Eva Durisch: A life for the Graubünden costume
It is not a dirndl, a uniform or a lifestyle knickknack which fascinates the 75 year old Eva Durisch. It is the Graubünden costume or more precisely the diversity of costumes in Switzerland’s largest canton which arouses her passion. The stern dressmaker from Schanfigg is an expert on traditional costume making. A visit to her studio.
„This one here is going to be a special costume. A costume for life in a sense.“ Eva Durisch proudly stands next to her latest magnificent specimen, a festival costume which will be used on a Saturday in the near future. It will be a wedding dress for a young customer who wishes to get married in this outfit. She is by no means a traditionalist, just a lady who wishes to pass on the cultural knowledge surrounding costumes. The blue or rust-red Sunday costume in Graubünden actually originated from the black church or mourning costume which was worn to funerals. But as we see, costumes are also suitable for beautiful moments in one’s life. They tell stories written by life and accompany people from the cradle to the grave. There is actually a second costume on Eva Durisch’s sewing table. Stitches have been unravelled everywhere and new ones marked out. A frame made of whalebone or fine metal rods can also be seen below. What has happened? „I am altering the upper section of a costume. It is almost like making a new costume. It needs to be three sizes smaller. This means unravelling everything“, Eva Durisch explains. Why alter it rather than making a new one? „Because this costume is an heirloom. The bridesmaid got it from her mother.“ The tradition continues. Cut.
Literally an apprentice piece
I want to know what her first costume looked like. Nothing was given to her on a plate. In other words even the master craftswoman had to earn her spurs. And as the trained dressmaker wanted to show this, she took her thimble, needle and thread and created her star piece on her own. It was also her apprentice piece. After all Eva Durisch, who trained as a dressmaker, was already fascinated by costumes. She comes from a large family in Schanfigg, the valley which stretches from Chur to Arosa. From Castiel to be precise. As her mother did not bequeath a costume to her she made necessity a virtue and created her first costume in the final apprentice exam. Her very own costume. „I felt like royalty in it.“ Cut.
Much travelled but bound to home
Today she pulls all the strings where costumes are concerned in Graubünden. She is a walking reference book. She knows every pattern, every detail and every design whether it is for a workday or Sunday costume. „Look, the first illustrated book of costumes in Graubünden appeared in 1899 on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Calven. I was once offered it for 600 francs but, even better, I received it later on as a present“, Durisch proudly tells us. In 1992 Durisch and colleagues from the Graubünden Costume Association revised the complicated guidelines concerning how a true Graubünden costume must be made and sewn. They made them more comprehensible sentence by sentence. Folders are placed side by side in her studio. This is so that young people can also once again make costumes. A Sunday costume is structured in the same way throughout Graubünden. It must be blue, black and rust-red. It was actually red originally, certainly for the countrywomen of the time. The Graubünden working costume on the other hand is brown, green, red or blue. The main materials for the working costume are wool and linen. Silk is used for the Sunday clothing. How much does such a costume cost? A lady must expect to pay around 8,000 francs for a festival costume (without jewellery mind you) and a Chur costume may well cost 10,000 francs. A piece of work like this requires 100 to 120 hours of sewing and a further 150 hours of embroidery. „We work for just 20 francs an hour. You can see for yourself that it doesn’t make me rich. At the end of the day we are all idealists.“ It is difficult to find new people who want to learn the craft. Eva Durisch and other trained dressmakers pass their professional knowledge on to other young dressmakers during courses. What happens with the pocket money? „I sew in order to travel. To Mexico and Tenerife. And to the international costume festival in Karlsruhe.“ Switzerland and Graubünden do ultimately need to be represented. Cut.
«You don’t become rich by making costumes. We are all idealists.»Eva Durisch
Nothing by halves – no uniform
Swissness is appealing. Edelweiss, country style plus Heidi and Co. are in. A whole souvenir industry has developed around the traditional Heimatstil. Eva Durisch is not keen on these fashionable cuts with costume and dirndl elements. „You wouldn’t adorn a house in Engadin with purple shutters“, she remarks pointedly. She is a purist by conviction and in the best sense of the word. What is the difference between a costume and a uniform? Doesn’t each costume also contain some aspects of a uniform? „Yes and no“, Eva Durisch replies. The costume is in principle an item of clothing for general use which came into being in the 18th century. The bodice was the basis of this. A uniform on the other hand is developed for specific occasions or environments. For the military for example. Or as a feature of a company like the Rhaetian Railway.