Dirndl Do or Dirndl Don’t? How to Dress for Oktoberfest

For many, Germany’s world-famous beer festival, the Oktoberfest, is not just about enjoying the amber ale – it is also a great excuse to wear an outlandish costume.

Whether you attend the actual event in Munich or partake in themed festivities elsewhere, you will likely see people dressed in Austro-Bavarian costumes known as “Tracht.”

A dirndl, a peasant-style pinafore dress, or lederhosen, traditional leather pants, are the most popular choices when it comes to dressing up in this Germanic old-world clothing. Here are a few pointers on how to wear the pieces in style.

Do I have to dress up?

No. The first thing to keep in mind when choosing your outfit for an Oktoberfest is that costume is not compulsory. And if you don’t want to go all the way, you could also try giving the old-fashioned garb a modern twist.

“Whether you choose something traditional or modern is up to you. Buy what you like and what suits you,” advises the official Oktoberfest homepage.


Just as in everyday fashion, you can mix vintage elements and contemporary pieces. Stylist Sonja Grau says that combining lederhosen with a sweater is perfectly acceptable.

“Even a hooded jumper could be worn – as long as it complements the overall look,” she says. Women could also wear jeans paired with a themed blouse. If you would prefer to wear your regular clothing, even a single accessory like a hat can be worn.

What are the current trends?

Even traditional costumes are susceptible to trends. Recently there has been a shift towards more subtle, classic attire. Muted colours, embroidered flower motifs and, above all, checked patterns are the dominant looks of 2018.

Oktoberfest dirndl fashion


The outfits are also tending to become more modest. “When everything is covered up, it allows for some mystery about what might be underneath,” says Grau, referring to a general move away from busty cleavage towards high-necked blouses.

The “less is more” principle also applies to men – lederhosen should be at least knee length, she adds.

How should I accessorize?


The decorative elements of a dirndl can have hidden meanings. For example, the bow ribbon on the bodice can indicate whether a woman is single or not. “If the wearer is taken, she shows this by wearing her bow to the right,” says Grau. If it is worn to the left, this could indicate that she is single.

Another invitation for flirtation can be a feather on a hat. “By pointing a feather forward, a woman can indicate to a man that he may approach her,” says Grau. “But if the feather is pointed to the back, then the wearer is not interested in being courted – she is just there to enjoy herself.” Thanks – dpa, Munich.

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