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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Every year Bavarian women don their "dirndl" to celebrate the Oktoberfest, but in the beer festival's 200th year the traditional Bavarian dress is becoming something of a national and international fashion item.
In Germany the popularity of the dirndl has spread from Bavaria, where it was traditionally worn, to Berlin and Cologne, whilst new African and Indian-themed designs lend an international touch to the regional clothing.
The dirndl -- a dress worn with a blouse, bodice, full skirt and apron -- has also become popular with celebrities such as socialite Peaches Geldof, who was spotted wearing one on holiday in the Bavarian capital Munich this summer.
Other trendsetters like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Salma Hayek have sported dirndls made by Munich fashion designer Lola Paltinger in recent years.
Paltinger said her dirndls were popular because they combined tradition with glamour and fashion.
"They still have traditional elements but younger women can identify with them and don't feel like they are wearing fancy dress," she said, adding that around 30 percent of her clients were foreigners.
"Lots of foreigners order dirndls for the Oktoberfest, but I have a lot of American clients who buy them at other times of the year too," she said. "My dirndls can be also be worn without aprons as summer dresses."
The dirndl is even proving popular in Berlin, despite the German capital's view of itself as hip and progressive, and its desire to distance itself from Bavarian conservatism.
Sebastian Muecke, who runs a clothing shop in Berlin, said some of his customers wear his dirndls to local clubs.
Muecke is doing a roaring trade in dirndls and encourages clients to modernize the Bavarian dress "by playfully combining it with the fashionable Berlin designer wear we stock."
Thanks to Bavarian fashion designer Christina Reich, Berlin even has its own "metropolitan dirndl," which uses materials seen on the catwalk to add a bit of Berlin style.
"I keep the classic components of the dirndl but use silk, leather, organza, chains and sparkly material," Reich said.
In the Rhineland, Maria Lucas' Cologne-themed dirndls are also proving a hit. The dresses in red and white -- Cologne's regional colors -- and emblazoned with an image of the city's famous cathedral, have been selling like hot cakes.
"Bavarian dirndls are a bit old-fashioned so we decided to create a more modern, Rhineland dirndl," a spokesman for the fashion designer said.
Eduard Meier, who runs a Munich clothing boutique, says he adds an English touch by making short tweed jackets to wear with the dirndls, creating an "Anglo-Bavarian" look.
Other international twists on the regional dress include designer Christina Huber's dirndls made from Indian saris.
"The colorfulness of the saris gives the old Bavarian tradition renewed appeal," she said. "Some of the patterns on the saris are also Bavarian motifs so the idea of an Indian dirndl works well."
Bavarian-Cameroonian sisters Rahmee Wetterich and Marie Darouiche have also come up with a multicultural dirndl.
They describe their dirndls made with colorful African fabrics and embroidered with shells as "a homage to the African woman" and hope to export them to Africa in the future.
Paradoxically, the popularity of dirndls worldwide is reducing their appeal for upper-class Bavarians. Meier says his clients, who he describes as "snobs always trying to go against the trend" now wear the Bavarian dress less regularly "because everyone wears a dirndl to the Oktoberfest nowadays."
Editing by Paul Casciato