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A dirndl [ˈdɪʁndl̩] is a type of traditional dress worn in Germany – especially Bavaria – Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and South Tyrol, based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants. Dresses that are loosely based on the dirndl are known as Landhausmode ("country-inspired fashion").
The dirndl consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron. While appearing to be simple and plain, a properly made modern dirndl may be quite expensive as it is tailored and sometimes cut from costly hand-printed or silk fabrics. In the South German dialects (Bairisch), Dirndl originally referred to a young woman or a girl, and Dirndlgewand to the dress. Nowadays, Dirndl may equally refer to either a young woman or to the dress.
The winter style dirndl has heavy, warm skirts and aprons made of thick cotton, linen, velvet or wool, and long sleeves. The colors are usually rich and dark. The summer style is lighter and more frivolous, has short sleeves, and is often made of lightweight cotton.
Accessories may include a long apron tied round the waist, a waistcoat or a wool shawl. In many regions, especially the Ausseerland, vibrantly-colored, hand-printed silk scarfs and silk aprons are worn. As far as jewelry is concerned, women often sport necklaces, earrings and brooches made of silver, the antlers of deer or even animals' teeth. For colder weather there are heavy dirndl coats in the same cut as the dresses, with a high neck and front buttons, thick mittens and wool hats.
The dirndl originated as a more hardy form of the costume worn today; the uniform of Austrian servants in the 19th century (Dirndlgewand means "maid's dress"). Simple forms were also worn commonly by working women in plain colors or a simple check. The Austrian upper classes adopted the dirndl as high fashion in the 1870s. Today, dirndls vary from simple styles to exquisitely crafted, very expensive models.
The dirndl is mostly worn in Austria and Bavaria. It is used as an everyday dress primarily by older women in rural areas. Other women may wear it at formal occasions (much like a Scotsman wearing a kilt) and during certain traditional events. It is hugely popular also among young women at the time of a Volksfest, such as the Oktoberfest in Munich (and similar festivals), although many women will only wear dirndl-style dresses, called Landhausmode, which may deviate in numerous ways and are often much cheaper.
In Austria and Bavaria, the dirndl may often be seen on women working in tourism-related businesses, and sometimes waitresses in traditional-style restaurants or beer gardens. It is also seen in these regions on women in the Volksmusik business.
In popular culture it is sometimes reported that the placement of the knot on the apron is an indicator of the woman's marital status. A knot tied on the woman's left side indicates that she is single, a knot tied on the right means that she is married, engaged or otherwise "taken", a knot tied in the front centre means that she is a virgin and a knot tied at the back indicates that the woman is widowed. Sonja Still, a Munich-based journalist, says: "Today people look more closely at this than ever."
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