Folkwear Patterns 123: Austrian Dirndl


Bodice: Lightweight, green and black, rayon blend brocade from an ASG stash exchange underlined with black cotton flannel from Joann Fabrics and lined with a scrap of China silk from Thai Silks in Mountain View, CA.
Skirt: Midnight, tropical weight wool suiting from my stash - likely from another ASG exchange, but possibly from Denver Fabrics online. Blouse: A 12-foot long linen jacquard tablecloth (the rest of the table cloth was used for the bodice toile and the apron strings)
Apron: A beautiful, embroidered, cutwork, linen bridge cloth from my husband’s grandmother.


I originally purchased Folkwear Pattern number 123 because it contained a booklet with instructions for making a number of the traditional Austrian dirndl trims. I’ve created many of these to trim classic French quilted jackets over the years. This year, however, my daughter made plans to go to Munich during Oktoberfest. I offered to make her a dirndl.

Fitting Notes:

My daughter is in her early twenties. She has the erect postured, symmetrical, hourglass figure for which most patterns are drafted, so the pattern only required minor alterations. I made a forward shoulder alteration on both the bodice and the blouse. I used the blouse pattern that is drafted for larger busts and I lowered the darts on the bodice. My daughter wanted a lower cut bodice and blouse, but I did not have the time or fitting opportunities to make the boned, View B bodice, so I altered the neckline height of the bodice View A. My daughter is tall, so I altered the length of the bodice and skirt as well.

Construction Details:

I made the apron and blouse first, as the bodice and skirt would have to match them. The apron was fairly straightforward. I simply cut the embellished corners off of the top of the bridge cloth, gathered it, and inserted it into the apron tie I made from the other linen tablecloth. Similarly, the blouse came together quite quickly as well. Once both of those were completed, I was ready to fit the bodice.

I made a toile for the bodice from the remaining blouse fabric and fit it over the blouse so that the necklines were complimentary. The fabric my daughter chose for the bodice was quite lightweight. We weren’t sure whether it would be cold in Munich, and the fabric needed to be reinforced in any case, so I underlined it with a fairly stiff black cotton flannel from Joann Fabrics. Underlining also provided a surface for anchoring the seam allowances and the interfacing for the hem (more on that in a moment.) I used Alison Smith’s technique for the bodice buttonholes: two spools of thread (in my case, one black thread and one green thread) both threaded through the same needle. The bobbin was a single thread; I tightened the bobbin tension. The mixed thread colors blended perfectly with the jacquard bodice.

The skirt presented a number of construction challenges. First off, I did not have enough fabric length to cut three panels as directed by the pattern. However, I had enough length to cut two panels; the fabric was extra wide, so each panel was wider than its corresponding pattern piece. The final skirt width was the same as the pattern, but in two pieces with center back and center front seams. Following the pattern instructions, I first gathered the skirt using a machine zig-zag over a heavy (buttonhole) twist. The zigzag tunneled unattractively. In addition, his method resulted in uneven gathers that looked bulky on the bodice. The bulk of the gathers also distorted the bodice hem, so I knew I needed a different approach. I follow a number of historical costumers and reenactors on social media. I looked at the waist seam on a variety of their garments and decided that I needed to make cartridge pleats. I carefully marked my skirt and made neat, beautiful cartridge pleats – thank you, @VBirchwood , for your clear YouTube video

Once I completed the cartridge pleats on the skirt, I needed to rethink the hem of the bodice. It really required more structure to support this skirt. My solution was to interface the hem of the bodice with horsehair canvas. (I’ve been wanting an excuse to make an interfaced hem for quite a while, but, living her in Southern California, I don’t usually utilize the sorts of heavy fabrics which require them!) I followed the wonderful instructions for interfaced hems provided by my 1976 copy of The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing which you can see in my video. I fell-stitched the skirt to the bodice hem by hand, then covered everything with a light silk lining.

Sadly, I did not have time to make trim for this dirndl bodice before my daughter packed for her trip. There’s always next time!

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