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Dirndls - Ethnic Dress of the Alpine Peasants

Updated on March 4, 2013
Dindl and Lederhosen - Many older people in Germany still wear the traditional attire daily
Dindl and Lederhosen - Many older people in Germany still wear the traditional attire daily | Source
Vintage Lederhosen - This sepia shaded photo brings to life the traditional lederhosen outfit in a festive feel
Vintage Lederhosen - This sepia shaded photo brings to life the traditional lederhosen outfit in a festive feel | Source

Of Dirndls and Lederhosen

The traditional ethnic dress for the Alpine area which covers modern day Germany's Bavaria, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol regions and outside Germany, the nation of Austria, has been the Dirndl for women and the Lederhosen for men.

Collectively the traditional national dresses for men and women are known as "Tracht." Tracht comes from the German verb "tragen" which means to carry, to wear or to bear. It is still fairly common for these traditional dresses to be worn regularly by the older generation in the Alpine region.

The Lederhosen is a pair of leather shorts which is traditionally worn with embroidered braces and a shirt which may be plain white or checked.

It is often topped with a hat with a relatively narrow brim. The band may have more than one color and the feather on the left side is totally optional.

(Think of the two boys in "Sound of Music" when the VonTrapp children travel to the monastery to meet Maria. That's traditional Austrian wear for boys and men in the region.)

Dirndl - a light circular cut dress, gathered at the waist, that falls below the knee. The corset style lace up allows you to adjust it to size
Dirndl - a light circular cut dress, gathered at the waist, that falls below the knee. The corset style lace up allows you to adjust it to size | Source

Dirndl Fashion

Have you ever worn a Dirndl?

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More on the Dirndl

The women of course have more elaborate costumes than the men.

The dirndl is essentially a dress which has a circular cut. The material is gathered at the waist to define it and the length in traditional dirndl's will fall below the knees. A white ruffled blouse is worn inside the dress and an apron is tied on top of it.

In the Bairisch or South German dialect the word Dirndl originally referred to a young woman or a girl, and Dirndlgewand to the dress, as per Wikipedia. However today the word Dirndl is used interchangeable for both young woman as well as the traditional Tracht dress that she would wear.

The Summer Dirndl is made of light fabrics like cotton and is often printed with pretty floral designs. It will also sport short sleeves. The dress is reflective of the weather and the Winter Dirndl is usually made of heavier materials such as thick cotton, linen, velvet or wool. It will have long sleeves.

The traditional design of the Tracht has led to the new Country Estate style of fashion which is known as Landhausmode. The dresses that pass for a dirndl in Landhausmode do not adhere strictly to the traditional design of the Alpine peasant wear of the past.

Landhausmode - Country Estate Style Fashion

Inspired by the rural wear of the past years, Landhausmode, showcases the Tracht in traditional fabrics such as linen and loden. Loden is a type of felt material that has gained popularity in recent years with global fashion houses.

Landhausmode is characterized by rich embroidery in traditional designs called Friesische Tracht which is identified by its use of beads embedded in the embroidery. Such beautifully embroidered dirndls, which were called Friesische Tracht, were part of the dowry that the bride brought to her husband's house. These dresses were worn by the farmer's wife on special occasions.

Today replicas of the Friesische Tracht are used to characterize Landhausmode. The outfits tend to range from simple to highly elaborate and can accommodate every purse or wallet.

Dirndl Costumes

With fashion never being restricted to a single region in this global age, the traditional dirndl has inspired many costumes.

If you are looking for an exotic and sexy dress for a costume party, look no further.The natural design of the dirndl lends itself to being flattering for any shape of woman. Its ideal to look exotic and still feel comfortable.

The puffed up sleeves, well fitted bodice and the long full skirt produce an hourglass effect. So it does not matter if your hips are too wide or your thighs too fat, this flattering dress covers up all the flaws and highlights your assets!

Pretty Maids all in a row - Look at the bright colors or summer dirndls in this line up
Pretty Maids all in a row - Look at the bright colors or summer dirndls in this line up | Source

Accessories used with the Dirndl

In the summers, bright and vibrant silk scarves and aprons are worn. While winters sees woolen shawls, and waistcoats being used to accessorize the dirndl. Often the winter dirndl design may include high necks, and front buttons over which the shawl is draped.

In terms of jewelry the women wear necklaces and earrings along with broaches pinned on the dirndl. The jewelry is traditionally made out of silver but may also include animal teeth and deer antlers.

Wearing Tracht in Germany

The Jews were not allowed to wear Tracht in the Nazi era. This is to date associated with far right politicians by the more progressive sections of German society.

Later on the people who continued to wear drindls and lederhosen were seen as traditional people who were not open to the world. This mindset is now changing as Tracht has become trendy again.

Of course tourists love to wear Tracht and enjoy taking photographs in the traditional outfits. The sale of ready made dirndls and lederhosen in the Alpine region will vouch for this fact. You can even pick up the dresses online in a number of stores that deliver globally.

At the Oktoberfest - What better place to wear the traditional attire than at a traditional festival?
At the Oktoberfest - What better place to wear the traditional attire than at a traditional festival? | Source

Interesting Trivia Facts about the Dirndl Apron Bow

Where you tie the bow of the apron is very significant.

If you tie it on the left side of the waist you are single, and if you tie it on the right side of the waist you are engaged of married.

If you tie it in front it means you are a virgin, and if you tie it behind your back it would mean that you are a widow.

So be careful where you tie that insignificant looking bow!


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    • delia-delia profile image


      3 years ago

      I lived in Garmisch Bavaria after the war and before emigrating to America..the Dirndl and Lederhosen are part of those southern regions, as well as the Umpa music..but not all of Germany as most people assume wear these. My mom use to wear one, as did my aunts since they also moved to the south and Austria ...I wish I still had moms dress.

      Great information here!

    • truthfornow profile image


      5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Very interesting that people still hang onto traditions and wear these clothes. Video was neat to watch.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      5 years ago from Beautiful South

      I've always thought the traditional German costumes were lovely, but I had no idea what the dresses were called. Many years ago, gathered skirts were the fashion for women and girls in this country. For a several-year period the fashion magazines were referring to them as "dirndl skirts". I had no idea where that terminology originated. Now I know. Great hub!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great information, thank you for sharing it with beautiful photographs...

    • cashmere profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from India

      Thank you Jane and Marcy. Yes Ruchira, even i would love to own one, but I don't know where I would wear it :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Really informative hub! I love the explanations of the terms (I didn't know dirndl was also used to describe a young girl!), and the photos you used here. Now I want to take a trip!

      Voted up and up!

    • Ruchira profile image


      5 years ago from United States

      I loved reading about this dress. I would love to own a dirndl :)

      voted upas interesting.

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 

      5 years ago

      A great and interesting hub. Other cultures have always interested me and I've always loved the dirndl. Such a charming fashion. Good hub!


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