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One of the many things that people automatically associate with Germany is the traditional Bavarian costume. However, this is a big misconception about the German people. What most people don’t realize is that the Lederhosen and Dirndl are a Bavarian tradition and therefore not worn throughout all of Germany. Nor are they worn all the time. For the most part, Bavarians wear their Lederhosen and Dirndl on special occasions, however it is quite possible to see some hard core Bavarians wearing them for no special reason other than the fact that they are proud of their heritage. But don’t be surprised when you are walking around Bavaria and not everyone is wearing them.
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The Bavarian costume is called Tracht. Men wear the typical Lederhosen which are leather shorts that go to the knees while the women have the boob boosting Dirndl. It is more common to see people wearing their Tracht when there is a special occasion such as a beer festival. However, you will see people also wearing them for weddings and is one of the reasons why Oktoberfest is such a popular time for pulling out the Tracht costumes.
The Tracht History
The beginning of the Tracht tradition dates back all the way to 1626 when the Bavarian Prince Elector Maximilian I established a dress code based on people’s rank in society. The dress code divided society into seven groups – common peasants, common townspeople, merchants, traders, minor aristocracy, knights and lords. However, peasants and common townspeople did not have any special garments to mark their status.
As history continued, by the 1800s, the Bavarian dress code was steadily declining and more and more people were able to wear what they chose. In 1886, Prince-Regent Luitpold had a deep affection for the garments since he himself wore them quite often. Following his lead, the older version of the costumes were replaced and once again worn throughout Bavaria.
Nowadays, the traditional costume is worn as leisurewear throughout Bavaria. People can also be found wearing them in Austria as well since Bavaria neighbors their borders and have been so influential.
How to Wear Lederhosen & Dirndl
If you are going to live in Bavaria, it is kind of necessary to have a traditional costume so as to fit in with the culture. Otherwise, you will surely be spotted as an outsider when at a beer festival. Even though there are plenty of Bavarians who don’t wear it. But you might be wondering, “How do I wear Lederhosen” or “How do I wear a Dirndl?” Have no fear, I’m here to tell you how to wear traditional Bavarian Tracht and there are many rules to Lederhosen you need to know before you just buy a pair. Especially if you really plan to invest in a good quality pair of Lederhosen or a very traditional Dirndl. With these simple tips, you’ll have the perfect Oktoberfest outfit or an outfit for a beer festival.
Many people however ask “What to wear to Oktoberfest?”, but you can really just wear anything if you don’t have Lederhosen or a Dirndl. It was only really within the last decade that wearing traditional Tracht to Oktoberfest became popular and fashionable again. These days, wearing Lederhosen and Dirndl is one of the best things about Oktoberfest and more than half of the people who attend dress up. It’s part of the Okorberfest experience!
For the Men
Leder translates to ‘Leather’ and Hosen translates to ‘pants’. Therefore, you have Leather Pants. Traditionally, they are worn with high socks which sometimes make it up to the knees, or sometimes you will see small “legwarmer” like bands around the calves of burly men. Naturally there is a shirt to also go with the Lederhosen. Typically it is a plain shirt, but it is becoming more popular with the younger generation to wear a white plaid shirt of any color. In full costumes, the Lederhosen also have suspenders, but not always.
True traditional Lederhosen might have certain color embroidery or insignia on the Lederhosen to signify from which region you come from.
To top off the costume, hard core Bavarians who take their heritage very seriously can also be found wearing a hat called Gamsbart and is made from the hair of a chamois. They are handmade and are incredibly expensive. The bigger, the more expensive. Like up to 3,000 € or more! For a hat!
An Interesting Fact
A bit of a nasty fact, but one nonetheless interesting that I learned from a friend always wearing his Lederhosen is that the pants are NEVER washed. In fact, the dirtier the better. It helps to keep the leather moist.
For the Women
As mentioned before, women have the lucky pleasure of wearing the boob boosting Dirndl. Dirndl originally referred to a young woman or a girl. The dirndl comes from the Alpine region and is made of lighter material.
A full Dirndl dress includes a white blouse (although black is becoming popular) with a bodice to help lift the girls, a full skirt and an apron. The most traditional form of the dirndl is a long dress skirt which goes to the ankle.
Older women in rural areas still quite regularly wear their dirndls although the younger generations are beginning to wear them more often. The younger generations however, like the dirndls shorter. Generally to just below the knee. Although, as with all fashions, the younger generation can be found wearing dirndls that go above the knee.
And please, ladies, for the love of god!! Don’t wear knee high socks with your dirndl! While in the US, many “Bavarian Restaurants” have their waitresses wearing their dirndl with high socks….this is ONLY FOR LITTLE GIRLS!!
Now there comes the question of how to tie your Dirndl apron or Dirndl bow. There is a special way in which to tie the ribbon of the apron around one’s waist depending on your status. And it is still strictly adhered to.
To the right: means you are married or promised to someone
In the middle: this is for young girls/children
In the back: means you are widowed, or for waitresses.
Now that women and men are more equal than ever before, it is also becoming a bit more popular to see women wearing a female version of the men’s Lederhosen. It’s still quite adorable although I’m a dress kinda girl!
Below I’ve given you some examples of Dirndls to wear to Oktoberfest, with the white under blouse with a traditional Bavarian Dirndl choker necklace with an Edelweiss flower. I’ve also provided you with the correct bra to wear with a Dirndl. However, should you not like to wear a dress, women also have the option of wearing Lederhosen shorts for women with a checkered blouse. If you’ree wondering what shoes to wear to Oktoberfest, then you should wear a good pair of strapped pumps, something with a thick heel as you’ll be standing on table benches and wearing stilettos does not go. Please don’t even try. Worse case scenario, you can also wear ballerina flats with your Dirndl.
If the Lederhosen and Dirndl wasn’t already amazing, it gets even cuter when little kids are dressed in traditional Tracht. Dirndls come in a variety of colors for both women and children, however Lederhosen colors and patterns depend on the region one comes from, even for little boys and teens.
As mentioned before, people do wear their Lederhosen and Dirndls as wedding clothing and they can be very beautiful and elaborate. The women wear a white or cream colored dirndl while the mean wear their lederhosen, but they made add a nice velvet vest to spice it up.
How much do Lederhosen & Dirndl cost!?
You can find Tracht stores all over Bavaria selling the latest fashions in Lederhosen and Dirndls. Outside of Bavaria, it might become harder to find such a shop since Tracht is a Bavarian tradition and not typically worn outside of Bavaria.
Like all clothes, there are different designer companies and every year a new spring fashion is modeled for the upcoming beer festival season. A Dirndl can cost anywhere between 60-3,000 €. Generally, most people buy a simple version of the dirndl which can average about 120-200 €. You could spend 3,000 € on a Dirndl if you really wanted to but then you might never want to wear it to a beer festival where you are likely to have beer spilled on it.
For men, the Lederhosen also varies in price depending on how you want to dress. You can buy shorter lederhosen a bit above the knee or a bit below the knee. You can buy the Lederhosen with suspenders or without suspenders. With a jacket or without a jacket. With a hat or without a hat. Again, the nicer the Lederhosen the more expensive, however, a typical more affordable Lederhosen can set you back 120-200 €.
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