“Cheers!” – For most of us, traditional German and Austrian dress automatically brings beer tankards, fresh pretzels and oompah music to mind. Of course, this is not surprising considering Munich’s folk festival is famous far beyond Bavaria’s borders and beloved by millions. However, we have spoken to Rosmarie Henke who has convinced us that Dirndl and Lederhosen (known as Trachtenmode in German) can – and should – be worn more than once a year thanks to their long-standing tradition and history.
For more than 25 years, the Trachtenmode maker from Aschau am Inn has been teaching the art of Dirndl sewing and the production of traditional Bavarian dress, a dream come true for many sewing enthusiasts. We, too, recently became aware of her online sewing courses and would like to give you a sneak peek of what she has to offer with a sewing guide for a traditional apron.
Sewing a Dirndl apron is rather easy when you have already mastered the challenge of Dirndl sewing. However, some styles of Dirndl apron are very complicated to sew, says Rosmarie Henke. If you're not quite ready to take on a full Dirndl, a self-sewn apron is sure to be the perfect introduction to adding a unique, personal touch to your Dirndl.
In the past, the Dirndl apron was used as protection for the Dirndl dress itself. If you were out collecting apples, mushrooms or wood, you could lift the bottom two corners, enabling you to transport your items. It was also handy for quickly wiping your hands clean on the skirt of the apron. In German, aprons also used to be known as a "Vortuch", meaning a cloth or towel for your front. Today, it’s more than just a functional piece of fabric. Instead, it is the Dirndl apron that underlines the beauty of the Dirndl. It is simply the icing on the cake of the Dirndl and is essential to every Dirndl or bodiced skirt.
If you are sewing an apron for a cotton Dirndl, then cotton fabrics are the best choice. If the Dirndl is fancier, aprons made of silk, taffeta or a polyester blend will be a great fit. In any case, the fabric should be a color match for the color of your Dirndl. For example, you can pick out a color from the pattern on the Dirdl for the fabric on your apron.
The exact size depends on the skirt length
Example: The Dirndl skirt is 80 cm long
Required fabric length: 78 cm apron length + 10 cm hem = 88 cm, rounded up to 90 cm
Fabric width: 150 cm
For a really beautiful look, the finished Dirndl apron should be 2 to 3 cm shorter than the Dirndl skirt at the end.
When cutting the Dirndl apron, it is also important to pay close attention to the grain and pattern on the fabric. Flowers, for example, should always point upwards.
For the skirt of the apron, you will need a fabric width of 110 to 120 cm; using Rosmarie Henke's method, the apron strings are cut from the remaining material.
3 strips (90 cm), 9 cm wide, for the apron strings including waistband. The strings will be turned inside out later.
THE PLEATS AT THE WAISTBAND
For fabrics with a pattern that run from top to bottom, it is a good idea to add pleats to the apron. Here’s how: Fold the skirt of the apron in the middle and mark the centre with a pin.
Position the pleats nice and evenly pointing towards the center (use the pattern as a guide) and then secure with the sewing machine.
To do this, use the sewing machine to stitch over the folds 0.5 cm from the top edge, opting for a larger stitch.
Then hem the sides of the apron skirt twice and iron.
PREPARING THE WAISTBAND
Next, put the 3 cut fabric strips (9 cm x 90 cm each) for the apron strings together to form a long piece of 270 cm (keeping an eye on the pattern as always). The long 270 cm strip becomes the apron's ties and waistband in one.
To do this, pin the short edges of the pieces together, right side on right side, and sew together to form a long strip.
Since the seam of the assembled strip should not be in the middle of the waistband, decide on the best place for the seam in advance.
PREPARING THE WAISTBAND
The long apron string is wrapped around the waist, going from front to back and back to the front again. Determine on which side the bow should be tied. If you tie the bow on the right side because you are taken, the string on the right side should be approx. 25-30 cm longer than on the left side.
Use the tacking thread to mark the point that should be on the bottom right of the waistband.
The part that is wrapped around your waist needs to be reinforced with interfacing. This requires approx. 9 cm x 90 cm of medium-strength interfacing.
Next, pin the waistband right side on right side and stitch together.
FINISHING THE WAISTBAND
Now it is time to turn the apron ties inside out.
Place the strings right sides together and iron. Again, please pay close attention to the pattern. Insert needles crosswise, as this makes it easy to sew over the needles.
The waistband should be 3 cm wide when finished.
The ends of the bow are stitched at an angle and the ties are stitched until they run into the already stitched waistband seam.
Cut close to the seam in the corners so that you don't have any thick areas at the ends of the bow later.
Next, use a long thin implement to turn the waistband out from both sides and then carefully steam the apron ties.
Then turn the waistband over the seam and stitch together.
On this sample apron, the skirt is 80 cm long.
A Dirndl apron should always be 2 to 3 cm shorter than the skirt. So, the length here is 78 cm – measured from the bottom edge of the waistband.
Iron in the hem before sewing. First fold in approx. 1.5 cm from the edge to the wrong side and iron. Then fold in and iron the rest of the hem. Pin or tack the hem and then hem by hand. Last but not least, iron the apron again.
“The apron is the most eye-catching part of a Dirndl.”
Rosmarie Henke also has a free video course on how to sew a Dirndl apron.
You can find further information on the courses offered by Rosmarie Henke here.