Arts & Culture

The Fashion Heritage of Heidi

In 1880, the first of two volumes to a heart-warming tale of friendship was published. The writer was Swiss novelist Johanna Spyri, and the book went by the name of Heidi.

Its plot is about farm life in the Alps and how orphan Heidi finds friends and family and uses her cheerfulness to help others.

The story takes place in Switzerland, mainly the mountainous region, where Heidi goes to live with her grandfather. Alpine temperatures over the course of the seasons actually tend to be fairly moderate, with July temperatures round 60 degrees Fahrenheit (about 16 degrees Celsius) and not going far below freezing in the winter months. The Alps are home to several different types of terrain, including densely wooded areas and fields above the timber line.

And of course, the typical occupation of the Alpine armer was the keeping of goats and sheep, which comes into the Heidi story as well. Anyone who has ever spent even a few minutes around goats knows that they can be incredibly feisty, bad-tempered, and almost impossible to catch. However, if anyone has decided to brave the waters of goat wrangling in the past, they know how important it is to be able to move quickly, so that, without being restrained by clothes, they can capture the caprine creature.

Back in Heidi’s day, the traditional Swiss dirndl and lederhosen would have been worn prevalently, which turns out to be the perfect outfit for any goat chasing farm girl or boy.

The main components of a dirndl are the wide skirt, allowing for plenty of leg movement, attached to a fitted top and with the traditional apron (great for keeping your skirt clean from grass stains as you football tackle your runaway goats). dirndl blouse usually goes underneath the bodice.

Lederhosen are the traditional men’s wear: the equivalent of the most comfortable shorts you can think of, made of a soft leather. This includes the iconic suspenders, which are usually embroidered with beautifully bright colors.

And so, as we come upon the Thanksgiving season, in the spirit of Heidi, dirndls, lederhosen, goat-chasing, field-frolicking, and making pumpkin spice everything, let’s make aprons.

To start, take the fabric of your choice. I salvaged fabric from an old toile curtain, but if you do decide to do this, please ask your parents first. To get the general shape of an apron, commandeer one from your kitchen and spread it on the fabric. The curtain I was using already had seemed edges, so I lined up the top to use that edge in the apron.

After cutting out the shape, take it to your sewing machine or hand seam all the edges. Next, cut out three strips of fabric, one for the neck piece and two for the straps. For mine, I made the strip about 25 inches long, and the other two were a good deal longer.

Next, fold the strips over themselves twice, sew down the middle, and press into a flat shape. Then attach these by marking the places where they go on the apron top and sides.

Enjoy wearing your aprons this Thanksgiving! They also make good gifts during the Christmas season.




Photo Credits:

and Bronwyn Dix



  1. Ah, Heidi was one of my favorite books…
    Thanks for sharing this! It’s good to know exactly what kind of clothes dear little Heidi wears 🙂 helps me imagine the scene better.

  2. Hi Bronwyn, I absolutely love all of your sewing posts! I love to sew historically as well, so it’s great to hear from someone else who feels the same.

  3. Wonderful job, Bronwyn!!! 🙂 I love that apron and the information on traditional Swiss apparel around the time of Heidi!! 🙂

  4. Thanks y’all! I’m so glad you enjoyed this!