Tostmann Trachten is a typical small Austrian company – founded in 1949 (not that old actually), still in the family, focusing on traditional techniques, craftmanship and trying to adapt to modern taste while remaining true to their aesthetic.
I visited their headquarters in Seewalchen (close to Salzburg), where everything is happening: The developement of new collections, the whole production, all the administrative work. They also have a shop, where they not only sell (countless) of their Dirndls, but also fabrics and notions as well as small things typical for the area – think painted chipwood boxes, pottery, wooden toys, etc. Also, they are now opening a museum with a cafe in a house nearby – I think it’s already open, while I was there they were in the final stages of the renovation.
But back to the Dirndls. The first room they showed us was the fabric stock. Tostmann reuses a handful of prints (their signatures, if you will), but changes colours and colour combinations for a new look each season. Cottons are the most common, but they also use silks (especially for bridal Dirndls) or heavy linen, block-printed by hand in Upper Austria. The real production starts in the pattern-drafting room. Hundreds of patterns are hanging on the walls, all drawn onto thick brown wrapping paper. They do use a computer program to draft their new patterns nowadays (the same we use in school), but still use their old, original ones as well – apparently, Tostmann Dirndls have an exeptionally good fit. The only thing I noticed is that most have no darts on the back of the bodice, maybe that is the secret?
Next, everything is cut out – multiple layers at once, to make is faster, but they still use a simple band knife which has to maneuvered by hand. Then all pieces continue their way into the sewing atelier – about fifteen seamstresses sew darts, join side seams, set in pleats or gather the skirts, add closures, hem and also handstitch a lot – the trimmings are handmade and have to be hand-applied. Not everything is done in-house, though: Aprons and blouses are outsourced and made by home workers. The last stop was a small atelier for the made-to-measure production as well as small changes, like taking the side seam in/out or adjusting the hem – most of the time it gets shortened, as Tostmann Dirndls are always long.
I personally love Dirndls (I also sewed one in school) and I’m very picky when it comes to colours, fabrics and cuts – there is nothing I hate more than cheap Dirndls which don’t deserve the name… the ones that are too short, too revealing or super tacky, the ones you can get for 30€-50€ to wear once to the Oktoberfest or something – terrible. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not just into the boring, regular combinations either. I do like Dirndls like the ones Lena Hoschek creates, Gössl, Ploom or even Sportalm: They are tasteful and traditional as well as modern, but definitely not boring. And I do have to say that while I like the concept of Tostmann (and they really are successful), I still think that they are a bit too … pedestrian? I just have the feeling that they could reinvent themselves a little more, especially if they want to appeal to younger customers as well. But that’s just my humble opinion.
Anyway, enjoy the pictures, I certainly have enjoyed my time there – I love having a look behind the scenes….