The Dirndl. A Bavarian tradition on display at Oktoberfest (2024)

The dirndl is the traditional Alpine dress for women. Originally, the dirndl was a costume for servants in noble households but eventually it was worn more and more by women in the Alpine regions and summer visitors for private and festive occasions.

The Dirndl’s Structure

A dirndl consists of a linen or fine cotton “Schmisl” (blouse) in a subtle colour with gathered or puffed sleeves and a round or square neckline that can be modest or revealing. Over the blouse is the “Mieder” or “Leibl” (the actual dirndl dress) which is made from linen, silk or cotton. Usually there is a pocket on the side or front of the skirt which is hidden under the apron. You can also get two-piece dirndls which allow limitless combinations since the skirt and bodice are separate.

How Your Dirndl Should Be

Ideally, your dirndl should be comfortable, tidy and neatly laced up. It doesn’t matter if your dirndl is long or short, traditional or contemporary, so long as it’s pretty and not vulgar. Just please, don’t wear a leopard print dirndl or a dirndl from the newest Barbie line of clothing. If your skirt is short, it should at least be past your knees.

The attractiveness of the dirndl isn’t in your bare legs, but in the lovely décolletage. Nothing, not even your legs should distract from that. Preferably your dirndl should be one or two colours. For colours, they shouldn’t be too showy but rather a subtle colour such as light blue or pink. Your dirndl should be worn with simple wide shoes and crocheted stockings. For matching shoe ideas, go with Haferl shoes, simple pumps or ballet wides.

The Dirndl. A Bavarian tradition on display at Oktoberfest (1)

The Dirndl, the traditional Alpine dress

How You Should Wear Your Dirndl

You should wear the bodice tight enough so that there are no creases in fabric, but not too tight – it should look pretty, not make you pass out from lack of oxygen. And less is more: the simpler your dirndl, the more attractive and lovely it is. Many dirndls also have pretty lacing. The Mieder used to be laced up from bottom to top with a silver chain, but these days it is usually closed with a small chain or a zipper hidden by lacing.

Women also sometimes like to wear a matching shawl over their shoulders. If you do this, your shawl should be artfully embroidered with a small pattern.

Aprons and Bows for Your Dirndl

Dirndl bows are used to show your marital status.If the bow is on the right, the woman is engaged, married or otherwise attached – so that means hands off guys! If the bow is on the left, the woman is single and she is free for guys to flirt with. If the bow is tied at the back, the woman is a widow. If the bow is at the front centre, the woman is either a virgin or she is unaware of the secret code of apron bows.

As a General Rule…

An attractive, tasteful dirndl, with fine embroidery and pretty buttons should enhance your natural beauty. A bland, baggy farmhouse dirndl that fits like a sack, or a garish Christmas candy-coloured dirndl will do you no favours.

The Dirndl. A Bavarian tradition on display at Oktoberfest (2024)


What does the dirndl mean at Oktoberfest? ›

In Bavaria and Austria, Dirndl can mean a young woman, a girlfriend or the dress. The dress can for clarity be called Dirndlkleid (literally 'young woman's dress') or Dirndlgewand ('young woman's clothing'). Dirndl is the form of the word in Standard German.

Do you wear a bra with dirndl? ›

Always select the right colour bra to wear under your dirndl blouse. It's best to try on the bra underneath your dirndl and blouse to find the perfect bra to go with your outfit.

Is it OK to wear a dirndl to Oktoberfest? ›

yes, many foreign visitors wear Dirndl and Lederhose, the traditional Bavarian clothing. Some of the strictest and most conservative Bavarians oppose this and think only the real Bavarians should wear Tracht.

What is the dirndl controversy? ›

The sexy dirndl is the worst sort of cultural appropriation. Actually, I can think of several dozen worse sorts. I doubt it. Many Germans are appalled by what they see as a p*rnographic take on traditional dress, worn by British and Australian women visiting Oktoberfest.

Who wears a dirndl? ›

The dirndl, a dress traditionally made from loden cloth and consisting of a close-fitted bodice over a blouse, with a full skirt and apron, is one of the female iterations of the Alpine folk costume native to southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Italian province of South Tyrol.

What do Bavarians wear to Oktoberfest? ›

What Are The Outfits Called? Authentic outfits for Oktoberfest in Munich are called Tracht (Tra-oct). Women wear traditional dirndl (DEERN-dul) dresses while men wear leather lederhosen (LAY-der-hozen) shorts.

What is the purpose behind Oktoberfest? ›

Oktoberfest, annual festival in Munich, Germany, held over a two-week period and ending on the first Sunday in October. The festival originated on October 12, 1810, in celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

What is the cultural significance of dirndl? ›

The Dirndl is a traditional German dress that originated in the Alpine regions of Germany and Austria. It has been worn for centuries as workwear and festive attire. The Dirndl's significance lies in its reflection of regional customs and traditions, as well as its role in preserving cultural heritage.

Can you wear a dirndl if you're not German? ›

If you are not German, there is no reason you can't wear a dirndl!

What does it mean when you wear the bow on the right side of the dirndl? ›

Meaning of the dirndl bow: Dirndl bow tied on the left: The wearer is single. Dirndl bow tied on the right: The wearer is already taken, engaged or married. Dirndl bow tied in the center back: The wearer is a waitress or widowed.

What is the etiquette for the dirndl? ›

The placement of your dirndl's apron waist bow or knot in particular has a significant meaning. It's an easy way to know whether the woman is single and ready to mingle, in a relationship, married, or even widowed. If the knot of the apron is tied in the front, towards the left side, it means that a woman is single.

Can you wear jeans to Oktoberfest? ›

YES! ABSOLUTELY! 100 %. There were tons of girls there in normal dresses, jeans, and even shorts (y'all it was cold — not sure what they were thinking).

Do you wear socks with a dirndl? ›

Absolutely! Lederhosen socks are not limited to men. Women can wear them to achieve an authentic Bavarian look, pairing them with dirndls or other Oktoberfest attire.

What is the difference between lederhosen and dirndl? ›

Women's wear revolves around the dirndl, a traditional dress with a structured bodice, tightly tied and decoratively embroidered. The lederhosen worn by men are generally made of goat or buckskin and also feature patterning.

What bra do you wear with a dirndl? ›

A bra for Dirndl is in most cases a Dirndl push-up bra, which supports the breast well and thus provides good support and a great look in the low-cut Dirndl blouse.

What do you call a German beer waitress? ›

Kellner /Kellnerin. German for Beer Maids and Beer Waiters. Staff at Oktoberfest Munich have to be incredibly tough!

What do you wear to Oktoberfest if you don't have a dirndl? ›

Although a little bit harder to come by, if you want to get the Oktoberfest vibes without wearing a dirndl a German-inspired sweater or vest is a stellar way to make your plain outfit into a German one.

What is dirndl in English? ›

Definition of 'dirndl'

1. a woman's dress with a full gathered skirt and fitted bodice; originating from Tyrolean peasant wear. 2. a gathered skirt of this kind.

Can you wear a dirndl to a wedding? ›

A Dirndl is a traditional German dress that is commonly worn at festivals and weddings. It consists of a blouse, a full skirt, and an apron. The dirndl originated in the Alps region and was worn by working-class women. Nowadays, it's a popular choice for women attending weddings in Germany and other parts of the world.

Are dirndls supposed to be tight? ›

How You Should Wear Your Dirndl. You should wear the bodice tight enough so that there are no creases in fabric, but not too tight – it should look pretty, not make you pass out from lack of oxygen.

How to wash a dirndl? ›

Washing your dirndl

Linen, too, can be washed at home, but be sure to read the label carefully; use a gentle detergent and the delicates programme on your washing machine. You can also hand-wash your dirndl to avoid damage. Remove any buttons made of horn, leather, or metal prior to washing.

What does the dirndl knot mean? ›

Dirndl bow tied at the front right (as seen from the woman): in a relationship. Dirndl bow tied in front left: Single. Dirndl bow in front in the middle: Virgin. Dirndl bow at the back center: Widow.

Is it OK to dress up for Oktoberfest? ›

You certainly should put something on, but the way you dress actually isn't important. A little advice for men, who are still eager to buy clothes for the occasion: you will often get told to buy checkered shirts, as they're so traditional. Well, they're not at all.

What do Germans yell at Oktoberfest? ›

O'zapft is, in particular, is the most iconic of Oktoberfest sayings. This is the cry you will here once the Mayor of Munich has tapped the ceremonial keg, thus kicking off the entire two-week-long event.

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