Traditional Women’s Clothing

The word Dirndl can mean either a young woman or the refer to the traditional folk dress. The original name for the dress was Dirndlgewand, that over time got shortened to just Durndl. The word Dirndl is a diminutive of the word Dirn(e) which originally translated to young woman.

The Dirndl appeared in the 18th century initially as a costume for servants, or maids in lordly households. This simple dress generally consisted of a blouse, bodice, full skirt and an apron, and it was practically suited for a woman’s work around the home or a farm at the time. Women typically wore slightly different styles and fabrics in the winter and in the summer. The Winter Dirndl was often a full dress with long sleeves, made of heavy cotton, linen or wool with warm skirts and aprons. In contrast, the Summer Dirndl was made of lightweight cotton and short-sleeved blouses were worn under sleeveless, tailored bodices.

Just as the Lederhosen experienced a fashion trend among the upper classes, the Dirndl was also adopted into the upper echelons of society in the late 1800s – around 1870. Suddenly, the simple dresses made of practical fabrics, were transformed into very stylish, colorful dresses often made of silk, satin and other expensive fabrics. They then also evolved into dresses worn for regional pride and tradition, with each region taking on distinct differences in colors and style .

Today, the design of traditional costumes is always evolving and is being continuously adapted to fit the constantly changing world of fashion. Now the Dirndl is regarded as a cult traditional dress, which is mainly used for folk festivals and religious events, but also for other special occasions such as Weddings. It’s hugely popular at Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Even if the Dirndl fashion changes a little every year, you can still see the traditional style of old shining through.

Parts of a Dirndl

In the beginning, the traditional dress was a purely urban fashion phenomenon and only over time has it developed into its own branch of traditional fashion for women. The modern dirndls of today usually consist of three basic main elements: the dirndl blouses (Schmisl); the dirndl aprons (Schürze) the bow; the fitted bodice (Mieder) thats attached to the skirt. The dirndl can be further enhanced with the addition of costume jewelry.

A dirndl blouse consists of a short linen or fine cotton Schmisl (blouse) that accentuates the style of the Dirndl. Different choices include delicately hand-embroidered pieces, blouses with extravagant ruffles and lace, or simple ones with straight sleeves.

Of course, the beautiful traditional dirndl blouses have to match the chosen dress neckline, support it, complement it or contrast with it. The wearer and the neckline must also be in harmony. The dirndl blouses have the same necklines as the dresses.

Traditional dress blouses are available in countless designs with flared sleeves, as short-sleeved or long-sleeved variants, with puff sleeves or as a Carmen blouse. Dirndl blouses are traditionally white. A dirndl without a blouse? Previously a no go. Nowadays, however, there are also special dirndls that are worn without a blouse.

The apron (Schürze), often with a hidden pocket, is formerly worn to protect the dress underneath, it is now a purely decorative item. There are aprons for everyday wear, and aprons for festive occasions which are usually of a more elegant fabric than the simple linen or cotton ones. Before the knot is tied, (See below) be sure to check on where to place it. Otherwise, you might unwittingly send out the wrong message.

A dirndl apron was once also called a pre-cloth or for-cloth. Because with the Ur-Dirndl, the dirndl apron served a protective function, designed to protect the main dress. The dirndl apron also served as an aid, for example to carry an apple in the apron to the kitchen. Another function was to allow the quick wiping of hands on the apron, as it was easier to to clean. If unexpected visitors came, the apron was simply changed. The kitchen apron, which is still known today, was later derived from the dirndl apron.

The bodice used to be a separate item to the dirndl, but since the 1930s it has been sewn to the skirt. It comes in many different styles: with a high or low, round or square neckline. It is fastened with buttons, hooks, or ribbons.

A traditional costume bodice is worn tightly around the body, similar to a corset. The waist is emphasized and the cut and shape of the bodice and gives a feminine figure. A traditional bodice is not only worn at folk festivals and traditional events, but also often with jeans or trousers in everyday life. The origin of the bodice goes back to the 16th century.

A traditional women’s bodice with covered shoulders is usually adorned with decorative borders and embroidery at the front. Flowers are often found as motifs on the bodices. The sleeves are often short with a lace ending and beautiful broderie anglaise. These bodices have nice side ruffles and a perfect fit.

Women, who wear the dirndl bow on their right, signalize that their status is – taken! Because the wearer has found her happiness in love already, this means: Look but don’t touch!

Women who tie their apron on their left side, are single and ready to mingle. Flirting is also allowed, if not even desirable. However, the bow on the left side is not an open invitation or excuse for an immediate physical contact.

Tying the bow in the middle can signal that the lady is uncertain about their own relationship status – or just do not want to reveal it. Brave men could risk their luck here, and the ladies should be prepared for all sorts of sayings and questions.

A Dirndl apron bow tied in the back can have two meanings – either the woman is a widow or a waitress. But that should be easy to decipher. Simply base your conclusion on the presence or absence of beer mugs in the woman’s hands.

Dirndl Lengths

It is important to choose the right dirndl length so that the iconic traditional dresses at the Oktoberfest become real eye-catchers. By the way: the length of a Dirndl dress is clearly dependent on the size of the wearer. Women with smaller frames can also wear a Mini-Dirndl as a Mid-Length, whereas for taller women a Mid-length Dirndl may look great as a Mini. You can therefore tailor the Dirndl length to your body size.

The most traditional dirndl variant is certainly the long dirndl with a length of at least 80cm. The dirndl has long been appreciated not only in Bavaria and the Alps, but also far beyond the places of origin. With a long dirndl, the skirt ends at about ankle height. 

Originally, the dirndl wearer had to adhere to a strict specification regarding the length of the dirndl. The beer mug served as the unit of measurement. The skirt of each long dirndl traditionally had to end with a beer mug high above the floor. The height of the bodice was also determined based on this traditional Bavarian unit. But those times are over. Nowadays, women buy a long dirndl with an average skirt length of 95 cm and have a seamstress change the hem to their own desired length if necessary.

The Mid-Length (Midi) Dirndl has a medium-length skirt and is therefore between the mini dirndl and the maxi dirndl Depending on your dress size, a midi dirndl has a skirt length of 60 – 70 cm and covers or wraps around the knees. 

This knee-length dirndl is often considered a secret favourite, mainly because you can wear it regardless of your figure and there are no restrictions on the occasion. The midi dirndl can be worn at weddings, folk festivals or in the beer garden – for many women there is no other skirt length to consider. The midi dirndl is available in many colors and fabric variants, and of course there are midi dirndl both with a low neckline and high-necked, so that every woman can find her dream dirndl

Tradition and sexiness meet in the daring mini dirndl: With a skirt length of 45 – 55 cm , the mini dirndl is the shortest of all dirndls. It reaches just above the knee and shows a lot of leg. The dirndl is particularly short for young women and this cheeky look is very popular, and is the perfect choice for young women and for girls who are a little smaller .

he reduced skirt length ensures that the stature of small women is not further shortened. Since the Dirndl Mini puts the legs in the limelight, women with nice calves also cut a very good figure in them, and why not!! The mini skirt has after all been around since the 1960’s.

Dirndl Neckline

Dirndls tend to accentuate feminine outlines and there is one out there to suit every shape and size. The availability to choose from a wide variety of neckline shapes for dresses and bodices that allow the wearer to choose from personal style preferences depending on the preference for how high or low cut the wearer prefers, while providing the best shape and cut that suits their figure. Whether the wearer has a slender chest or an ample bosom, the bodice neckline style to make it work for them. Most dirndls can be categorized into six main styles.

The balconette neckline is the most popular shape for dirndls. For women that would like to emphasize their feminine charms, they are particularly well advised to choose the balconette neckline, because it makes every  a real eye-catcher. Depending on the preference, the wearer can select a top with buttons or with lacing and frills as well as a ruffled ribbon trim.

The underbust neckline is probably the most daring shape of a dirndl. The female figure is particularly revealing due to the underbust neckline and is therefore ideal for women who are open-hearted in traditional costumes and do not want to be stingy displaying their feminine charms.

For those that like square shapes, the square balconette cutout is the right choice. This also flatters their feminine figure and their neckline is extremely attractive. Buttoned and tied tops as well as ruffles or ruffled ribbon on the dirndl also go well with the square balconette neckline.

The V-neck is considered high-necked compared to the other necklines and suits a woman of all ages. It flatters and emphasizes the natural shape of women in traditional costumes.

For those that like a particularly feminine and delicate Dirndl look, they should go for an outfit with a gently curved sweetheart neckline . The dividing seams in the front area of ​​the chest gives the best possible shape. Combined with buttons or ruffles, wearers can create an outfit that everyone will like.

Stand-up collars are divided into goblet collars and Snow White collars, among others. With an Oktoberfest dress, these special dirndl collars ensure a traditional look that many women want for the festival.

Jewelry

Oktoberfest jewelry has always been an integral part of every German costume and in the past was used to show the wealth of each wearer. Today necklaces are seen more as a pretty accessory to round off a costume perfectly. In essence, traditional necklaces can divided into three main styles

An inexpensive necklace variant is the classic cord chain, available in various colors and can be completed with a wide choice of pendants.  Whether with a flower, usually an edelweiss, a pretzel, or heart motifs for the romantics,  the wearer is able to find right model for their costume.

The glamorous pearl necklace is considered to be the absolute classic among necklaces. Dirndl pearl necklaces with a pendant or Swarovski stones are particularly elegant. The high-quality pendants look good with both a close-fitting choker chain and a longer necklace,  definitely are a welcome accessory for a traditional costume.

A particularly fashionable and popular variant is the choker. The velvet  choker is mixed with a little elastic so that the necklaces fist snugly on the neck even after frequent wear. The artistically crafted pieces are designed to emphasize the dainty, ladylike figure, and can include small pendants.

Accessories

Oktoberfest jewelry has always been an integral part of every German costume and in the past was used to show the wealth of each wearer. Today necklaces are seen more as a pretty accessory to round off a costume perfectly. In essence, traditional necklaces can divided into three main styles

Although often called Charivari, the Charini, is the female counterpart of the decoration. This will typically be a chain of charms and such for ladies to wear on their dirndls. The Charini can be pinned to the dirndl waist or apron or pinned to the bodice of the dirndl. As legend goes, it is important your Charivari, or Charini charms are affixed in only an uneven number. An even number of charms brings bad luck.

A very good choice as an accessory are German hats, which have long become indispensable with Oktoberfest costumes. A hat with your dirndl truly makes a fashion statement. And best of all, such traditional hats fit any occasion.  Many different shapes and colors choices are available for headwear. Roughly, the hats can be divided into four groups: felt hats, straw hats, linen hats, and velvet hats.

Women’s Trachten jackets (called Janker) are long-sleeved woollen numbers, usually without a collar.  The jackets are made of a variety of materials such as genuine or imitation leather, denim, fleece or knitwear. The jackets rage in design from simple and elegant  to cheeky or stylish. A jacket can become the absolute highlight of the outfit and underline the wearers dream Dirndl.

Oktoberfest Without a Dirndl

It's a good thing that traditional costumes are not compulsory at the Wiesn. Nevertheless, when looking for an outfit for even without a dirndl there are plenty of choices to have an Oktoberfest outfit without a dirndl, but note that there is a very strict dress code in some marquees at the Munich Oktoberfest, so dress appropriately.

Admittedly, Lederhosen for women are not the first thing that comes to one’s mind when thinking about German Tracht. However, the traditional leather trousers for ladies have long been part of the tradition. They are comfortable, suitable for many occasions and can always be combined according to the latest trend. Furthermore, the leather is high quality and very durable, becoming more beautiful and soft the older the Lederhosen gets. The comfortable and sexy trousers can easily be combined with printed shirts, a lace or a typical chequered blouse. The natural material is also characterized by a comfortable but yet figure-enhancing fit: It adapts to the body shape and requires little care. The choice of the right cut puts specific body parts in the spotlight – or distracts from them. Young women with slender legs look good modern and sexy in the short version. Braces and bib underline the boyish style. Knee-length, tightly cut leather trousers on the other hand, emphasise the hips and a narrow waist.

Traditional bodices for women either have a simple elegance or are sumptuously and elaborately decorated. This includes the decoration with a delicate border of ribbon, button strips, ruffled edges, and with lace or embroidered motifs. The most popular motifs are a deer, antlers, a heart or the edelweiss flower. The modern women’s bodices tend to be equipped with a zipper and use the lacing as an additional decoration. A small decorative metal object, such as a heart, is usually attached to the zipper puller. Traditional bodices in red or bodices in black are very popular, and especially bodices decorated with floral patterns are very trendy among the current bodice fashion. The underbust bodice creates an exciting look, skilfully emphasizing feminine figure. With corsages that reach to the hips, a very tailored silhouette can be achieved that particular flatter the female form.  The bodice is best combined with a long-sleeved traditional blouse made of lace, which gives the whole outfit that certain extra appeal.

No other piece of clothing is as versatile as a blouse. Die-hard fans of traditional costumes have also recognized this and have chosen the traditional blouse as a must-have in their wardrobe. After all, it proves its special versatility with its many different patterns and cuts and can always appear in new ways thanks to the different combinations.  For the perfect Oktoberfest look, the traditional shirts are typically combined with lederhosen, jeans or a short traditional skirt and tend to be worn untucked. The best-known variant is the red and white checkered traditional shirt.  While one traditional blouse emphasizes the feminine silhouette , the other is dedicated to the shirt style and goes with any casual look thanks to its smooth look . Thus, with the new country house fashion, current trends are set, which are versatile and which every lady can adapt to her personal taste.

Shoes

The dirndl fits, the apron bow is tied - all that's missing is the perfect shoes for the Oktoberfest outfit. Hiking boots aka mountaineering boots and laced ankle boots in combination with rough wool socks are still the classic.  Ballerinas – preferably with straps, bows or embroidery – and loafers are must-haves - pumps and sandals with the dirndl also make a perfect choice. 

The classic half or short boots make for a great choice. They are the perfect complement to the dirndl, because they look rustic and harmonize particularly well with the rural inspired outfit. In addition, traditional boots give the feet a good grip in the hustle and bustle of the festival and defy bad weather better than any other dirndl shoe.

Ballet Flats are fun and flirty footwear that come in a variety of styles and colors. The Ballet Flat is fashioned after ballet slippers, which have been around since the 16th century. Ballerinas can be combined with almost any outfit and are also very popular as traditional shoes. The dirndl ballerinas are super comfortable and are therefore ideal for extensive dance nights at the Oktoberfest.

Every girl who prefers more robust shoes is well advised to wear boots. Traditional boots are stable and keep the feet pleasantly warm even on colder days. Especially in combination with chic leather pants, the boots look very nice on every woman and make the traditional outfit what it is.

Another comfortable variant for a visit to the Wiesn, albeit one that is not unreservedly accepted, are sneakers. They give the traditional look something fresh and modern, but should never stand out from the overall ensemble. It is best to choose a traditional costume style. They are better suited for a festive appearance than the sporty-looking originals and fit perfectly into the traditional image.

Pumps are considered timeless classics and are not without reason one of the most popular traditional shoes for women: the wide-cut low shoes with pretty heels stretch the legs and skilfully draw attention to the figure of every woman. In contrast to high heels, pumps have a slightly smaller heel.

Haferl shoes are the traditional footwear in Upper Bavaria. The Haferl is a classic working shoe with a sturdy sole and laces at the side. This shoe model is broad fit and traditionally made from high-quality, robust leather. This popular type of shoe is the classic accompaniment to Lederhose and perfectly completes the traditional country-home style worn at the Oktoberfest.

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