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Hand block printing from Aussee

Ausseerland lies in the heart of the Salzkammergut. With its scenic lakes, meadows and mountain massifs it is the embodiment of a harmonious landscape. And this picturesque beauty is reflected in the colors of Aussee’s traditional costume.

It was a scandal that brought about Ausseerland’s fame: In 1829 the son of the Emperor fell in love with the postmaster’s daughter and married her against all opposition. As an act of unity he chose to wear, like his wife, the “Gewand”, as traditional costume is known here. In his footsteps, all of Austria, led by nobility and high society, discovered and fell in love with this hidden corner of Styria, which includes the communities of Bad Aussee, Altaussee and Grundlsee. Following the tradition of the royal trend setter, people enjoying an extended holiday here like to wear the traditional costume to really get into the spirit of Sommerfrische – as a prolonged summer holiday in the countryside was once called.

Traditional costume is first and foremost mundane
The traditional costume is a symbol of regional identity, and for centuries the Aussee regional costume has been eminently suitable for life in the mountains, both as workaday working and everyday attire. The regional dress has remained a part of the daily wardrobe, just as common as jeans or a business suit.  Both men and women wear it during the week as much as on festive days. This is unparalleled also for Austrian standards although regional attire is often worn at weddings, “Gamsjaga” Days or regional costume balls like Vienna’s upmarket Jägerball.

It’s also true that Aussee’s regional dress allows its wearers to express their individuality in a very picturesque way. The men wear short Lederhosen in summer and a longer version in winter, a jacket with a comfortable wide pleat in the back and over it a roomy weatherproof cape, both made of Loden, a water-repellent, heavy duty woolen cloth. Hand-knitted socks, sturdy boots, a hat and necktie complete a traditional Aussee gentleman’s costume. The ladies wear a Dirndl which comprises a pleated skirt, a short sleeved white blouse, over which is a bodice fitted to the waist and sewn onto the skirt.  According to the occasion or occupation, an apron may be added or a more substantial blouse may be worn.  The Dirndl blurs the boundaries between underwear and outerwear and the wide skirt and the tight bodice enhance the curves of a woman’s figure. It’s no wonder therefore that this combination of emancipation and feminine grace caught the fancy of ladies of society – the Dirndl makes every woman look beautiful.

Regional costume - a celebration of color
Apart from its flattering design, it is above all the colors that makes wearing Tracht so appealing. The attire is a unique and heady blend of colors and patterns, light-hearted, harmonious and powerful: flowers against a bright background for the skirt and a contrasting color for the bodice, then the apron, which with at least one other color or pattern creates a charming whole. This is all kept in check by a feminine white blouse but the exuberance is reinforced by a colorful shawl. And the men join in the general celebration of color too: with a Bindl (traditional cravat), brightly decorated Hosenkraxen (braces) and a splendid silk waistcoat.

The special splendor of the tissue results from the traditional Aussee hand block printing.  It is an endless source of new inspiration. In order to  add the color to the fabric - wool, linen and silk - Martina Reischauer taps with much feeling and a weighty hammer on the old wooden pattern blocks; they are all unique and a creative asset of the workshop. “No, this work is certainly not ladylike”, she laughs.

A thriving tradition of block hand printing
And yet it was a woman who brought block hand printing to Aussee in 1930; Anna Mautner, widow of the greatest collector of traditional costumes in Ausseerland, was determined to protect the quality of regional costumes from the tasteless merchandise of mass production. This lady of Viennese society built up a collection of old wooden pattern blocks and asked a block printer to teach her the technique. She brought her own artistic flair with her and, thanks to new synthetic dyes, she soon progressed from indigo print to color print. Her cloths and fabrics which complement national costume so perfectly soon found acclaim, not just in Aussee but amongst Frau Mautner’s exclusive social circle.

Martina Reischauer eventually took over the business from Anna Mautner.  She owns not only the printing blocks from the early days but a collection of Frau Mautner’s patterns. These give endless inspiration for experimentation as do her customers’ own imaginations. Each client can create a “Dirndl” that is completely unique, choosing the pattern and color of the fabric themselves before it is hand printed for them. But it is usually Martina Reischauer herself who comes up with the “mad ideas” that delight her customers.  This creative urge has led to her own collection. Leather and Loden cloth can both be printed and tailored into elegant jackets and skirts. Matching gloves and pashminas with Aussee patterns complete the look.  Clients especially appreciate the fine silks, which are made into delicate aprons, shawls and waistcoats. Mautner silk is characterized by the brilliance of its colors and a typically soft feel – created by special finishing of the fabric as and fixing of the colors, processes which are a trade secret, because Mautner now has competition.

Three more workshops have signed up to the art of hand block printing in Bad Aussee, in the truest sense of the word, because each of them, whether Wach, Sekyra, Eder or Mautner, has their own signature: Sepp Wach is the most committed to tradition, Markus Wach at Handdruck Sekyra brings contemporary design and pastel tones to the Alpine theme, Christiane Eder amazes with her interplay of non-conformity and tradition – “the result should be spiky”, she says. But still the fabrics from Mautner printing works under Martina Reischauer continue to draw attention with their classic elegance and brilliant colors.

Where to find Trachten:
Lena Hoschek
Internationally acclaimed Austrian designer Lena Hoschek, has the fashion cognoscenti raving about her eccentric collections. As well as fabulous clothes and accessories for him and her, she has designed her own Tracht (national costume) collections.

Tostmann Trachten
Husband and wife team Marlen and Jochen Tostmann founded this company more than sixty years ago in Seewalchen by Lake Attersee.  All Tostmann Dirndls are still made exclusively in Austria today in the company’s own workshops.

Mothwurf Austrian Couture
You can’t deny that Mothwurf has its roots firmly in Tracht, or traditional costume. But these origins do not manifest themselves as a repeated quotation but as a starting point for unmistakable, always new excursions into the contemporary fashion and cultures from the furthest corners of the world.

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Hand block printing from Aussee

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