Each year, millions flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, the celebration of beer and Bavarian culture. Among the festival’s most enduring sights are German girls and women wearing their traditional dirndl dress. This fetching garment had humble origins: in the 19th century, the Dirndlgewand was a common outfit worn by Austrian servants and rural women. Later in the century, the upper classes of Austria and Bavaria had begun to idealize the rural life, and the dirndl (and lederhosen for men) became fashionable.
A tradition dirndl includes a bodice, a blouse, a colorful long dress and an apron. Dirndls can be worn all year long, with two types: spring-summer and fall-winter. The spring-summer dirndl is usually a brightly colored cotton dress, light and thin, and a short-sleeved shirt with a plunging collar. The fall-winter dirndl is a thick and heavy dress, made from linen, velvet or wool fabrics, very warm, usually with darker colors, a long-sleeved shirt, high collar, and an apron made from cotton or linen.
Accessories often accompanying the dirndl are a silk scarf (in summer) or wool scarf (in winter), and jewelry such as silver necklaces, earrings and brooches as well as necklaces made from stag’s horns or animal teeth. In the past, the apron played an important role because the position of decorated buttons or knots would express the marriage status of wearers. If the knot was on the left of the apron, the wearer was still single. If knot was on the right, she was married. A knot at the back of dress and no buttons on the apron meant the wearer was a widow.
Nowadays, the dirndl dress is still found mainly at festivals, or worn by waitresses in traditional Bavarian restaurants, at biergartens (beer gardens) or by other tourism industry workers. At Oktoberfest, the dirndl is seen everywhere, making a colorful and charming sight for festivalgoers.
In recent years, however, the dirndl has become fashionable again, worn as a casual outfit in some parts of Austria and Bavaria. It has even made its way to the ranks of haute couture. In the 2013 Spring/Summer fashion season, dirndl-type skirts have become a hot trend in European fashion, with many designs combining classic and modern, discreet lines and daring deep collars to make the dirndl more attractive than ever. The style has made its way to fashion stores in Munich, Milan, Berlin, London and Paris with designs by famous brands like Givenchy, Dior and Chloe. From its humble Alpine origins more than 200 years ago, the dirndl continues to charm.