Can I Wear a Dirndl if I’m Not German?
Not too long ago someone posted on the Rare Dirndl Facebook page and asked this question: "Is anyone offended if a non-German wears a dirndl? I shared a link to Rare Dirndl on a fashion group earlier and it brought up the question of ‘cultural appropriation’. So can anyone wear a Dirndl? Is it offensive if you're NOT German? Are there times that it's okay, like Oktoberfest, when ‘everyone's German’???”
My immediate thoughts were that anyone and everyone can wear a dirndl! Anytime! (and not just because I make them haha!) I'm not offended at all. But just to be sure that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, I asked this question in the Rare Dirndl Facebook Group.
People brought up a lot of great points such as:
- If the dirndl is authentic and the event is appropriate then absolutely... you wear that dirndl (appropriate meaning not to outshine the host or hostess).
- If you were to be invited to attend the festivities that celebrated another culture would you wear their traditional dress? Most likely not unless it was required and you were doing it respectfully.
- Wearing a dirndl is more for an event within the German community and not likely appropriate for other events.
The general and overall theme of this Facebook conversation was centered around respect. If you are not German, there is no reason you can’t wear a dirndl! Dirndls have this magical effect on people: they can make you feel elegant, confident, and flirty. They are fitted in a way that shapes the body and many styles can also have details that reflect your own personality.
Traditional and regionally specific tracht tends to hold a lot more meaning than just your average dirndl and so those who are from that region are much more protective of those garments. But who are they to judge where you are from if you’re wearing it. For example, I’m of Donauschwaben descent… and if I see someone who I know is not a Danube Swabian wearing a tracht, do I get mad? No. If they are doing something super stupid to the point where they are embarrassing the culture while wearing the tracht, that’s different. It really is all about respect. When you are wearing a dirndl or a traditional cultural dress, you are representing those who came before you (see the Deeper Meaning Behind Wearing a Dirndl for my full article on this topic).
So when is wearing a dirndl NOT OK? When it is done without taste. Any dirndl that is so short it requires bloomers just to walk: Not OK. A “dirndl” that was purchased at Party City: Not OK. A “dirndl” that comes in a plastic bag labeled “Beer Wench”: Not OK.
Why is wearing a “Sexy German Beer Girl” costume not OK? #1 – Because it’s not a dirndl and #2 - Because it looks like you’re making fun of us. It’s like you’re insulting the entire population of Germans and German-Americans (especially those from Northern Germany who don’t wear dirndls to begin with). If you want to wear the costume for Halloween or to roll play in the bedroom… you go you girl! But don’t show up to a German Festival like Frühlingsfest, German Fest, Bavarian Blast, or Oktoberfest in that skanky outfit.
Nowadays, dirndls come in nearly endless shapes, sizes, and styles… something for everyone! They can cross cultures, be a bridesmaid dress, and even show homage to your favorite sports team. But those ridiculous costumes (with the pigtails, thigh high socks and that stupid teeny tiny apron attached to the skirt) are nothing but an American designed outfit (made in China) for Halloween NOT for a fest where people wear actual dirndls.
Again… it’s all about respect. If you are of Italian descent and you are wearing a gorgeous dirndl to a German club picnic, I am not offended in the slightest (and no one should be…). Dressing in a way that celebrates a culture is fun! Wearing a dirndl makes you feel like you belong to something greater than yourself. So the next time you are going to a German event and think to yourself, “I’m not German… should I wear this dirndl?” The answer is “Hell Yeah you should!”
So what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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