If we go way back to the beginning, the history of the dirndl is a humble one. Dirndls were mainly used by girls and women who worked as servants in the mid-1800’s. The original name “Dirndlgewand” actually translates into “maid’s dress”. Servants and farmers had a strict dress code of wearing servant clothing and no fancy jewelry. Only people of nobility could wear any imported clothing or fancy jewelry.
Dirndls turned into a high fashion statement by the upper class in the 1870s, when Prince-Regent Luitpold decided to dress in the traditional Alpine Bavarian dress. Therefore, higher-class women began searching for beautiful dirndls. These women wanted summer dresses for their country homes and countryside vacations. The dirndl soon became a fashion statement for those wanting to show off their Bavarian Pride before it vanished from history.
Now women from all over Germany wear dirndls in different ways. In rural Austria, The Black Forest, and Bavaria, women wear them as a common everyday dress. In other regions of Germany, however, women wear their dirndl for formal or special occasions only.
A deeper look into the history of Lederhosen showcases its humble beginnings. Lederhosen were once only worn as farmers’ pants or something common folk wore daily. Lederhosen directly translates into “Leather Pants”. Because the heavy and durable leather makes it perfect for hard labor, one pair of traditionally made lederhosen can last you a lifetime.
In the 1870’s dirndls became all the rage with higher class society. Once it was worn by their Prince-Regent, all of society wanted to be seen wearing lederhosen. They began to use lederhosen for any outdoor activities, such as, horseback riding and hunting. The fashion-aware added fancy embroidery to their lederhosen, and used deer skin to make them more comfortable.
Keeping Bavarian Traditions Alive
In the 1900’s the interest in lederhosen and dirndls dropped greatly. The German upper class had moved on to other trends and were slowly leaving tracht and traditional wear behind. Levi Strauss came to American from Germany, and created a cheaper and more modern fabric than Lederhosen.
To keep the Bavarian culture alive, Munich began to create clubs, dedicated to ensuring people remembered their history. Later, they made lederhosen and dirndls the official costumes for Oktoberfest.