German Dirndl

GERMAN DIRNDL: Is any other traditional dress as feminine, elegant and downright sexy as the Bavarian Dirndl?
Any man or woman alive who has visited the Munich Oktoberfest would have to answer with a resounding no!
There’s even a song about the dress with the line "Whether he’s a doctor, farmer or a Sheikh – Dirndls can make any man turn weak".
So what's the real story behind the dress that launched a thousand ships?

oktoberfest-dirndlDIRNDLMANIA: Is there any dress as beautiful as the Dirndl? Pic: Florian Schott

Dirndl origins

The word Dirndl had meant just "girl" in the Bavarian dialect, now it can mean either a girl or the dress.
The old name for the dress is Dirndlgewand. Servant girls started wearing dresses resembling today’s Dirndls in the 1800s.
In those days they were modest affairs, plain in colour and, of course, light on the cleavage.
There were different styles to match the seasons. The winter Dirndl was heavy and often dark, with long sleeves and a thick apron to keep the wearer warm.
The summer Dirndl had short sleeves.
Towns and regions developed individual styles which bore the local colours or emblem.

A woman in traditional German Dirndl dress. This style is called Isarwinkler Tracht, after an area in Upper Bavaria from where it originates. Pic: Florian Schott

Some of the women in the Gallery of Beauties (Schönheitengalarie) at Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace were painted wearing Dirndls.
One of the most famous beauties, Helene Sedlmayr, was painted in 1831 wearing an old Munich style Dirndl.
The nobility adopted the Dirndl along with Lederhosen in the late 1800s and turned them into high fashion.
The operetta Im weißen Rössl (The White Horse Inn) gave the Dirndl’s popularity another shot in the arm after it premiered in Berlin in 1897.
The operetta was a comedy of love and hijinks set at an Austrian hotel.
The Dirndl got more and more revealing throughout the 20th and 21st centuries until we arrived at what we have today. The contemporary mini-Dirndl only came into existence about 30 years ago.

Dirndls today

girl-dirndl-dressELEGANCE: A young woman in a modern, beautiful Dirndl in Munich. Pic: grafzahlmd

Munich fashion designers including Lola Peltinger are continuing to put new spins on the dress.
Peltinger’s designs fuse tradition with expensive fabrics and have been worn by Paris Hilton and Salma Hayek.
Other designers are taking the Dirndl in new directions.
A Berlin "metropolitan Dirndl", an Anglo-Bavarian design with English-style tweed, and Dirndls with Indian sari patterns have all been produced in recent years.
A Columbian designer has even gone so far to make a bulletproof Dirndl, perfect for parties in downtown Bogata!
Dirndls are worn more commonly in everyday life than their counterpart, the lederhosen.
The dresses are everywhere at Oktoberfest and other Bavarian beer festivals and they’re also regularly worn by waitresses at Bavarian restaurants and by guests at weddings.
Older women still wear Dirndls every day in Bavaria’s deep south.
German Dirndls cost a minimum of €70 and from there, the sky’s the limit.
The most expensive Dirndl ever was made of pure wild silk and took 300 hours to embroider.
It was adorned with 150,000 Swarovski crystals and cost €100,000.
You'd want to be careful where you step with that one in a beer tent!

Parts of a Dirndl

Modern Dirndls consist of a bodice (Mieder), blouse (Bluse), a skirt (Rock) and a Dirndl apron (Schürze). The skirt can end above the knee (the mini), below the knee (the midi), or go all the way down.
Traditional colours are black, blue and soft pink, but today anything goes from silver and gold to electric pink and toxic green.
The blouse is almost always white.

THE BALCONY: A cleavage-magnifying bra
is part of the "Dirndl-effect". Pic: DMWyllie

Dirndls are worn with a special bra (in German: BH) to highlight and give extra support to the bust.
Locals here call cleavage the "Décolleté", or even the Balkon (balcony).
The apron is tied with a large knot (Schleife).
Two-piece dresses inspired by Dirndl design are termed Landhausmode, or Country House Fashion.
As said on the main Oktoberfest Munich page, the knot’s position reveals the wearer’s availability.
If the knot is on the left the wearer is single, so that’s the green light to flirt city.
If it’s tied on the right, she’s taken.
If the knot is square on the front she’s probably a virgin. If it’s dead on the back the wearer is a widow or perhaps a waitress.

Watch a video

A fascinating video on what the Dirndl has become in today's Germany.

German Dirndl accessories

wearing a choker with her
German Dirndl.
Pic: nicholas macgowan

Jewellery– Necklaces, earrings and chains all commonly accompany the Dirndl.

Shoes and socks
– Dirndls can be worn with pumps or flat, ballerina-type shoes.
Knee-length socks are common, but socks are often skipped altogether in favour of tights.

– Women’s Trachten jackets (called Janker) are long-sleeved woollen numbers, usually without a collar.
Knitted shawls are another option if it’s a bit on the chilly side.

To get more of an idea about how German Dirndls can look, scroll through the galleries below.

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Can't get enough of German costumes?

• See more pictures of beautiful women in German Dindls on the pages Oktoberfest Dirndl photos, Dirndl Girls and More Dirndl pics.
• Leather shorts more your thing? See the story on Traditional German Lederhosen.

Other links

• Getting ready for the Oktoberfest? You'l find a slew of other stories here at the Oktoberfest Index.
• Learn more about Bavaria's heritage at Munich Backstory.
Jump from German Dirndl back to Destination Munich Home.