Dirdnl Shopping Guide
Ever since I moved to Austria, I have looked forward to buying my first Dirndl. In order to help out my fellow first-timers, I compiled a helpful Dirndl shopping guide to help you find the perfect Dirndl for you.
Initially, I thought the shopping process would be fairly simple – walk to the store, pick out a Dirndl and feel awesome. However, I was surprised and a little bit overwhelmed by the different styles and selection available to me – there were short dresses, ones with chains, some embellished with embroidery, all kinds of aprons, and different tops to wear underneath – I did not know where to begin!
- Traditional clothing is called Trachten and consists of Dirndls and Lederhosen. Trachten is worn in Austria and German Bavaria during traditional folk festivals and holidays such as Oktoberfest. In Austria, Trachten is also worn to formal occasions and celebrations. If you are a tourist or expat, it is acceptable to wear Trachten to festivals – it is a way of showing your desire to be a part of the community.
- Dirndls consist of a close-fitting bodice dress, blouse, and apron. There are a multitude of colors to choose from, but it is traditional to have a Dirndl of at least two different colors.
- Prices for Dirndls can vary anywhere between 50 to 300 Euros. Several big box retailers sell Trachten during the festival season at reasonable prices, but you can also go to a Trachten shop to support a local business and get a custom Dirndl. I purchased my Dirndl at C & A for about 60 Euros.
- Women can choose between Lederhosen or Dirndls – you do not have to be confined to a dress during the festivities! Women’s Lederhosen consists of embroidered leather shorts, suspenders, and a fitted plaid shirt.
- Mini: falls above the knee, popular choice for young women and teenagers
- Midi: knee-length, the common style of most Dirndls
- Long: perfect for cold weather (TBH, it is cold most of the time in the Alps – ha!)
- Apron: after wearing a Dirndl during our town’s Kirchtag, I can definitely vouch for the effectiveness of the apron – why don’t we wear them all of the time? With a giant stein of beer in one hand and a pretzel in the other, the apron is very effective in protecting your Dirndl from spilled beer while navigating a packed festival. I initially thought that the apron was optional until I realized my Dirndl dress did not button down as far as I thought, there was actually a planned gap in buttons from the bodice to the waist line (I am going to guess it is to accommodate an expanding waistline from indulging in lots of beer). Your Dirndl will come with an apron, but you can always upgrade by purchasing a fancy embroidered or silk one from a local shop.
- Blouse: while not required, most women will wear a blouse with their Dirndl. The blouse is meant to showcase the girls and comes in a variety of styles. Most women will wear a white blouse, but I have seen them in black and pink in local Trachten shops. The blouse is a fitted crop top that you wear under your Dirndl. Your blouse should have a snug fit, a loose blouse will bunch up under your Dirndl and not showcase your womanly assets the way it should. The Dirndl blouse comes in a variety of styles: long-sleeved, off-the-shoulder, low-cut, and modest. While shopping for my Dirndl, the sales woman recommended that I wear a push-up bra under my blouse, so don’t feel the need to be modest.
- Where you tie your apron is important:
- Left side – Single and ready to mingle
- Right side – married or in a committed relationship
- In the middle – for young girls
- In the back – widowed or a waitress
- Variations by region: The style of Trachten may vary depending on where you are located in the Alpine region. I live in the state of Carinthia and the women’s Dirndl includes a finely pleated skirt, headscarf, black laced boots, an embroidered belt, and intricately crocheted stockings. I recommend looking up the Trachten of your region to see how you can add some extra punch to your outfit, plus it is fun to spot the differences when you are out celebrating.
There are so many ways to add some fun to your outfit, whether it be a fun hat or a beautiful necklace, accessories will help you stand out.
- Jewelry: it is traditional for women to wear necklaces and chokers with silver charms symbolic of Austria – I have seen edelweiss, antlers, and deer charms for sale in many shops. There are also personalized handmade necklaces designed to look like decorated gingerbread cookies with endearing messages written on them, these are typically gifted as a present to a lucky gal from a suitor.
- Shoes: heels are optional – hooray! Since many cities still have cobblestone streets, most women will wear leather shoes to walk around in. For me, comfort is my first priority, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. I even saw women rocking Chuck Taylor’s with their Dirndl – get it girl!
- Purses: I ended up not using a purse since my Dirndl was equipped with pockets (dresses with pockets are the best, am I right?). Most women use cross-body purses and some even had special Trachten purses that were leather and decorated with edelweiss or heart patterns.
- Hairstyle: how you choose to style your hair is up to you, but I personally appreciate when women put their hair into intricate braids. I saw many older women with their hair in beautiful braids, it is definitely part of the tradition.
After visiting several stores, I ended up picking a pink and green midi-length Dirndl for my purchase. I honestly thought that I would hate the Dirndl since I am much more of a jeans and t-shirt girl, but I absolutely loved it once I put it on. The Dirndl is surprisingly comfortable and after trying on some Lederhosen, I think I would rather be in a dress rather than leather shorts. I have already worn my Dirndl multiple times since moving to Austria and I look forward to busting it out again at Oktoberfest in Munich next month.
How about you? Do you have a Dirndl or are you more of a Lederhosen person? Let me know in the comments!