How To Wear a Traditional Bavarian Dirndl

Europe, Packing & Wardrobe, Parties, Festivals & Events — By on April 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm

By Isabel B
Special to The Lost Girls

This is to all the girls out there: Are you finally making the big trip to Oktoberfest this year? Eager to experience the biggest beer festival like a local? But still haven’t figured out how to wear your camouflage, the traditional Dirndl dress?

The history of the Dirndl

Initially called a Dirndlgewand, the maid’s dress is a type of folk costume, or Tracht, that originated in Austria and Germany in the 19th century. While the men sported Lederhosen, a traditional leather pant, the females wore Dirndls. Then, the Dirndl was considered high fashion for rich and poor alike, each town touting its own crest. Nowadays, the Dirndl is often seen at traditional festivals, the most famous being Oktoberfest.

Traditional Dirndl basics

With “sexy Oktoberfest costumes” abounding for Halloween, the image of the traditional dirndl has been soiled. Here’s how to get an authentic deal: First, the dress must be long, not short. It should float gracefully just above the ground. Second, there is more to it than just the dress: You’ll need a bodice, blouse, full skirt, and apron. A resonance with the sexified Halloween equivalent does, however, remain: The bodice should be form-fitting and the low-cut, ruffled blouses do accentuate the breasts. Push-up bras are common for optimal cleavage and the apron is tied tightly at the waist, where the full skirt curves out the contours of the hips. In terms of colors, pick softer ones for a more traditional look.

A word of caution

Beware of where you tie the knot! It is said that a knot tied on the left means that you are single, while a knot on the right signifies you are taken, whether married, engaged or otherwise. To show that the woman is widowed, the knot is tied in the back.


Where to buy

Trachten are available year-round in Munich, but come in a barrage in the months approaching Oktoberfest. The most famous stores, entirely devoted to the folk costumes, include Angermaier and Wies’n Tracht und mehr. Ample selections are also stocked by department stores such as Loden-FreyKaufhof, Karstadt and Konen. The more exquisite, traditional dresses will be more expensive, and true Dirndl fanatics will even go as far as the Tegernsee to have a dress custom-made for them. It is, however, possible to find good deals downtown. And if you only want your Dirndl for a day, rent it! Stores such as Kostüm Kontor or online portals such as Koch’s Oktoberfest Mode offer affordable rates.

How to accessorize

As if the four-piece combo of bodice, blouse, full skirt, and apron weren’t enough, accessorizing is essential for wearing a Dirndl. The proper shoes are indispensable; after all, nights dancing on tables inside the beer tents are bound to be long (and fun!). Haferlschuhe, sturdy leather flats, are the classics, but nowadays Timberlands or simple ballet flats are common, too. It’s okay for socks to show in off-white or light grey. Jewelry, in turn, often dons the Edelweiss flower as do time-honoured leather bags. A silk scarf, tied around the neck, tops off the perfect outfit and is an ideal way to spice up a cheaper cotton Dirndl.


Now it’s time to swirl around in your skirt, enjoy the ‘fest, and grab a Mass (1 liter) beer—Prost, as the Bavarians would cheer!

Photo credits: akante1776,; catlovers,



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