What to Wear at Oktoberfest: The Complete Guide to Wearing a German Dirndl
Being a Dirndl designer, it is part of my job to make sure you are ready for any trip to Oktoberfest in Munich you may take, so here is my complete step-by-step guide to wearing a Dirndl dresses at Oktoberfest. So if you are asking, "do you have to dress up for Oktoberfest"... let's dive in!
In this Article
- What is Oktoberfest?
- What do you wear to Oktoberfest?
- All the pieces of a Dirndl.
- How to wear a Dirndl.
- Accessories to go with your Dirndl.
- Oktoberfest clothing FAQs
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is a magnificent annual festival held in Munich, Germany. Attended by an average of 6 million people from all over the globe, this event is one for the bucket list!
How did the tradition of Oktoberfest start? The very first Oktoberfest took place on October 12, 1810. It was an event to celebrate the marriage of Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and the crown prince of Bavaria (who would go on to become King Louis I). This celebration lasted for five days. Over time, it expanded into an epic 2-week festival that included a parade, large beer halls, amusement rides, music, and dancing.
So why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September? The answer is simple… as the festival got longer, the start date was pushed back into September because the weather is typically better and the days are longer.
Why do you hear Oktoberfest called the Wiesn? The grounds on which Oktoberfest takes place is called the Theresienwiese… Wiesn, short for Theresienwiese. This is what most locals call Oktoberfest.
What do you wear to Oktoberfest?
If you are planning a trip to Oktoberfest, be it this year, next year, or sometime in the distant future, dressing for the Wiesn is a must! (I guess technically… it's not a requirement, but this just adds more fun to the event). Both locals and tourists wear traditional Bavarian and Bavarian-inspired clothing. For women, it is a Dirndl and for men, it’s Lederhosen.
- A Dirndl typically consists of a sleeveless dress with a blouse underneath and an apron at the waist. (It’s what the St. Pauli Girl wears).
- Lederhosen literally translates to leather pants. It is the quintessential embroidered leather pants with suspenders typically worn with a plaid or white shirt.
All the pieces of a Dirndl Set
Unlike your typical cocktail or sundress, a Dirndl has many pieces. Here are all the parts of a Dirndl.
This is the top part of the Dirndl from the waist up. It has either a zipper or button closure. More intricate styles will have braids, trimming, ribbons, chain etc on the bodice. Some folks will add pins or other accessories to the bodice.
The skirt is often attached to the bodice at the waist. It is a full skirt with gathers or pleats. Some Dirndl dresses have pockets. (cough cough ALL Rare Dirndls have 2 pockets). Dirndl skirts come in a variety of skirt lengths. The general rule of thumb is that you don’t want your skirt to be shorter than the tips of your fingers when your arms are down. Mid-calf is a very classic Dirndl skirt length.
This is a gathered or pleated piece of fabric that drapes over the front of the skirt and is tied in the back or front in a bow.
- Where you tie this bow matters! Tie the bow to your left, if you are single. Tie it to the right if you are in a relationship. If you tie it in the center front, it will signify that you are a virgin and if you tie it in the back, it says you are widowed or a waitress working the fest. Just pick right or left.
The blouse is worn under the Dirndl and is typically white or ivory. Black blouses are also available and very stylish. These can be changed based on the event, personal style, or the weather. Some styles are designed to be worn without a blouse or have sleeves already attached, in which case the Dirndl blouse is not necessary. Looking into getting a blouse from Rare Dirndl? Check out my Blouse Sizing Guide blog.
Bloomers or Pettipants (optional)
These go underneath the skirt, so if you choose to dance on a bench, table or polka very quickly… any wandering eyes will see adorable little pants under your skirt instead of your undies.
Also worn under the skirt, a petticoat adds fun and flair to a skirt. This extra poof is not required but is a cute look. Note the lace of a petticoat should never peek out too much below the hem of the skirt.
How to wear a Dirndl
Wear a good bra. It doesn’t need to be a push-up bra, but it does need to put the girls in the right place.
If you plan on getting your polka on, bloomers are a wise choice. Not everyone is going to be looking up your skirt, but there are sure to be some wandering eyes and some judging Oma’s should your skirt go a-flyin... better safe than sorry.
Whether it is the classic off-the-shoulder, full puff-sleeve sweetheart blouse or our newest innovation the blouslette, that is what goes on next.
Most Rare Dirndls have a center front zipper, so throw it over your head or step into it and zip. Dirndl dresses typically have a snug fit. You don’t want it to be uncomfortably tight, but you also don’t want it to be gapy and loose.
If your German Dirndl has a lace-up or corset-style front, you’ll likely find the corresponding ribbon and or chain. Start by putting the ribbon or chain through from the top hooks and then crisscross and go down from there and tie it in a bow (or knot if its chain) at the bottom.
The final touch is the apron. The apron gets tied at the natural waist, covering the front seam. You can either tie the apron in a bow in the back or bring the ties around the front and tie it in a bow. Put the bow on the left side if you are single and on the right side if you’re married.
If you’re having trouble tying the perfect bow, I’m somewhat of a master. Check out my blog (with video) on how to tie the perfect bow for any of your dirndl dresses.
To complete the look add the accessories of your choice.
Accessories to go with your Dirndl
While you can certainly wear any jewelry that you like, classic Dirndl jewelry motifs include pretzels, edelweiss, beer steins, cuckoo clocks, and deer.
Tights or Socks
Yes, there is such a thing as Dirndls socks. They are not a MUST, but they are cute. You’ll want to choose socks vs. tights based on the weather and how you like to style your Dirndl look.
For Oktoberfest, your number one shoe priority should be comfort. There is A LOT of walking to be done at the Wiesn, so leave those heels at home. Classic low-heel mary-janes, ballet flats, booties, or stylish sneakers are among the most popular choices.
Here’s some footwear inspiration from yours truly.
Keep it small! You will not be allowed into the fest with a large purse, bag or backpack. Small cross-body purses, fanny packs, or an apron purse is recommended.
Traditional Bavarian hats are similar to a fedora, but with feathers and flowers and oh so fun! Great for cooler days. Shop Rare Dirndl hats here.
For that happy-go-girly look, a flower crown is a must. This look adds joy to any outfit, especially a German Dirndl.
Oktoberfest takes place in September and October, so it is typically cooler, especially in the evenings. A light sweater is recommended. Something easy to carry when you are inside, but warm enough when you are walking home.
Looking for outerwear inspiration? Check out our blog.
Originally used by the wait staff to hold their orders to their Dirndl dresses, this engraved and adorned clothespin has become a super cute accessory to pick up while you are at the Wiesn.
This is the heart-shaped cookie necklace which is another fun accessory to get at Oktoberfest. However, eating it is not recommended… because it is not tasty… at all!
Oktoberfest clothing FAQs
Q: Do I have to wear a Dirndl?
A: No, you are not required to wear a Dirndl to Oktoberfest, but it sure is more fun to dress up!
Q: If I go more than one day, do I need more than one Dirndl?
A: That is up to you. However, you can easily wear the same Dirndl with a different apron, different blouse, and different accessories to create a whole new look .
Q: Should I buy a Dirndl in Munich or before I go?
A: There are pros and cons to both - Here is an article all about it .
Q: Are there any Dirndl no-nos?
A: YES! Do NOT, I repeat… DO NOT wear a doofy cheap-ass Halloween costume. It’s disrespectful and you’ll look stupid.
Q: Do you have to dress up for Oktoberfest?
A: If by dressing you mean in a Dirndl or Lederhosen... no, but it's more fun that way. If by dressing up you mean fancy, then also no. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine. Boring... but fine.
Q: Will I be able to wear a Dirndl outside of Oktoberfest?
A: HELLZ Yes! There are Oktoberfest-themed festivals and folk festivals all throughout the US that you can wear your German Dirndl to. Or to a local German restaurant, or wherever the heck else you want to wear it. Here is a little list of places you can wear your Dirndl.
Q: Where should I buy a Dirndl online?
A: Rare Dirndl!
Looking for more Dirndl Style tips & tricks? Click the link to get access to our official style guide! >> https://bit.ly/dirndlstyle
Ever wonder which dirndl style you are? Click here to take our quiz and find out now!
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As always, ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. - Erika