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From Peasant Garb to High Fashion

The Dirndl has evolved from its humble origins centuries past as the work-garb of peasants to a modern-day fashion superstar. With its feminine silhouette, its versatility and simple elegance, the Dirndl is a fashion “evergreen.” But where does it come from, and how did it get so popular?

 © Lupi Spuma Fine Photography/Lena Hoschek

Allegedly, the short Dirndl blouse we know today was originally a long shirt. Way back when, the shirt was actually one of the “basics” in the contemporary wardrobe of the rural population. Women wore a bodice, or even just a tightly wound cloth as undergarment for warmth and support. Aprons were tied around the shirt to protect it from stains and dust. When people came home from the fields, the apron was simply switched to a different one for house work, or one for festive occasions.

Eventually, for reasons of practicality and perhaps vanity, the shirt was sometimes worn underneath the bodice and so the Dirndl was born. For a long time it was the garb of women in the countryside and different styles developed for different regions.

Finally, in the middle of the 19th century, Emperor Franz Joseph and his court used to vacation in the Salzburg Lake district. The emperor took to wearing Lederhosen during his hunting exhibitions there, and a fashion trend was born. Suddenly, the Dirndl was all the rage and the Viennese aristocracy wore Dirndl and Lederhosen during their stay in the country.

In the 1920s, the founders of the Salzburg Festival contributed to the popularity of the Dirndl by making it acceptable to wear during performances and society events. The Salzburger Dirndl manufacturer Lanz and the world-wide success of the operetta “Weisses Roessl” made the Dirndl an international hit.

Since then the Dirndl has conquered the international fashion world. In the last 10-15 years, the Dirndl and traditional costumes in general have experienced another huge surge in popularity, even outside of the regions in Austria where it has been an every-day item for generations.