In my continuing quest to learn to sew, I present my most recent project! I was (and still am, oops) in the middle of sewing a Cinderella ball gown, but hit a rut. Instead of pushing forward, I starting looking at costumes online. Emma Watson’s new Belle dresses were all over Pinterest. I have voiced strong opinions about Belle’s yellow ballgown, but I rather like the twist on her classic blue dress. It’s not accurate to, well, any time period, but I like that it looks real in a fantasy world way. Cinderella’s day dress from the 2015 movie is similar (although more accurate to the vague time period it strives for). That got me wondering, if someone adapted Rapunzel’s dress to look more “real world”, what would it look like?
The original fairytale comes from Germany, so my first thought was to look at traditional regional dresses. It was not a difficult search. The dirndl is a favorite of Oktoberfest, but is also a traditional peasant look from the Bavaria/ Austria area (if you lower the hemline and raise the neckline a bit). I pinned a ton of different dirndls for inspiration on Pinterest, such as this one. Dirndls can be more or less complicated if you add details, but follow the same basic pattern. This was appealing as I wanted to choose a project that would challenge me, but wouldn’t be so hard that I would get frustrated and give up. A dirndl was also a good choice because I already knew that we had a pattern for it.
My initial plan was to find fabric with lots of texture to use, but then I found the cotton fabric below at Walmart for $1.99 a yard. It was the perfect color combination, and finding the right shade of Rapunzel orchid is almost impossible right now. So I threw the textured fabric plan out the window and bought the fabric pictured below.
I used Folkwear 123 for the bodice. My mum has had this pattern for 40 years. Learning to sew when you live with someone who has been collecting fabric and patterns for decades is prime. I also used some purple cotton we had in our stash for the mock up/ lining. When possible I’ve learned to make my mock up out of a color that goes well with my project fabric. That way if it fits nicely, I can just use it as the lining.
The bodice mock up fit pretty well straight from the pattern, so I went ahead and cut the bodice out of the floral fabric. I forget if the pattern called for boning, but I added some into the lining so that the top would lie smoother. My plan was to sew a blouse to go with the dirndl, but I threw up my Belle blouse on the dummy to get an idea of how it all looked together. Ultimately, I got so used to the way it looked that I didn’t bother to make a new blouse.
I didn’t use the pattern for the skirt. Instead I just made a basic skirt by cutting a long rectangle, gathering it, and sewing it to a waistband. The most time consuming element of the costume was the embroidery I did along the hem of the skirt. I wanted to try some needlework, and Rapunzel’s skirt in the movie has designs along the skirt. Online I found several people who had sketched out the design, so I didn’t even need to study the movie carefully.
Many hours later, I embroidered all the way around the skirt hem… and you can barely see it.
So sad. Here’s a slightly blurry close up.
For the apron I also didn’t use a pattern. I cut out a rectangle out of white cotton. Then I cut out a much longer, much skinnier rectangle out of white eyelet to gather as a ruffle. After hemming everything, I gathered the ruffle and sewed it to the bottom of the apron, then I gathered the top edge of the apron. The waistband was another long strip of white fabric, but it hit some road bumps.
I had seen some dirndls online that had bows with a contrasting lining color, and I thought that was fun. My plan was to cut a long strip of one color, and a long strip of the other color and sew the edges together to create a long tube. When flipped inside out and ironed, the tube would turn into a two colored sash. This approach wasn’t a bad one, but I miscalculated the width for my waistband. I should have figured out how wide I wanted my waistband, then added seam allowance, and cut that in half to account for using two fabrics. Instead I decided how wide I wanted the waist and then cut the full width from both fabrics. Oops. I like a wide waistband, so I figured I would roll with it and see how it turned out.
It did not turn out well. It’s not very obvious in the photo, but lining the fabric in pink made it too thick and the bow didn’t tie nicely. Sighing, I seam ripped the waist from the apron and pulled apart the two fabrics I had used. I decided to use the pink to add a pop of color, and resewed everything together using just the single piece of fabric to sew into a tube. The thinner waistband did the trick. Satisfied, I handstitched the backside of the apron into the waistband to make it nice and finished. At the very ends of the bow ties, I stitched a few purple details. You can see these in exactly none of the photos I took.
In the photo below you can also see the waistband pocket I made. I saw this one, and thought it was such a fun detail. Using fabric and ribbon we had in our stash I made my own. First, I tried embroidering it and using buttons, but it looked weird so I ripped all that out and just added some ribbon. Then, after looking at the outfit, decided I didn’t really like the way it looked and scraped it all together. Whomp whomp.
The photos I had looked at for inspiration showed bodices that fastened in different ways. Lots of them had buttons and lacing, but I was drawn most to the simple, flat ones that had to be fastened up the front with hooks and eyes. I figured this would be easy. It was not. No matter how carefully I measured, or how tightly I stitched the hooks and eyes, when I put any stress on the fastenings, it pulled to reveal a gap. After a lot of pricked fingers and grumpy noises, I acknowledged that I would have to try something else.
I sewed up the front seam, and then tore out one of the sides. By handstitching the fold down, I could sew the fabric down to the lining and not have any stitches show on the outside. Then I sewed in six pairs of hooks and eyes. Thankfully this worked, and since the seam is under my arm, it’s not very visible.
The dirndl could have been done there, but I had seen a nifty ruched trim on one dirndl I pinned, and I wanted to see if I could do the same. I cut a strip of my purple floral fabric about 4 times as long as the distance around my neckline. Then I ran a gathering stitch up both sides and gathered them to roughly the length I needed. To create a nice edge, I cut two strips of maxi cord piping. I pinned the maxi cord piping with the cord edge to the middle of the front of my ruched piece of fabric, then sewed as close to the cord as possible.
After that, I flipped the edges of the cording down and around, and pinned them to create the edge you see below. Then I tried pinning it to the neckline. The approximately five hundred pins I used attacked me and made my fingers bleed so many times that I gave up for the night.
The next day, bandaids covering my fingers, and thimble located, I handstitched the ruched strip to the bodice. I had to do this twice because I sewed the inside edge first and then realized that I couldn’t get the outside edge to lie flat. So I had to seam rip and start over, this time starting with the outer edge. Second time was the charm!
The Rapunzel wig I’ve had for I think a year now. I threw a flowered headband in it and then used some bobby pins to secure the short layers in front.
There you have it, a Rapunzel inspired dirndl!
I have more photos, and I’ll do a follow up post when I’ve got them all edited.