WHEN IN AUSTRIA…
From the get go, I had my own ideas about how I should look.
My mother gave up the thankless task of dressing me when I turned seven. I hated pink, couldn’t bear frills, abhorred puffed sleeves.
It must have been the nascent feminist in me that would forever rail against rules that made no sense. Fifty years on the same still holds, especially when it comes to puffed sleeves.
That said, I love clothes and I love dressing up, but my style is my own with a vague nod to what’s fashionable. I love linen, adore cashmere, feel sensational in the Armani shades of greige, and I’m bonkers for black. (It’s that Melbourne thing.)
And, what’s more, loving every hip-swishing moment of it?
It was purely a case of when in Rome, do as… or in this case when in Austria do as the Austrians do. And Austrian women wear their national costume, the dirndl, at every opportunity. Sure, it’s a more common sight in the mountains and villages but even the city sophisticates wear them to the big events and celebrations. (Kay in her dirndl, pictured left).
I love Austria. I’ve been there many times, thanks to a family connection that has delivered wonderful memories to say nothing of free accommodation, but until this last trip I just didn’t get why grown up women would willingly wear a frock with apron and petticoats and my pet peeve, puffed sleeves, in the 21st century.
Then I tried one on, an exercise that was more difficult than I anticipated but not because of my attitude.
The dirndl is designed to play up bosoms and waist. Even if you’ve got the correct size on, it’s is a snug fit, or that’s what the women at Dirndl to Go boutique in the picture-postcard perfect village of Hallstatt told me as they huffed and puffed and pushed and prodded my bits and pieces into the seemingly endless layers.
Clothes might maketh the man, as that inveterate traveller Mark Twain opined, but the dirndl made a girl out of this woman.
Trussed up in pink checks, lacy petticoats, puffed sleeves, striped apron (with big bow at front), I morphed into a creature I didn’t recognise, the most girlish of girls. The transformation was immediate and more effective than anything that could be achieved with a Wonderbra and a couple of glasses of champagne. By the time I ventured out onto the cobblestone streets of the lakeside village I was swishing my hips, pointing my toes and giggling, yes, giggling like a girty.
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