A portrait: Katharina Rettenwender, the passionate dirndl seamstress
You don’t have to hear what some people are saying, you just know that they’re talking about their passion in life. That happened to me when I talked to Katharina Rettenwender about her dirndl dressmaking business. Even though due to corona half her face is covered with a mask, her enthusiasm for her sewing workshop is reflected in her sparkling eyes. The reason for my visit to her lovingly decorated dressmaker’s shop in Filzmoos is simple, I want to learn more about dirndl dressmaking and Katharina’s so kind as to answer my questions.
The first question is obvious: why did you become a dressmaker?
Katharina reminisces briefly and I can detect a slight smile on her lips under her mask. “Even as a little girl I enjoyed sewing with my grandma at home. So, it was no surprise that I attended a school specialising in home economics. Fortunately, after finishing school I was lucky enough to become an apprentice at a Austrian costume tailor’s shop in the region, and now I have my own little dressmaking business.
How many dirndl dresses do you sew on average in a year?
“I don’t have an official figure. My “peak season“ is from March to July and then again in autumn, as during these periods there are a lot of festivities such as weddings, confirmations and first communion celebrations.“
How long does it take to sew a dirndl dress from start to finish?
“That’s difficult to say as every client is different and I take the time, each one needs. And sometimes it can take longer.“
How many dirndl dresses hang in your own wardrobe?
“Not as many as you might think, actually. I don’t like wearing the same dirndl on various occasions, but I quite often change the apron, thus making the outfit look different.“
When a customer comes through the door, do you have an idea what dress she might like?
“No, it’s not that easy unfortunately, but I know exactly what questions to ask so that we can agree on the perfect dirndl dress. My priority is that every client feels comfortable in their dirndl dress. Personal client contact and service are my utmost concern and so I like to find out lots about each person and their preferences, which are generally reflected in their choice of materials and cut.
Where do your customers come from?
“Many come from the surrounding area, however, there are some that have a longer journey, for example from Munich or Linz. Guests in Filzmoos visit me too during their holiday and look forward to their next holiday when they can take home their finished dirndl dress. “
Do you also sew “traditional costumes“?
“Yes, of course. For example, I’ve also tailored the original Filzmoos dirndl dress. Special materials and patterns were chosen, which represent the connection with the resort and its landmark.“
Can certain trends be found in the world of traditional costume?
“Trends are definitely present in the world of traditional costume e.g.: a snow white collar or a high-necked dirndl dress. I make my clients aware, however, that a tailor-made dirndl dress should last longer and that you can follow various trends matching it with different blouses. I find fashion and traditional dress can be combined, but it has to be done cleverly.“
To finish, Katharina tells me about her own fashion show “Alpine life meets dirndl“, which takes place every two years in Filzmoos at the Kirchgasshütte/Aualm. The fashion show takes place on the 2nd Sunday in September, on so-called “Dirndl-dress Sunday“. This day is celebrated throughout the province of Salzburg and symbolizes the bond between, man, tradition and homeland.
For the fashion show Katharina creates dirndl dresses, where her own creativity has a free rein. Her love of detail can be found in every single dress. The clothes in the fashion show can, by the way, be purchased afterwards. What’s special about them? Each dirndl dress is unique – just like all dirndl dresses made by Katharina Rettenwender, in fact.
You’re probably wondering how the material is turned into a finished dirndl dress. Well, that’s another story, which I’ll be telling you very soon.
photo credits: Katja Eggenhofer, TVB Filzmoos, Coen Weesjes