Dirndl Skirt

AKA: peasant skirt, gathered skirt, full skirt

How to say it:  durn-dl skurt

Traditional Features: 

Dirndl Skirt



  • falls below the knee
  • full style skirt
  • gathered at the waist
  • slightly A-Line


…of the style: Technically, the dirndl is a traditional outfit worn in Bavaria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and South Tyrol and is based on the historical dress of the peasants of those areas.

In terms of fashion, the dirndl skirt is kind of the precursor to the circle skirt. The style became popular in the 1940s; during the war years the 3/4 length, A-line skirts were imported from Mexico and became popular as they were more colourful and decorative than anything US women could buy or make due to fabric rationing, often featuring the ruffles, lace and embroidery that fashionable women of the time craved. After the war fabric rationing relaxed and US designers began to incorporate the peasant style skirt into their Spring collections, taking inspiration from Mexican, South African and Hawaiian indigenous designs, although the skirts were usually called dirndl skirts as they also resembled the skirts worn by Bavarian and Austrian peasants.

Towards the end of the 1940s the dirndl skirt was particularly popular with teens and designers turned to American folk art to decorate the skirts, rather than the more ethnic inspired designs used at the beginning of the decade. These bright, bold designs are thought to have instigated the love of appliqué in the next decade, as the full, gathered dirndl skirt transitioned into the circle skirt that was so popular in the 1950s.

The dirndl can be a difficult skirt to wear and as such has not had any major popularity since the 1940s. A variation of the style with less gathers than the original was popular in the 1980s, and the style has seen a revival on the catwalks in the last couple of years as womenswear trends veer towards longer skirts, although the modern versions lack the bold embellishments of the original fashion dirndl.

…of the name: The term dirndl comes from the local name for the traditional Alpine garment that inspired the fashion skirt.

For more info on Dirndl Skirts try Wikipedia, Vintage Dancer or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • In Southern German dialects, dirndl meant girl or young lady and dirndlgewand was the name of the garment they wore. Nowadays, dirndl is used for both.

21st Century Dirndl Skirts

In the 21st century the term dirndl is still used in fashion circles, but the style is more commonly called a gathered or full skirt. Regardless of what they are called, there are plenty of dirndl skirts available on the modern marketplace in all lengths and fabrics, with the amount of gathering and fullness varying depending on the current trends.

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ASOS, BCBGeneration


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