By: Miss German-America 2022, Catherine Rabus

As a proud German-American woman whose interest in her heritage is almost matched by her relish in a good outfit, Bavarian Tracht dresses, also known as dirndls, have always delighted me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have quite the collection of these beloved dresses which typically consist of a fitted bodice, a blouse worn under the bodice, a wide high-waisted skirt and an apron. While each of the dirndls I owned prior to being crowned Miss German-American 2022 has its charm, I can confidently say that none compare to the gorgeous custom-made dirndl which I so generously received this summer from Rare Dirndl, a Chicago-based women’s Tracht line founded in 2010 by designer Erika Neumayer.

I was first introduced to Erika’s beautiful work at the 2019 Ompahfest at Plattduetsche Park, where I complimented then-Queen Sophia Huber on the unique dirndl she was wearing. Sophia explained that the lovely dress was a custom-made piece from Rare Dirndl and handed me a discount card with more information on the business. After a quick trip to their website, I learned that Erika’s motivation for creating authentic yet unconventional dirndls stemmed from her desire to help individuals celebrate German, Austrian and Swiss Alpine culture without sacrificing individual style. As I eagerly scrolled through Rare Dirndl’s website, Erika’s promise of fashion-forward and high-quality products was made apparent. I surveyed fresh designs such as the Leopard Dirndl, the Herbology Dirndl and made to order Zodiac Dirndls and dreamed of wearing one myself one day.

Three years later, I was honored to be crowned Queen of the 65th German-American Steuben Parade and overjoyed to learn that Rare Dirndl had once again offered to design custom-made dirndls for the 2022 adult court. Soon after receiving this exciting news, Erika, Miss German-America Chairwoman, Connie Rom, and I congregated via Zoom to discuss design ideas, colors, styles and fabrics for the dirndls. Even on video conference, Erika’s friendly, helpful and creative nature shone through, making what could have been a stressful process fun, easy and exciting. I had been advised to come to the call with some ideas for colors and patterns, and Erika kindly welcomed my thoughts and expertly expanded on them. For example, I thought that a cornflower theme could be fitting, given that it is the floral symbol of the parade. Erika was enthusiastic about my idea and through her professionalism and artistry, she went above and beyond to make it a reality.

Following the call, Erika promptly sent over a number of lovely cornflower designs to my email as well as some fabric swatches to my home for me to consider. Not soon after, I received numerous sketches of potential dirndls for myself and the court based on the ideas discussed during our call. Choosing just one design for myself and a complimentary style for the court was probably the most challenging phase of the process-each one was more beautiful than the next! A decision had to be made, however, and when I finally settled on my favorite, the adult princesses and I sent Erika our measurements and eagerly awaited the arrival of our one-of-a-kind dirndls.

When the dirndls arrived, it was like an early Christmas! Each was clearly wrapped with great care (not to mention style), and I could not wait to see the final product. I immediately tried mine on and was ecstatic at how perfectly Erika and the rest of the Rare Dirndl team had captured my ideas and seamlessly executed them. From the fit to the fabric, the dirndl could not have been better and I could not wait for its premier at the court’s next event! When it was time to appear at Germania Park of Poughkeepsie’s Oktoberfest the following week, Princess Victoria and I were thrilled to show off our gorgeous dirndls which received a steady stream of compliments from the attendees. We felt beautiful, confident and proud to be wearing our one-of-a-kind dirndls and never got tired of singing the praises of Rare

We cannot thank Erika Neumayer enough for her amazing work and hope that the reader utilizes our discount code, 2022MGA, on their next Rare Dirndl purchase. I am certain that your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends would be thrilled to receive one of Erika’s remarkable dirndls as a gift for the upcoming holidays. The wide selection on the company’s website certainly lives up to its slogan “More than your Oma’s dirndl,” spanning from whimsical seasonal designs to stunning custom bridal dirndls. Not only does Rare Dirndl offer a generous array of styles, colors, patterns and designs for any occasion (not least of all Oktoberfest), the online shop also boasts a variety of accessories, including rustic flower crowns, intricate charms for dirndl zippers and stand-alone aprons that allow you to mix and match. I for one cannot wait for the next chance to wear my Rare Dirndl and hope that you have the opportunity to show off both your style and roots with your own!