The Dirndl, or female dress of "Tracht", emerged in the 18th century as a servant's or maid's dress. This simple dress generally consisted of a blouse, bodice, full skirt and an apron and it was practically suited for a woman's work around the home or a farm at the time. Women typically wore slightly different styles and fabrics in the winter and in the summer.
The winter dirndl was often a full dress with long sleeves, made of heavy cotton, linen or wool with warm skirts and aprons. In contrast, the summer dirndl was made of lightweight cotton and short-sleeved blouses were worn under sleeveless, tailored bodices.
The dirndl was adopted into the upper echelons of society in the late 1800's, around 1870. Suddenly, the simple dresses made of practical fabrics, were transformed into very stylish, colorful dresses often made of silk, satin and other expensive fabrics. They then also evolved into dresses worn for regional pride and tradition, with each region taking on distinct differences in colors and style.
Today's dirndl, while still sporting the basic elements of a blouse, tailored bodice, full skirt and apron, now ranges in style from the soft and simple, to very vibrant styles exquisitely crafted with rich fabrics and embellished with intricate embroidery. While they are not necessarily worn as an everyday dress anymore, many women still wear them for traditional cultural events or formal occasions, such as a wedding, or to show their regional pride.
Jewellery worn with the dirndl includes necklaces, earrings, chokers, and chains. Also popular are brooches made of silver, the antlers of deer, or even animals' teeth. As for footwear, dirndls are normally worn with court shoes (pumps) or flat, ballerina-type shoes. Knee-length socks or tights are common.
Other accessories may include a waistcoat or a woolen shawl. In many regions, especially the Ausseerland in the Austrian Salzkammergut, vibrantly coloured, hand-printed silk scarfs and silk aprons are worn. In spring, the front of the bodice is sometimes decorated with fresh flowers. In colder weather, long-sleeved woolen jackets (Janker) are worn, as are knitted shawls. Especially at large public events, décolletage is often enhanced with a balconette bra (dirndl-BH).
In recent years, the dirndl has also gained in popularity among the younger crowds. Younger women today often enjoy wearing shorter, flirtier and more revealing versions than in years past. Other women also opt for a style of dress called "Landhausmode", which are dirndl-like dresses and skirts, but a more casual style than its traditional counterpart. The best place to see the varying contrasts in styles among dirndls would be at the Munich Oktoberfest, where young and old, traditional and modern all converge to participate in what is most likely the largest gathering of folklore in southern Bavaria.
According to bavarianspecialty.com and en.wikipedia