Look, I get it. Not everyone needs a closet full of dirndls (like, ahem, me apparently). If you’re simply celebrating Oktoberfest at home or plan on attending a local Oktoberfest-style festival just once, it makes sense you wouldn’t want to spend a great deal of money on a dirndl you might just wear one time.
But that shouldn’t stop you from wearing the traditional Bavarian outfits to the partay. Dressing the part is half, nay, 2/3 the fun of celebrating Oktoberfest!
You can find decently-priced dirndls online or even surprisingly good quality ones at places like H&M in Munich, like I did. (A few days before Oktoberfest ended, H&M was selling all their dirndls for €10 each… sooo I got one in each style, obviously.)
How to upgrade a cheap dirndl
Maybe you’ve thrifted one, been gifted one, or are looking to put together your own using items you already have. (Perhaps you’ve been swindled by one of the bogus online dirndl shops?) Or maybe you just want to pick up whatever is cheapest on Amazon and call it a day.
Even if you want to spend no more on a dirndl than you would, say, a sausage sandwich, there are still ways to upgrade a cheap dirndl to make it look a little less off-the-Party City-clearance-rack.
So, here are a few easy ways you can upgrade a cheap dirndl—various levels of creativity required, but you should at least know your way around a needle and thread:
Looking to buy a dirndl online for this year’s Oktoberfest? Click that link to read the 9 crucial things you need to know first plus some great less-expensive options.
1. Swap out the apron to instantly upgrade a cheap dirndl
The great thing about having
a dirndl obsession multiple dirndls is that you can mix and match aprons and blouses to create a bunch of different looks, thus creating the illusion that you indeed own a closet full of dirndls. But, if you only have the one, you can often purchase just an apron to upgrade a cheap dirndl.
(I swapped out the cheap, unattractive light pink gingham apron that came with the dirndl for a bolder one in a more Bavarian design. The striped one on the right is similar to the kinds available at Alpenclassics and other German retailers.)
My favorite dirndl retailers like Rare Dirndl (and Angermaier if you’re in Germany) do sell just aprons – and I can assure you they are better than what usually comes with an Amazon or costume shop getup. (And if you use promo code: MYWANDERLUSTYLIFE you can get 10% off at RareDirndl.com)
Don’t miss my complete (and I do mean complete) guide on how to dress for Oktoberfest. It covers everything you need to know, head to toe!
2. Make your own apron
Some of the H&M dirndls I have are actually pretty great quality for the 10 euros I paid for them. But, the aprons that go along with them aren’t the nicest. So, I made some new ones.
I was recently gifted a sewing machine for my birthday but, let me set the record straight here, I have zero experience with sewing machines and very little patience. I.e., this is a beginner-level project. (This is the Singer sewing machine I have and it’s awesome for beginners!)
However, seeing as how a dirndl apron is basically just a set of rectangles, even I was able to make my own dirndl apron in just a couple of hours. Instant dirndl upgrade!
I didn’t use a pattern or a YouTube tutorial—I found them all to be unnecessarily complicated and nonsensical. Instead, I simply looked at my other aprons and figured it out on my own. Seriously, if you have any experience at all using a sewing machine (or even want to hand sew it), you got this.
If you checked out these tutorials and found them to be complicated and involved but still want to make your own – let me know! I’m toying with the idea of making my own tutorial because it’s seriously so easy!
Make sure to wear the right shoes and socks with your dirndl! Check out my complete guide to Oktoberfest shoes and socks here.
3. Upgrade your current apron
If making a new dirndl apron sounds about as fun as a cleaning your hair out of the shower drain, you can always simply upgrade your current apron with a few simple touches. If your dirndl apron is too plain, you can:
Add some decorative trim
Most dirndl aprons have some kind of decorative trim along the bottom. So, if you find your plain apron lacking some oomph, simply add some lace, woven, or ribbon trim to spruce things up a bit. Here are some sample options:
Want more Oktoberfest DIY? Check out this post on how to decorate for an Oktoberfest-themed party for all kinds of great ideas.
Add some Oktoberfest-themed flair
Maybe you’re not allowed to play with needles—I totally understand. I once pricked my finger on a spinning wheel and slept for 100 years. The whole village was in an uproar. Look, it is what it is. In that case, maybe something in the pin or iron-on department is more up your Oktoberfest alley.
I whipped up these edelweiss pins for a little extra flair (just cut up some fleece material and hot glued some yellow pom poms on them), but whichever 37 pieces of flair you choose is up to you! (I also love my Rare Dirndl enamel pin set.)
4. Add a charivari to your look
A charivari is a decorative chain that contains trinkets or charms and is worn across the front of the waist or chest. Traditionally, it was worn by men with their lederhosen and held tiny “trophies” from their latest hunting escapades—things like hawk talons and bear teeth, for example.
Nowadays, it’s a little less gruesome and an easy way to add a little bit of fun Bavarian charm and upgrade a cheap dirndl. You’ll definitely look like an in-the-know Oktoberfester with a charivari. Here are some cute dirndl charivari options:
5. Wear a petticoat
Wearing a petticoat under your apron is a fun feminine upgrade, plus it doubles as extra warmth in chilly fall temps. I personally love wearing a petticoat under my dirndl and wish I had more opportunities to do so. Any excuse to pretend I’m a fancy housewife from the 1950s or a dirty saloon worker from the wild west is alright by me!
You can pick up a simple white petticoat here (but it’s available in many other colors too).
If you live in a warm climate and even the thought of extra layers south of the border makes you sweat, you can add some frilly lace trim or frilly satin organza to the bottom of your dress to create the illusion of a petticoat and get the same effect.
6. Replace the buttons
If you have a dirndl that buttons up the front instead of laces, swapping out plain ol’ buttons for something a little more elegant is a super easy way to upgrade a cheap dirndl.
One of my H&M dirndls came with cheap fabric-covered buttons. And while they were just fine, I still decided to swap them out with some nicer looking metal ones. Look at that—I’ve just doubled the value of my dirndl.
You can purchase metal buttons like the ones that go on dirndls (“shank” buttons they’re called as I have recently learned) online and at craft stores all over for super cheap. The ones I used came from this great button shop on Etsy. Some great dirndl button options include:
Pro tip: measure the buttons that came with your dirndl and order new ones in the same size so you don’t get buttons that are too big for their holes.
Also check out this post on 15 great Oktoberfest foods to make this season. (Great for hosting Oktoberfest parties or just any ol’ day at home!)
7. Upgrade your bodice
One of my H&M dirndls has a single hidden zipper up the front and is hella plain. I love this dirndl just fine the way it is, but I do think it could use an upgrade, especially given its light color. So, I added some dirndl hooks and a ribbon to create a more classic “dirndl” look.
Dirndls without the hooks and ribbons are super in right now but I’m partial to the classic look that’s just a little less plain.
You can purchase dirndl hooks on Etsy and in some great designs—like these edelweiss hooks, these simple rings, or this more elaborate option. Or you could even pick up some of the edelweiss buttons I mentioned above and lace up your ribbon around those instead.
You can pick up matching ribbon at just about any of your local craft stores and even on Amazon as well (because of course you can).
8. Add a dirndl clasp to your apron belt
Another of the hot dirndl styles these days are bow-less aprons that stay secured with a metal clasp instead. Sort of a dirndl belt buckle, if you will.
I love my dirndl bows, but I have to admit that dealing with bows that come loose or untied and having to retie them throughout the day is kind of annoying. It would be nice to just be able to set it and forget it.
There are tons of styles of these – and if you want more options, you can search for “cloak clasps” or something similar. I also found some similar styles at my local craft store.
9. Get a fancy new dirndl blouse
…or at least one that’s less costume-y. Sometimes all you need to upgrade a cheap dirndl is a new dirndl blouse. Oftentimes, the ones that come with dirndl sets are a bit farcical, like you’re starring in some made-for-TV Oktoberfest parody.
But switching out the stock dirndl blouse for something nicer, more modern, or more your style might just be what you need to spruce up your Oktoberfest look. Check out these blouse options for an instant dirndl upgrade:
Where a shirt as a “blouse”
Another thing I did in 2022 was wear a regular shirt as a “dirndl blouse.” Who says you have to purchase an expensive bona fide “dirndl blouse” anyway? As long as it’s comfortable, feel free to wear it under your dirndl! These are the ones I wore in 2022:
- This white cap-sleeve shirt with lace trim (seen at the top of this post)
- That same cap-sleeve shirt in black, seen below (In fact, it comes 40+ different colors!)
- This long-sleeve lace bodysuit (seen above)
10. Add a pocket (or two)
Typically, when you buy a dirndl in Germany, it’s going to come with just one pocket. One infuriatingly solo pocket. Why not two? Beats me. (But my friend thinks it’s because, duh, you should have a beer in your other hand at all times. She’s not wrong.) But you’ll definitely want two!
The first dirndl I ever bought actually has no pockets. The others I have from Germany all only have one. And to those, I have added my own damn second pocket. (And it was way easier than I thought it was going to be.)
This was pre-sewing machine days so I hand sewed the whole thing. I cut up an old pillowcase because I didn’t have any fabric and for some reason didn’t want to make the trip to the fabric store. Who cares anyway – no one can see it!
I used a simple YouTube tutorial on How to Add Pockets to a Dress and it took me no time at all. But wow what a difference a second pocket makes.
Heading to Oktoberfest but don’t drink beer? Check out my complete guide to Oktoberfest for non-beer drinkers here.
11. Add belt loops
And speaking of making your inexpensive dirndl a little easier to wear, you can (and should) also add some simple belt loops on the sides.
Dirndls with belt loops are so much easier to wear because they keep your dirndl apron exactly where it’s supposed to be, and even help keep the bow tied.
Sewing belt loops is so easy. You can use a machine and some matching fabric or just a needle and thread. But, trust me, you’ll be so glad you have them! Just make sure to make them big enough to fit your apron through. (Seems obvious, but still.) Here are a couple of video tutorials to get an idea:
12. Make it fit!
Regardless of how much you spend on a dirndl, a comfortable fit is key! A dirndl that’s too big will look cheap and thrown together; a dirndl that’s too tight (or worse, too short) will make for one super uncomfortable Oktoberfest. A proper, comfortable dirndl fit will make for an instant dirndl upgrade.
It’s worth the little bit of extra time and money to make sure your dirndl fits–whether that means exchanging for another size or having it professionally altered (which doesn’t really cost all that much anyway). Dirndls should be snug, but not so much so that you can use your boobs as a table.
And the skirt should fall somewhere between the tops of your knees and your ankles. Anything shorter is creeping dangerously close to Party City beer maid Halloween costume territory, and anything longer is, well, potentially dangerous if you plan on walking at all.
A dirndl that properly fits will have you looking and feeling more comfortable and confident — the best way to upgrade a cheap dirndl.
How are you planning to upgrade your dirndl?
Let me know below!
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