is based in Stuttgart, the dirndl come from a company called Wenger who are based in Austria. The dirndl are brought across the border to stock the shop and are also much cheaper than all of the dirndl shops in Stuttgart, by huge amounts.
Rhina popped back the day before I was due to arrive and Toby told her he had three dirndl that he had saved for me and hoped that they would be a good fit.
To say I was excited was a total understatement!
Whilst I arrived on Thursday I did have a photo shoot so was unable to go to see Toby and his lovely wife Uschi until the Friday morning. I woke up absolutely buzzing. Was today the day I got to fulfil my dreams?
Arriving at the shop, I was welcomed so warmly by Toby, Uschi and the rest of the team. Toby went and found the three dirndl and accessories he had put aside for me and it was now time to try them on. He also kindly provided us with glasses of Prosecco to make the shopping trip a real delight.
I had a bit of a wander around the shop. It was filled with patterns and designs of every colour combination you could think of. Colours that normally you would never put together, like hot pink and lime green. But they all worked so well. It was a colour paradise.
Eventually I went to try on my dirndl. The first was a mid calf length in a blue and white floral sprig pattern. around the bust line was a red and white piping. It came with a red spotty apron and the standard cropped blouse.
I was so eager to try it on that I was literally fizzing with excitement.
The dress was stunning. it clung in the right places, supported in others. The structure of the dress make it very robust. Rhina told me I would not need to wear my corset to support my back as this would do it for me.
So, did I like the dirndl?
I loved everything about it and tears filled my eyes. It really was a moving experience and I knew if my Aunt Gwen was still with me, she would have been as proud as punch.
Rhina took time to tell me how I needed to tie the apron as depending whether you are single you wear it on the left, married on the right.
Of course we had to take lots of photographs before changing into the next dress.
This time it was a black dress with a very square neckline and buttons from top to bottom. Very tiny fiddly buttons that I had to get Rhina to help with.
There was a choice of aprons to try this one on with and I was torn between which ones were my favourites. I was unsure about the dress however as I wasn’t convinced that I could do the tiny buttons all by myself whilst trying to contain my bust!
Moving on to the last dress, again also black I was struck by the ornate metal clasps that adorned the front of the dress. Whilst I try not to wear black at all due to spending many years hiding away in it, this was simply stunning.
The dress has 6 metal clasps which you either adorn with a metal chain or ribbon, it meant you could change up the look very simply and easily. The metal chain is designed to hang dirndl ‘charivari’ from which are kind of like old-fashioned chatelaines. Sadly the chain wouldn’t stay shut as my chest kept pulling the links apart.
However Toby had a box full of ribbons which complimented the aprons and I decided that would be a perfect option for me.
Now was tough decision. Whilst I loved them all, I couldn’t afford everything so needed to make a decision.
I counted out the second dress and the buttons would really frustrate me. Now for the choice between the blue and the black. Well, I was possibly only going to be there once in my life so I threw caution to the wind and decided to get both of them. The blouse needed to come and then it was down to the aprons.
In the end I decided to get three. This way I could mix and match to my hearts content. Of course I went with the red spot that had come with the blue dress, then went on to choose an emerald green and a pink stripe to go with the black dress. Perfect!
For the dresses, three aprons, blouse and ribbons the whole total came to just over 200 euro. Whilst this sounds like a lot, I had been saving for most of the year for the purchase.
Also, when visiting some other shops, I found that this was an exceptional price. The cheapest dirndl I saw was 259 euro, the most expensive was 599 euro! I was gobsmacked by how expensive they were elsewhere.
I was just so delighted to get the dirndl of my dreams and couldn’t wait to put them on for my first taste of the Cannstatter Wasen.
Watch this space for what happened next…
Till next time