How To Wear An Austrian Dirndl Dress Like A Local

There's One For Every Occasion

Tourists and non-Germans associate the Dirndl dress with Oktoberfest and the Sound of Music. In Austria, they are still very much a part of community life. Every respectable Austrian woman has one hanging in her cupboard. 

Traditional Dirndl dress Austria.
The traditional Dirndl of a female member of the Tulfes marching band in Tyrol, Austria.

The many looks of a Dirndl dress

The Dirndl dress comes in many different looks – feminine, sexy, classic, kitsch, retro or historic. Despite the different styles, they are all bodice dresses generally consisting of a wide skirt, an apron, a bodice, and a low-cut blouse with puff sleeves.

The traditional Dirndl

If you want to see an Austrian woman in a proper, traditional Dirndl dress, similar to the Swiss traditional dress,  you must be in an Austrian village on a Catholic holiday. They are characterised by a church ceremony which is followed by a procession consisting of the priest and his parishioners accompanied by the town band. Every family dusts their traditional outfits off for the occasion.

Traditional Dirndl dress for Fronleichnam in Austria.
The women of Tulfes in Austria participate in the Fronleichnam procession in their Dirndl dresses.

If you go to an Austrian wedding without wearing some form of Dirndl dress, you will most certainly not fit in. Formal Dirndls have ankle-length skirts, those for everyday occasions are knee-length, and the mini-dirndl is popular for parties and beer festivals.

Read more: The colourful centuries-old procession of Fronleichnam

Other places to see Austrian women in Dirndl dresses are restaurants and hotels, where the staff and waiters are often required to add a traditional flair to the establishment.

Of course, women who are well endowed won’t find a better outfit to show off their assets than the Dirndl dress. Even those who aren’t that well endowed will find the Dirndl gives them curves where they never knew they had any.

The history of the Dirndl

The Dirndl certainly has come far since its origins as a peasant dress. The name comes from the word Dirndlgewand which literally meant “maid’s dress”. It developed as regional and local folk dress, meaning the traditional Dirndl worn by women coming from the same valley or village looked the same. It became somewhat of a “village uniform”.

Traditional Dirndl dress Austria.
These two elderly weavers from the Alpbach Valley wear similar looking Dirndl dresses.

Then, in the 1870s, upper-class ladies started experimenting with wearing Dirndl dresses to make a fashion statement. Even Emperor Franz Josef supported the birth of this new fashion trend. The European aristocracy started wearing Dirndl dresses and lederhosen on their summer holidays in the country.

Read more: How the cows come home in Austria

Oktoberfest Dirndl outfits

Today, the Dirndl dress is mostly known outside of central Europe as Oktoberfest outfit. Even the New York Times wrote about its comeback!

If you’re planning on showing off your assets in a Dirndl at the mother of Oktoberfests in Munich, be sure to read these Oktoberfest tips before you go.

Interesting Dirndl dress facts

  • Pronunciation: Deer-n-dil
  • Traditional dress is called “Tracht” in Austria
  • The Bavarians in Germany, some Swiss Germans, and the South-Tyroleans in Italy also still wear Dirndls on special occasions.
  • The Dirndl dress was a main feature of the Parish fashion collections in 1938.



What the position of the Dirndl apron bow says of the wearer

On the right side – she’s engaged or married

On the left side – she’s available

In the front – she’s a virgin

At the back – she’s a widow

Dirndl blouse

Finding a good-fitting Dirndl blouse is just as important as finding the right Dirndl dress. After all, it’s the blouse that showcases your assets  😳 , isn’t it?

Dirndl dress accessories

As with any other outfit, no dress is complete without the right accessories. The Edelweiss immediately springs to mind. This rare Alpine flower that was made famous by the Sound of Music adorns earrings and necklaces. Heart chokers are also popular. Or how about some Bavarian rhinestone pretzel earrings?

A woman in a Dirndl needs a man in Lederhosen

Although women’s Lederhosen have also become popular in recent years, nothing beats a man showing off some well-formed calves in Lederhosen. Where we live, the saying goes that a good pair of Lederhosen lasts a lifetime and never gets cleaned. The stains that it collects over the years only gives it character!

A Dirndl dress for a little princess

Little Dirndl dresses are passed on from generation to generation in Austria. Girls and boys proudly wear their traditional dress on special family and cultural occasions.

Disclosure: My content is intended to help you plan the best trip to Tyrol and Austria. Where appropriate, I include affiliate links in blog posts or pages to help you access relevant services, products and attractions. I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, to help me maintain the blog if you click through and make a purchase. All support is appreciated!

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About Linda de Beer 91 Articles
Name: Linda de Beer Profession: Travel blogger and freelance writer