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"Dirndl" with lacing and green apron

A dirndl is a Bavarian and Austrian traditional dress that was invented towards the end of the 19th century and is now widely regarded as a typical Alpine costume.

Definition of terms

Dirndl is a diminutive of Dirn - the Bavarian-Austrian variant of High German prostitute - and in the corresponding dialects, even in today's linguistic usage, simply describes a young girl (cf. also Low German Deern ), while in modern usage the negative meaning " prostitute " ( Dysphemism ) is associated. Until about the middle of the last century dirn was also the most common Upper German term for a maid employed in agriculture (also High German dirne was used especially for young women of lower class and especially servants in housekeeping and agriculture). Dirndlgewand is the name of the clothing of the maid be worn designated women. Nowadays the expression is often shortened to dirndl .


Historically high-necked dirndls at a festival parade

Invention around 1900

The invention of the dirndl dress shortly before 1900 was originally a purely urban fashion phenomenon. From around 1870/80, the dirndl dress established itself in the upper class of the urban summer resort public as a typical “rural” dress. The Jewish brothers Moritz and Julius Wallach from Bielefeld , who founded the Münchner Volkskunsthaus in 1890, played a key role. The breakthrough came in 1910 when the Wallach brothers equipped the national costume parade for the 100th anniversary of the Oktoberfest free of charge. The background to this was the contradiction that is rumored in the local literature between the supposedly natural, unspoiled and unadulterated rural people and the artificiality and depravity of urban society.

The basic cut goes back to the courtly ladies' fashion of the 18th century with a tight-fitting top, neckline and wide skirt, which over time found its way into urban and rural fashion. As early as the end of the 18th century, the trend in court society emerged to be able to withdraw from the etiquette and the austerity of court life in “rural” surroundings. The ladies' clothing worn was again based on the peasant costume (e.g. shepherd fashion à la Tyrolienne), but in a romantic-based interpretation. This corresponded to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's demand retour à la nature ("back to nature"), which made clear the desired move away from the semblance and superficiality of the courtly way of life to a simple naturalness.

The invention of the dirndl garment marked one of the most important starting points for today's understanding of alpine costume. In the economically difficult period after the First World War , the dirndl became a box-office hit, because as a simple summer dress it was an inexpensive alternative to the often expensive and intricately crafted historical women's costumes. In the 1930s, the dirndl dress became fashionable all over the world, especially through the operetta Im Weißen Rößl . The patent-bred Rössl landlady in a dashing dirndl from the piece by Ralph Benatzky became a figurehead of the Salzkammergut tourist advertising . The singing and traditional Trapp family also made their dirndl dresses popular at the Salzburg Festival and later on their worldwide tours.

time of the nationalsocialism

During the period of National Socialism was the Mittelstelle German costume of the National Socialist Women under Gertrud Pesendorfer set (1895-1982) - the "Reich Commissioner for costume work." In this context, she designed the “renewed costume” in the National Socialist sense. The dirndl was quasi “decatholized”, the closed collars removed, the silhouette slimmed down, the previously floor-length skirt length brought to 7/8 length, the arms no longer covered and thus modernized and eroticized. Pesendorfer created the tightly laced and buttoned waist, which is still shaping the style of contemporary dirndl shapes today, and which strongly emphasizes the female breast. Pesendorfers declared aim was to free the costume from "overgrowths [...] caused by church, industrialization, fashions and kitsch" and "alien influences" and to let the "root real" emerge again. In her book Neue Deutsche Bauerntracht Tirol , published in 1938 , Pesendorfer identified “something in common” behind all the diversity of the traditional costumes, “an undeniable basic attitude that makes it appear as one of the most valuable German national estates.” In the sense of the “Nazi ancestral heritage ”, symbols such as Tree and wheel of life, pairs of birds, three-sprouts adorn the "pure Aryan peasant costumes" and serve to "strengthen the inner front". Pesendorfer was appointed managing director of the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum , although she was a trained secretary with no thorough training . Jews were forbidden to use folk culture "although some of them documented it better than all folklorists then and after".

After 1945, Pesendorfer continued to take sewing courses, as a consultant and author, and was very active in shaping the style of traditional costumes and dirndls based on her previous research. During her lifetime - until the 1980s - there was no critical examination of the National Socialist background of her work and the dirndl shapes she created.


Today the term dirndl refers to a dress with a tight, often deep rectangular or round cut top ( décolleté ), a wide skirt set high at the waist, the length of which changes with the prevailing fashion, and an apron . It is worn at annual fairs and church fairs in rural areas as well as at larger folk festivals such as the Munich Oktoberfest or the Cannstatter Wasen , especially in southern Germany and some Alpine regions . While wearing appropriate clothing was hardly widespread at public festivals in the 1970s, v. a. very strong since the 1990s. Since the 2000s, with varying results, more and more fashion designers have taken up the dirndl theme.

Symbolism of the apron loop position

According to numerous media reports in recent years, the position of the bow with which the apron is tied symbolizes the relationship status of the wearer. If the wearer ties her bow on what is, from her point of view, the front right-hand side, she signals that she is taken, engaged or married. A bow on the front left side means that the wearer is not in a relationship. A bow tied in the middle at the front should symbolize that the wearer is a virgin. The bow tied in the center at the back indicates that the wearer is a widow . However, because of regional traditions, waitresses (e.g. waitresses) and some women always tied the bow in the middle at the back. It is not possible to understand where the basic meaning code comes from.

According to the Miesbach Trachtenverein, the symbolism of the bow position is a new creation of tradition without any historical basis. The ribbon as an indicator of marital status is superfluous, since married women were dressed differently from unmarried girls anyway. Furthermore, in a traditionally Christian, rural society with its conservative moral code, it seems difficult to imagine that an unmarried woman with a bow worn on the left would openly signal to the other person that she was unbound, not engaged, unmarried and at the same time no longer a virgin. According to folklorist Gesine Tostmann , it is a matter of taste whether the apron strings are tied in a bow at the back or at the front. However, Tostmann handed down the positioning of the bow on the right for married women and the bow on the left for single women as a historical practice.

Dirndl variants

Dirndls in different colors and shapes
Modern short dirndls

Depending on the occasion, a dirndl can be made of plain or printed cotton , linen or silk . Mostly it is one-piece with a closure ( zipper , hooks and eyes , various buttons or laces ) in the middle at the front. A zipper can also be attached to the back or the side. Traditionally, the dirndl has a pocket on the front or on the side that is hidden under the apron. In addition, a mostly white dirndl blouse (with puff sleeves or narrow sleeves, long or short sleeves) is worn that only reaches just below the chest, as well as a shawl or a short scarf. A choker band with a pendent often complements the dirndl.

A distinction can be made, on the one hand, between a classic traditional dirndl, a one-piece dress with an apron, also made of fabrics with traditional patterns, and, on the other hand, a country house dress made of gray or colored linen, sometimes with leather bodices or trimmings.

Fashion designers also create dirndl variants.


The Dirndl fly or Dirndl jumping is common since the 1990s, especially in the Austrian and Bavarian Alps. Women (and men) in dirndls jump from a springboard into a lake or a swimming pool, the flight figures are judged by a jury. This form of water jumping is more likely to be assigned to the area of fun sports .

In 2016 the Austrian Post issued an embroidered postage stamp in the form of a dirndl.


  • Heide Hollmer, Kathrin Hollmer: Dirndl. Trends, traditions, philosophy, pop, style, styling. Edition Ebersbach, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86915-043-7 .
  • Reinhard Johler , Herbert Nikitsch, Bernhard Tschofen (eds.): Beautiful Austria. Heritage protection between aesthetics and ideology (= catalogs of the Austrian Museum of Folklore. 65). Austrian Museum for Folklore, Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-900359-65-2 .
  • Franz C. Lipp , Elisabeth Längle, Gexi Tostmann , Franz Hubmann (eds.): Tracht in Österreich. History and present. Brandstätter, Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-85447-028-2 .
  • Daniela Müller, Susanne Trettenbrein: Everything Dirndl. Anton Pustet, Salzburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-7025-0693-3 .
  • Gertrud Pesendorfer: New German peasant costumes. Tyrol. Callwey, Munich 1938.
  • Ulrich Reuter: Clothing between traditional costumes and fashion. From the history of the museum 1889–1989. Folklore Museum, Berlin 1989.
  • Alma Scope: Stages of "Popularity". The importance of Salzburg and the festival for traditional costume fashion. In: Trachten not for everyone? Local ideology and festival tourism depicted in the clothing behavior in Salzburg between 1920 and 1938 (= Salzburg contributions to folklore. 6, ZDB -ID 1189889-6 ). Salzburger Landesinstitut für Volkskunde, Salzburg 1993, pp. 241–260.
  • Monika Ständecke. Dirndl, chests, edelweiss: the folk art of the Wallach brothers . [for the exhibition of the same name at the Jewish Museum Munich from June 27 to December 30, 2007]. Jewish Museum, Munich, 2007, ISBN 978-3-9388-3220-2 .
  • Gexi Tostmann: The alpine dirndl. Tradition and fashion. Christian Brandstätter, Vienna et al. 1998, ISBN 3-85447-781-3 .
  • Elsbeth Wallnöfer: Stolen Tradition. How the Nazis distorted our culture. Sankt Ulrich-Verlag, Augsburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86744-194-0 .
  • Thekla Weissengruber: The traditional costume then and now. In: Vesna Michl-Bernhard (Ed.): 1000 years of textiles Austria. Aspects of the cultural history of textiles with articles and statistics on the current situation in the fields of art, design, teaching and business. Holzhausen, Vienna 1996.

Web links

Wiktionary: Dirndl  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Dirndl  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Ständecke, Monika. Dirndl, chests, edelweiss: the folk art of the Wallach brothers . [for the exhibition of the same name at the Jewish Museum Munich from June 27 to December 30, 2007]. Jewish Museum, Munich, 2007.
  2. Heidi Hagen-Pekdemir: Bielefeld people first made the dirndl chic . In: Neue Westfälische , September 30, 2015.
  3. Gexi Tostmann: The alpine dirndl. Tradition and fashion. Christian Brandstätter, Vienna et al. 1998, p. 32f.
  4. ^ A b c Simone Egger: Phenomenon Oktoberfest costumes. Identity Practices in an Urban Society. Dirndl and Lederhosen, Munich and the Oktoberfest (= Munich ethnographic writings. 2). Herbert Utz, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-8316-0831-7 , p. 55.
  5. ^ Ingrid Loschek: Reclams Mode and Costume Lexicon, 6th expanded and updated edition, Stuttgart 2011, p. 168.
  6. Successful sympathizers: Celebrities in Trachteng´wand, in: Franz Hubmann (Ed.): Tracht in Österreich - Geschichte und Gegenwart, pp. 220–225.
  7. ^ Tyrolean traditional costume practice in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  8. ^ Gertrud Pesendorfer: New German peasant costumes. Tyrol. Callwey, Munich 1938.
  9. Reinhard Jellen : Finding Wiesndirndl. Interview with folklorist Elsbeth Wallnöfer about the modernization of customs by the National Socialists . ( Memento from September 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In: Telepolis on Heise.de, September 27, 2012.
  10. a b Susanne Gurschler: Nazi-compliant laced. Gertrud Pesendorfer, convinced National Socialist, traditional costume expert, director of the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum from 1939 to 1945 and the “Mittelstelle Deutsche Tracht” of the Nazi women's group, was able to advance to the doyen of Tyrolean traditional costumes after the war - just like that . In: Echo Online , October 24, 2013.
  11. Elsbeth Wallnöfer: Of dirndls, traditional costumes and academic balls. In: Der Standard , January 23, 2014, accessed March 20, 2014.
  12. Don't be afraid of the dirndl. In: Der Standard , August 12, 2008, accessed October 2, 2008.
  13. Gexi Tostmann: The Dirndl. Alpine tradition and fashion. Christian Brandstätter, Vienna et al. 1998, ISBN 3-85447-781-3 , p. 72.
  14. Austrian Post: The Dirndl as a postage stamp