We are Brazilians and we have been in Oktoberfest, so my wife made a dress here in Brazil trying to do something close to the Dirndl dress, but during the entire party the people looked a lot to her dress with some surprise in their eyes like: "OMG, looks what she's dressing" and sometime asked smiling to took photos.

So there's my question, why? What does this dress code mean?

Image of the Dirndl dress

  • 6
    Were those pointing exclusively men or also women?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 17:55
  • 22
    Looks great. Ignore them.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 19:11
  • 26
    In case you weren't aware, the phrase "dress code" has a specific meaning in English. It refers to a set of regulations regarding what clothing must be worn in a given place (e.g. restaurant, school, etc.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:27
  • 15
    Dirndls are traditionally much longer in length, at least below the knee, usually down to the ankles. More recently, much shorter versions have appeared which are "sexier" to attract attention (think miniskirt) but are not traditional. It's the same with the tartan miniskirt, which is not traditional in Scotland, but was hijacked by one of the major fashion houses (Gucci, Chanel?). The petticoat is also never shown traditionally. People may have just wanted to have a picture with a woman with a nice pair of legs. As usual with most skirts, the shorter the skirt, the younger the wearer.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 0:49
  • 27
    It's the "sexy" factor (visible undergarment, short dress length) that brought the attention. This is the equivalent of showing up in a hospital wearing a nurse costume bought from an erotic boutique.
    – Moyli
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 10:54

6 Answers 6


There is no meaning in the ‘dress code’ of your picture — simply because there is no dress code involved. Your wife attempted to look like the locals — wearing a Dirndl — but failed absolutely miserably at it.

Traditional Dirndl are ankle-long, come with an apron and don’t show the underdress. The underdress (clearly visible in your picture) is essentially underwear. It’s not like underwear is never seen nowadays in Europe, but in your case it is still kind of a ‘Oh my god, how could she fail at that?’ Another factor contributing is the very short skirt length (although unfortunately, that is no longer a rare sight at the Oktoberfest).

If you want to see what actual Dirndl look like, Google Trachtenumzug (traditional dress procession is the closest translation I can think of). Or follow links such as this one. (I’m not directly linking the pictures since I’m not the copyright owner.) Side note: Highly unlikely that all those girls are widows hence the ‘bow tradition’ is a modern invention.

  • 59
    "failed absolutely miserably" is very harsh considering that adherence to tradition is usually not the main aspect in dressing for the Oktoberfest anyway.
    – user19361
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:52
  • 10
    @Stefan I know, and I consider 90 % of the people going there as ‘failing’ their dressing attempt, too.
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:58
  • 9
    The dirndl is not considered a sexy garment. What you show in the picture most definitely is. Some of the staring could be admiration, and some could be confusion. Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 11:54
  • 19
    She essentially went out in the German Oktoberfest equivalent of a kinky nurses outfit - you wouldn't wear one of those in a hospital without expecting odd looks, and thats exactly whats going on here :)
    – user29788
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 13:26
  • 9
    @Doc Those images are mainly from novelty stores. Continuing the nurse analogy, try a Google image search for "nurse outfit" – you wouldn't want to use that as a guide for what to wear in a hospital...
    – Moyli
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 13:29

Well...it has no meaning as "dress code", it simply looks wrong.

Here a picture of actual "diandlgwand" (girl clothes) with different cuts of colors: enter image description here

and here the short form: enter image description here

  • All clothes have one-piece (!) skirts which at least reaches the knee, very often combined with a apron. Your wife skirt is too short and it is not one piece: it shows a second skirt under the first one. This is...unusual.

  • The skirts have all muted colors, even the brights one are pastel ones. The skirt of your wife has a loud color, a very strong red which is very unusual and stands out (not positively). You can wear bright colors, but not in Tracht.

  • The length of the skirt is not only short, it has the wrong length, it does not really fit. The black top reaches some part over the waist, so to get a harmonic impression, the skirt must be either longer or if you have a short skirt, the top recedes back over the waist. The combination of your wife does not look good for German eyes.

  • 4
    I have definitely seen bright red "modern" Dirndln in shops in Germany. Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 12:29
  • 3
    It's just my best guess as native, what do I know about taste ? I simply find it too strong. And to be frank, I have also definitely seen orange flap trousers, purple socks and aquamarine sneakers which are likely glowing in the dark in shops in Germany.... Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 17:41
  • "The combination of your wife does not look good for German eyes." - I think "not good" is a very subjective measure here (and at least I personally certainly disagree with it - as did the person who took a photo mentioned by the OP, probably), but maybe "not very much like a Dirndl" would be a more fitting verdict (that also goes along with everything else you wrote). Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 22:48
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper I think you cannot argue against "The combination of your wife does not look for at least one pair of Germany eyes" :o). I point out to "Taste for Makers" from Paul Graham...if taste is really just "very subjective", you are essentially making the claim that art oder any other form of beauty cannot be judged. If your reason for the comment is because you winced for my open opinion and would like to water it down: Who else should give a honest and correct answer if not someone who is native and has no connection to the asker ? Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 21:21
  • 2
    These pictures are of dirndl not at Oktoberfect. You get quite a different array of pictures if you do a Google search with both words "dirndl" and "Oktoberfest". So if the question was "Why has this dress been met with surprise at a traditional folk meeting in the countryside" it would be a perfect fit. Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 6:34

I'm not sure I completely understand the question, but if it is "Why has this dress been met with surprise at the Oktoberfest in Munich, I see two points:

  • Comparing to pictures of random dirndls the white underskirt strikes me as very long and visible, it is typically not or barely visible/there.
  • Also the typical apron is missing.

See Wikipedia on Dirndl for a start.

  • Seems like a possibility. Someone from Germany would be able to say if there's also a "tie" tradition Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 18:24
  • 2
    Well I am German (and from that greater area) if it helps my credibility. But what do you mean by "tie" tradition?
    – mts
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 18:40
  • There is no tie rule per se as there is in more Anglo-centric cultures. Men might wear lederhosen where the piece across the chest might carry the insignia of a local club (social not football), the white shirt often has the initials of the man. In more formal settings a jacket and hat may also be worn.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 0:32

The existing answers and comments explain the situation quite well, but for completeness I just want to add a picture of what is evidently the model for your wife's costume:

Sexy Dirndl costume

Practically every detail matches. This costume is currently on sale for 17.85 USD at AliExpress, described as "Womens Sexy Beer Girl Maiden Oktoberfest Bavarian Halloween Dress Dirndl Costume". As the description makes clear, it's a sexy Halloween costume based on the Dirndl. You can contrast this with the images of actual Dirndl posted in other answers.

For comparison, here's a nurse's uniform on sale from the same supplier:

sexy nurse uniform

So, it really is as Jan and others have said: your wife had the misfortune to model her creation very closely on a novelty "sexy" version of the traditional dress, and it stands out in much the same way as the nurse's uniform above would stand out in a hospital.


Answering from a non-Bavarian point of view, your wife more closely resembled a Funkenmariechen than someone wearing a Dirndl. The former is the name for female dancers in a specific costume of a different German tradition from a completely different region of Germany.

Just google for pictures of Funkenmariechen. They are typically bright blue or sometimes red with white often visible underskirts at less than knee length. A three-pointed hat would have made that outfit almost perfect, except for the black top and too few ruffles.

The associated tradition is the carnival, which is a bit different in Germany compared to Brazil. Think of a Brazilian carnival's Samba dancer showing up in any other region and time to a party.
Would she get looks?

  • I'm totally fine, if someone finds a public domain picture of a red Funkemariechen and edits it in... BTW. synonym is Tanzmariechen. (as for literal translation that would be Spark/Dance Mary (in a diminutive/cute form))
    – NoAnswer
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 16:00
  • Take your pic(k). All pictures from Wikimedia can be used with attribuition (i.e. link back) ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 16:43
  • One thing though: Carneval, especially Funkemariechen (which are more of a Cologne and maybe North-Rhine Westfalia thing) are not that well known in Bavaria. Bavarian carneval (Maschkera) is more likely to be the ‘driving out the (winter) beasts’ type (Beaschdntanz), I think similar to Basel. But again, that isn’t well-known in Munich either.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 16:45

I guess that I've found the answer of my question, the catch of this dress is the "bow":

*Dirndl apron bow in the middle

Tying the bow of sexy dirndl dresses this way can attract a lot of incredulous looks, especially when the wearers themselves don't know its meaning. Different from what you might think (left-free, right-taken, middle-unsure?), these women are definitely not uncertain about their marital status. The Dirndl bow in the middle signals: I am a virgin.*

enter image description here

The funny fact is that her bow was not in the waist as the tradition says, so was unfair! haha

  • 6
    This is pretty much impossible: The dress in your picture doesn’t have a bow. (And also the ‘virgin’ part of the cypher was totally unknown to me before.)
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 19:02
  • 5
    I second the advice of @Jan, that is just improbable. First your picture does not show a bow nor an apron and second that story about the bow derives from a very small region and is not widely known in Germany, and if so, people don't even know which way means what.
    – mts
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 19:50
  • 5
    Are you confusing the apron bow (as described in the linked article) with the lacing at the front of the bodice? Because as it stands your answer simply contradicts itself -- it boils down to: "They were laughing at her bow, which was unfair because she didn't have a bow!" Here's an explanatory diagram I made for you.
    – Pont
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 23:15

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