Thursday, October 22, 2015

Trending in 1950's Style: the Fashion Dirndl Dress



Fashion Dirndl Dress: Trend in 1950’s Style

In the 1950’s, as dirndl style dress became widely popular.  This fashion silhouette emphasized a full skirted, close bodied dress that closely followed in style many regional costumes in Europe. Heavily influenced by this folkwear, very wide skirts and dresses, often made in authentic cottons, were popular following the rise in popularity of Dior's New Look in 1947.


This look developed in the early 1950’s, but it got its start during the 1930’s when ‘peasant’ style skirts and blouses became popular fashion items. It's during this time that the term 'dirndl' comes into popular use in the U.S. to describe a gathered skirt on a waistband.  Easy to sew, with a wide variety of textile patterns and embroidery to choose from, peasant looks borrowed from many authentic garments, including Mexico and South American textiles. The New Look with its full skirts was a natural direction for the peasant trend to follow with increasingly wide skirts and corseted style bodices


Two Swiss women, wearing long aprons


Three Latvian women, with extensive hand embroidery


Estonian women, wearing heavy silver necklaces

 Adaptions of this look were especially popular in junior fashions. These styles might include a gathered bodice to imitate the under blouse worn in the regional costumes. While we may use the term ‘shelf bust’ today, at that time, the usually white gathered bustline was a nod to the hourglass outfits worn for festivals in many regions of Europe. During the 50's this might be as simple as a jumper bodice with white blouse or a low cut bodice with bustline insert.  This easy to sew look caused a trend in home sewing, combining the popular silhouette with easy to sew cottons into well fit, full skirted dress.
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One American label, among many that would design and manufacture these dresses for the junior market, was Lanz of California. While the parent company produced more authentic styles, the American design room located in southern California during the 1950’s would capitalize on the junior customer with bright cottons in popular prints and ginghams. At Lanz these were usually made from cottons with authentic Austrian prints, or plaids and wools with a European flair. Even the trims of rick-rack, piping, and covered buttons helped to create the look.

Lanz Originals, of California, Fall 1955

Today there is a growing interest in dirndl styles, as was discussed recently by Gertie in her blog. While authentic dirndls may seem a bit too costumey for most, fashion adaptions are a new point of view to take when designing dresses today. The low cut blouse insert is especially popular, as seen in Gertie’s  patterns.  Burda has regional dirndls and Folkwear shows an Austrian dirndl too.



What brought my attention to this growing style trend was the overnight sale of this cute authentic dirndl. Clearly, this look is something that is going to be seen more often and could become the most recent 1950’s style that will be adopted and adapted for current wear by retro design labels.

Title Slide: Clockwise from upper left:
Blue Plaid: McCalls 5406
Turquoise Gingham: McCalls 5406
Red Corset: Butterick 9635
Gingham Puff Sleeve: Advance 9432
Bridget Bardot: uncredited photo

Assorted Patterns Slide: Clockwise from upper left, excluding patterns listed above
Red Dress and Gingham jumper (2nd edition) Simplicity 1010

Original color plates from: Lands and People, the world in color, 1929

2 comments:

Lynn Mally said...

I was an exchange student in Switzerland in 1967-68 and developed a real hatred of dirndls--worn only by people at strange folk festivals and mean older women. (I wonder if they really were mean, or it was just my perspective then.) For this reason, I always wondered why designers used the term dirndl when they could just say "gathered skirt."

Jen O said...

I think the term dirndl came into use in the 1930's when a simple gathered skirt was popular with that name, so it was applies to all gathered skirts. The term shows up in my textbook collection around that time.

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