Germany’s world-famous beer festival Oktoberfest is not just about enjoying the amber ale – it’s also a great excuse to wear an outlandish outfit. Whether you attend the actual event in Munich or partake in themed festivities elsewhere, you will likely see folks dressed in Austro-Bavarian outfits called tracht.
A dirndl (a peasant-style pinafore dress) and lederhosen (traditional leather pants), are the most popular choices when it comes to dressing up in this Germanic old-world clothing. Here are a few pointers on how to wear the pieces in style.
Do I have to dress up?
No. Keep in mind when choosing your outfit for Oktoberfest, a costume is not compulsory. And if you don’t want to go all the way, you could give the old-fashioned garb a modern twist. “Whether you choose something traditional or modern is up to you. Buy what you like and what suits you,” advises the official Oktoberfest homepage.
As in everyday fashion, you can mix vintage elements with contemporary pieces. Stylist Sonja Grau says combining lederhosen with a sweater is perfectly acceptable. “Even a hooded jumper could be worn – as long as it complements the overall look,” she says.
Women can also wear jeans paired with a themed blouse. If you prefer to wear your own clothing, even a single accessory – like a hat – will do.
What are the current trends?
Even traditional outfits are susceptible to trends. Recently, there’s been a shift towards more subtle, classic attire. Muted colours, embroidered flower motifs, and above all, checked patterns have been the dominant looks at recent events.
The outfits are also tending to become more modest. “When everything is covered up, it allows for some mystery about what might be underneath,” says Grau, referring to a general move away from busty cleavage towards high-necked blouses.
The “less is more” principle applies to men. too. Lederhosen should be at least knee length, says Grau.
How should I accessorise?
The decorative elements of a dirndl can have hidden meanings. For example, the bow ribbon on the bodice can indicate whether a woman is single or not. “If the wearer is taken, she shows this by wearing her bow to the right,” says Grau. If it is worn to the left, this could indicate that she’s not.
Another invitation for flirtation can be a feather on a hat. “By pointing a feather forward, a woman can indicate that a man may approach her,” says Grau. “If the feather is pointed to the back, then the wearer is not interested in being courted. She’s just there to enjoy herself.”
Bujt is it OK for tourists to wear tracht outfits at Oktoberfest?
Every year, thousands of tourists descend on Munich’s Oktoberfest, many of them wearing the same traditional outfits as the locals – lederhosen for men, the dirndl for women. Some may ask, isn’t that a little disrespectful since it’s not their culture?
For female tourists who may be confronted by the accusation that, as non-Bavarians, they shouldn’t be wearing a dirndl, there is a comforting answer from cultural affairs scholar Simone Egger. It was in fact only outsiders who wore the dirndl in earlier times, writes Egger in her book Phaenomen Wiesntracht (The Oktoberfest Costume Phenomenon).
“The dirndl was an invention in the late 19th-century for women from such large cities as Berlin, Hamburg and even London, who in the summer would take their holidays out in the countryside,” Egger says.
Meanwhile, lederhosen – or leather breeches – was originally a classic garb for workers and hunters. The loden jacket commonly went with it.
There remains another question: Must one wear a dirndl or lederhosen to Oktoberfest? Clearly, no. In fact, for the longest time, even Munich residents did not. “Before 2000, people rarely went to Oktoberfest in dirndl or lederhosen,” Egger notes.
In the 1950s and 1960s, folks dressed up in suits and proper outfits for Oktoberfest. Then in the decades after, dressing was casual – jeans and outdoor recreational clothing were the norm. Now, however, it’s a visual spectacle. So have fun, but be respectful. – dpa
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