Learn everything you need to know about Dirndl dresses. Here you will get to know about the tradition, how a dirndl is worn, how to tie the apron and much more.
Table of Contents
📕 What is a Dirndl?
A dirndl is a traditional dress from the German-speaking alps. The dress consists of a tight bodice worn over a short blouse, that is only completed with a skirt-like apron.
The shape of the dress creates an hour glass figure, which is thanks to the narrow waist and blouse. The chest and the beautiful cleavage are also the focus, while the dress and apron fall in a bell-like shape.
This is why the dirndl is a popular dress for all body shapes, as it fits perfectly no-matter your size.
Traditional dirndl come is many variations, and together with Lederhosen, these costumes are only worn today for special occasions in the alpine regions.
🇦🇹 Where are Dirndl traditionally worn?
The dirndl is considered a traditional national dress, and it is worn in Bavaria (Southern Germany), all over Austria and in the German-speaking Italy, in South Tyrol.
Locals from the regions will wear dirndl at local folks fests, such as the Munich Oktoberfest, the spring festival, summer village feasts and other celebrities such as the Schützenfest.
The dirndl had fallen out of favor as a daily wear after the 70s. Women did wear dirndl daily to do their errands or to go to work before the 70s and 80s.
Later it was just a Sunday church or a dress worn at weddings. Young girls were most notably dressed in children’s sized dirndl.
Trachten dance groups from regions, such as from Tyrol in Austria, kept their special costumes alive over the decades. They would tour around the world, to the USA and Japan, and the revival is mainly thanks to them.
Trachten dance group would showcase the traditional dance, Schuhplattler, and every group has a fixed style of dirndl and Lederhosen garments, which is based on the region and Trachten “house”.
In 2023, the Dirndl is considered a trendy dress to wear at all kinds of cultural events.
👗 How to wear a Dirndl?
Traditional German dirndl dresses (and the other regions too) always consist of a blouse, a bodice (the dress) and an apron. To that, women wear, socks or stockings, shoes, a suitable jacket and accessories.
Blouses come in many shapes, styles, and lengths, and the dirndl blouse type to choose will depend on the dress. Yet, you will find that they are to 99% white and made of cotton.
You have to purchase the blouse separately from the dress and therefore you can mix and match blouse and dress styles.
Traditionally, Trachten from the communes and groups wear long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve blouses, which are not that revealing. Wearing long sleeves in the colder months at weddings or at the Oktoberfest is also recommended.
Short-arm sleeve or shoulder sleeve blouses are great in the hotter summer months or when you go to a party, such as the Weisswurst party at the Stanglwirt in Austria.
You might also come across a German dirndl that can be worn without a blouse. These are not that super common but simplify the way a dirndl is worn.
Yet, the purpose of the blouse is to show cleavage and create a pumped bust and with the right blouse, you can achieve exactly that!
The main part of your Dirndl set is the dress, or so-called bodice. This one piece is made of a thicker material.
Cotton is the most common fabric used, and high-quality dirndl also come in silk or velvet. Lace is another design element, in newer style dresses.
Traditionally, dresses are embroidered and handcrafted and very rural villages and groups have their own dress uniforms.
Bright shaded dirndl are more popular than dark dirndl. Nonetheless, darker dirndl are considered more exclusive and expensive designer dirndl tend to be darker colored.
You can choose between various dress lengths:
- Ankle long dirndl – work with most body shapes and are the safest bet if you would rather not be worried about getting tipsy at the Oktoberfest.
- Midi dirndl – currently the most common and most fashionable dirndl. Suitable for all occasions.
- Mini dirndl – those are the shortest dirndl that you can get, and they are right above your knee. Young girls like to wear mini dirndl.
Look out for quality when getting a Dirndl dress! Authentic German dirndl are very hard to come by, even in Germany or in Austria. What you see in most stores are dirndl made for the masses and tourism.
The apron usually comes with the bodice/dress. You can get cotton, velvet, silk, or even semi transparent aprons, that are placed over the bodice.
Your apron color will always match the color of the bodice.
Please see below for how to tie an apron as per the customs.
Socks or Stockings
Socks and stockings are commonly worn in the colder months with a dirndl dress. It can get fresh in autumn, and stockings are the best way to keep yourself warm.
Dirndl can be worn without socks and stockings in the hotter summer months, as long as it suits the footwear.
Elegant dirndl are best paired with pumps or ballerina shoes. The so called, Hirschkogel Trachten shoes are a classic and should be your first choice.
Moreover, in the hot months you can also wear elegant sandals with your dirndl dress. Ankle boots are popular in fall.
In recent times, you will also see millennials and gen z wearing sneakers with a dirndl. Sneakers are useful if you intend to party or when you have to stand for a longer time, such as at a parade.
A jacket is always a must-have with every dirndl! When the days get cooler and the Oktoberfest celebrations drag on, you need a jacket, and the jacket highlights the shape of your dress further.
Traditional chic jackets are made of thick wool and are shaped to the body, high buttoned up and come at times with a stand-up collar.
Your second option is knitted woolen jackets, with a round shaped neck and buttons made of wood or even metal.
Look out for the length, your jacket should be short and should end where the apron starts.
Accessories can make or break your costume and the latest fashion trends recently emphasize on the use of belts, hats, and bags.
Broad leather belts accentuate the narrow waist. These are very optional and should fit with the apron. Don’t get a belt if you have an apron with a knot. You do get aprons which don’t need to be tied and that’s when you get a broad belt with your dirndl.
A Tyrolean felt hat (Lodenhut) can be paired with a dirndl dress. Look out for female style felt hats, with a suitable shade of color. Ladies serving Schnapps or playing in the brass music band tend to wear such hats.
Get a smaller shoulder bag with your dirndl. Look out for a shade to go with your dress. Leather or felt bags are commonly styled with dirndl dresses.
I also recommend wearing a necklace or a choker (Kropfkette) to bring out your neckline with a revealing cleavage blouse.
🎀 How to tie an Apron?
Tying the apron the right way is essential, and nowadays, your knot has a meaning. Everyone can see your knot, and it’s a message and part of a code of conduct.
Here is what I mean with that:
- Tie it to your Left Apron Knot – You are an unmarried young lady and you want to show that you are single.
- Tie it to your Right Apron Knot – You are married or simply taken.
- Front Center Knot – Children.
- Back Center Knot – You are a widow.
Please refer to the drawing below.
This apron tieing practice is recognized universally across all borders. Traditionally, in the German heritage, its purpose is for young men to court unmarried young ladies.
This was not always the case, the tieing practice has emerged in the last decades.
Men flirting with girls wearing a knot to their right can get in trouble with local boys, and a slap in the face would be the consequence.
❓ Who can wear a Dirndl?
Anybody can wear a dirndl!
The beauty is that dirndl are worn by all age groups, and your body shape doesn’t matter.
Most dirndl flatter your shape and even if you gained weight or if you are looking for a maxi sized dirndl, you will surely look sexy in a dress.
Paul mentioned in the past that he felt awkward wearing alpine Trachten wear because of his brown skin color. But again I want to emphasize that a dirndl or a lederhosen pant will look AMAZING on black, brown, and all skin colors!
Black TV celebrities in Austria, such as Arabella Kiesbauer, look stunning in dirndl dresses, and you should absolutely wear them at the Oktoberfest because you will melt right in.
🛍️ What Dirndl to get?
I’d always pick a high-quality dirndl if possible, and they do come with a price tag. A decent quality dirndl can already be purchased for about €100.
A dirndl (bodice) price never includes the blouse, the blouse is separately, and a good blouse can cost already €50. The dirndl dress always comes with an apron.
True unique designs and cuts start at €400 and those are usually the ones worth buying if you want to invest in a dress for the future (as long as you don’t lose or gain weight!).
Budget dresses can be bought for €60, but the quality is poor. Choose a budget dress if you intend to wear it only once. That said, budget-dresses are normally cut very short, and they all look the same.
Your dirndl dress price also includes design and the more unique they look, the more expensive they are.
Here are some of my favorite brands:
- Sportalm – Designer brand from Kitzbühel known for its authentic dirndl dresses. This is what high society wears at the Oktoberfest.
- Ludwig und Therese – Designer Dirndl from Munich.
- Tramontana – Beautiful dreamy and unique Dirndl, which can be worn at a wedding too, or also as a wedding dress.
- Krüger – From Berchtesgaden, this Trachten brand has been popularized all over the world in recent years and they do have a large plus size dirndl collection.
- Stockerpoint – Great first dirndl brand for newbies.
If you intend to visit Germany for Oktoberfest, I recommend buying a dirndl at a place in Munich or near Munich. Trachten Rausch in the city has a good choice, and you will get authentic dress sets over there.
You will also find unique Dirndl in Salzburg city (Austria). I love the dresses from Trachten Stassny, Wenger Margit, and Sportalm. All three boutiques are located on the same road in the old town of Salzburg city.
You should be able to try different dirndl variations and a seller can help you get the right dirndl for your body type.
Be careful with fake dirndl dresses being sold in online stores in North America and Asia! These are just Halloween costumes.
🔠 Related German Terms and Translations
Here are some words that might come handy when you are shopping for a new dirndl dress set.
📜 Brief History
The Dirndl was originally inspired by old rural farmers’ dresses from the Tyrolean, Bavarian and Salzkammerrgut regions.
A certain sense of fashion was moving about Europe at the end of the 20th century. “Back to the root” and “rural lifestyle” were brought to Paris in 1900 and made a sweeping appearance in other German cities.
Romantic wearables in the form of dirndl were a trend set by the upper class of Munich and Vienna. The inspiration came from farmers and peasants in Tyrol, Bavaria, and Salzburg.
Later, we saw during German history the NS disconnect from the church and so Dirndl turned out shorter, tighter shaped and with a pronounced round or square cleavage.
Today, you will find all types of long, midi and mini dirndl as part of the Trachten fashion industry.
Can I wear a female Lederhosen instead of a Dirndl?
Yes, it is normal and common these days to see women wear female shaped Lederhosen pants instead of a dirndl, and you will melt right in.
How was the Dirndl popularized?
In Germany, the Jewish brothers Julius and Moritz Wallach started a Trachten shop in 1900 in Munich and had a hand in popularizing the dirndl. In Austria, the emperor’s brother, Archduke John of Austria, brought the romantic back to the roots’ movement into fashion. The Oktoberfest in 1910 turned the Dirndl into a fashionable must-have.