Clothes maketh the (wo)man

14 Apr

Now I’m not talking about just any kind of clothes here, I’m talking about German traditional clothes or Trachten. Men wear lederhosen (real men anyway) and women get the opportunity to wear a supremely flattering and beautiful outfit which they call a dirndl (pronounced Deer-n-dil).

The dirndl I refer to is not the very traditional dress that some Germans wear for celebrations but the more modern form of dress that is easy to wear and comes in may different styles, colours and price ranges. You can see the more traditionally dressed women at local events, they will often have matching outfits since they are part of the same group. Their outfits are beautiful down to the wicker bag and fresh flowers they tote.

When we first moved here, under no circumstances would you get me prancing through town in ‘a milkmaid outfit’, yes those were my exact and uneducated words. I’m not a girly girl you see, I spend my spare time in jeans, a dress with an apron and a frilly blouse? No.

And if I had never stepped into that Tracht shop one rainy afternoon and been taken under the wing of a dirndl wearing saleswoman, I would feel downright out of place at a beer festival. I also wouldn’t feel so feminine, whilst drinking my litre of beer. In the past few years the wearing of trachten to to beer festivals has really taken off, just check out the Bergkirchweih if you don’t believe me.

A dirndl is made up of a snugly fitted corset like bodice, blouse, skirt and apron, and if you’re worried that you will end up all cleavage, then don’t (unless thats your thing of course) a dirndl can be modest and practical as well as figure flattering. You can pick just about any colour you want, even the plainest cotton dirndl can have some beautiful detailing on the buttons and neckline. Go as plain or as fancy as you want, but do be aware that you will be wearing it outside surrounded by a lot of beer, maybe rethink the silk! And you will always find a pocket in the skirt, though its only really big enough to keep your 50 cent for the loo safe.


Image by Ornella M via Flickr

This is the only time anyone over the age of 20 should wear a belly top (crop top as a non northern translation). Since the bodice is close fitting your blouse will be elasticated and end just under your bust, don’t worry once you get the dress on you’ll feel better I promise! You will have to choose from a vast array of white and some black blouses, puffy sleeves, lace, off the shoulder, buttons, frills you name it you’ll find it. My advice? find the dirndl first, then try on at least five different tops before you make up your mind.

The bodice is form fitting, it gives you amazing posture and can give you help in the bust department (if necessary). Also if you do need a bit of extra help, check out the dirndl bras, they tend to be balcony rather than plunging so you get a more natural cleavage rather than a full on in your face boobage.

Skirt lengths are less varied, the mini(high above the knee), the midi (knee length or longer) and the long (mid calf to ankle). Bear in mind that you’ll be up on a table dancing and riding your bike around in this dress, if you go for the mini, please get some big pants too! The midi is generally the most popular length, everyone can rock it and not much chance of flashing your knickers. Long is generally more for the older generation (50s or 60s) or waitresses, and yes, all ages wear dirndls from baby to grandma, check out a bridal dirndl they are stunning.

The apron itself is not a big deal, where you tie it on the other hand is. The code of dirndl apron tying is as follows, ‘single or looking’ bow tied to the right on your hip, ‘married, taken or not looking’ bow tied to the left. Front and centre bow means you’re a virgin (strangely one doesn’t see a lot of these about) and back centre is either widowed or a waitress.

Shoes, this is always a bit of contentious issue, purists maintain that trainers should not be worn with your dirndl but trekking a couple of miles through a muddy forest means that pretty heels are a big no. Ballet flats, pumps and converse (other brands are available obviously) tend to be what most women choose, you can get special tracht shoes but I’m not a fan because they are quite clompy.

So go and buy your dirndl before the craziness of the pre Bergkirchweih shopping starts, now is the perfect time. Check out C&A for cheap and cheerful, Erlangen Dirndl Garage for last seasons collections at bargain prices (Opens 5th April) and Wirkes Dirndl & Tracht for unlimited choice and good advice. Peek & Cloppenburg and Galeria Kaufhof also sell them seasonally though theirs tend to be on the pricier side.

You will feel especially silly the first time you go out dressed in a dirndl, you might even find yourself humming ‘the hills are alive’ but when you get to that beer festival you will be glad you did it.

Honestly, the best matching accessory to your dirndl is your guy in his lederhosen, I always maintain that ‘real men wear lederhosen’ and honestly if your guy won’t join in once you are looking beautiful in your dirndl, well, I may rethink the guy. Go shopping together and he can pick a coordinating shirt, it’s also a fun shopping trip to have with your visiting friends if they want that authentic beer festival experience!

Just don’t EVER turn up dressed like this, you will get laughed out of town!

bad dirndl

Image by Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr




12 Responses to “Clothes maketh the (wo)man”

  1. cliff1976 April 14, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    It took us a while to get on board with the Trachten, but I’m glad we did. I will also vouch for Wirkes — at two different outlets in Regensburg I’ve received excellent consultation, with or without purchase.

    O zapft is! (Well, pretty soon anyways…bring on the festivals, I say.)

    • cliff1976 April 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Oh, and I forgot to say great pun with regard to

      The midi is generally the most popular length, everyone can rock it

      Well played!

    • theerlangenexpat April 18, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      I do love that it makes me feel more at home, just by blending in a bit more.

  2. Joelle Vachon July 26, 2015 at 1:46 am #


    I`m heading to the Berlin Beer Festival and I was just wondering if wearinga dirndl is as popular there as it would be at Oktoberfest. If so do you know of any places in Berlin that sell them


    • Alie C July 26, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Unfortunately I’ve never been to Berlin Beer Festival so I’m not sure what people will be wearing. Tracht isn’t as popular in the north as it is in Bavaria so i doubt there will be as much as at Oktoberfest, but don’t let that stop you if you want to take the plunge. The post has some good ideas for where to buy C&A, Peek&clopperberg, Galaria Kaufhof are available throughout Germany I’m guessing Berlin have some, happy shopping!


  1. The Week in Germany: Berlin in 24 Hours, German Customer Service, and Dirndl Advice | Young Germany - April 18, 2014

    […] Expat philosophizes about finding and wearing dirndls.  If that’s your kind of thing, then read on right here.  I prefer Lederhosen […]

  2. Insiders guide to the Bergkirchweih | The Erlangen Expat - May 3, 2014

    […] plain and simple, join in and have some fun, see if this can convince […]

  3. Insiders guide to Annafest | The Erlangen Expat - July 23, 2014

    […] (Lederhosen and Dirndl) for the whole family are […]

  4. Dates for your (Franconia) diary 2015 | The Erlangen Expat - April 24, 2015

    […] The local bierfest on your doorstep. An experience that you won’t forget, get that tracht on and get out with your family and friends to enjoy the bier, food and […]

  5. Are you going to Erlangen Bergkirchweih? | The Erlangen Expat - May 11, 2015

    […] not wearing one, let me convince you otherwise and direct you to the best places to buy from here. Of course it’s not compulsory to wear tracht, always wear something you’re […]

  6. Insiders guide to the Bergkirchweih (updated 2015) | The Erlangen Expat - May 11, 2015

    […] plain and simple, join in and have some fun, see if this can convince you! Of course tracht is not compulsory, wear what you’re comfortable […]

  7. The Dirndl, Or: Clothes Make the Woman | Young Germany - May 12, 2015

    […] post was originally published on The Erlangen Expat and was used here with permission of the […]

I always love to hear from people, past, present and future expats and everyone in between. Go on leave a comment.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: