The Dirndl. A Bavarian tradition on display at Oktoberfest
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.
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.