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Dirndl Basics

What is a Dirndl? If you have seen the movie “The Sound of Music,” you already know the basic elements that make up a Dirndl: skirt, bodice, apron and blouse. Simple, right? Far from it! There is a veritable science to Dirndl cuts, fabric patterns, colors and embroidery.

The main elements that make up a Dirndl are the wide skirt attached to a “Leiberl”, or fitted bodice, an apron (often with a hidden pocket) and a short Dirndl blouse. 

The skirt usually starts at the waist or a little lower. You can choose between various lengths, depending on current fashion trends.  The bodice used to be a separate item, but since the 1930s is sewn to the skirt. It comes in many different styles: with a high or low, round or square neckline, it is fastened with buttons, hooks, or ribbons.

An important element is the Dirndl blouse. It is generally very short (ends above the waist), with long, short or puffed sleeves. It can have many different necklines and is usually made of white cotton or linen. The Dirndl blouse accentuates the style of your Dirndl: Choose between delicately hand-embroidered pieces, blouses with extravagant ruffles and lace, or simple ones with straight sleeves.  

Finally, there is the apron. Formerly worn to protect the dress underneath, it is now a purely decorative item. There are aprons for every-day wear and aprons for festive occasions which are usually of a more elegant fabric than the simple linen or cotton ones. Before you tie your knot – be sure to check on which side to place it – otherwise you might unwittingly send out the wrong message.

Different combinations of these elements make up the traditional Dirndl. There are different Dirndl styles for different occasions, even Dirndl styles that tell which region in Austria the wearer is from. With the recent “Dirndl Renaissance,”  there are countless downright “unorthodox” styles that experiment with different fabrics, cross cultural references and punk elements.

If all these options seem daunting at first, remember: the most important thing is to have fun with the many different colors and patterns, and to choose a Dirndl that fits your personality. To truly rock a Dirndl you have to make it your own!

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