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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 left: means you are single and ready to mingle!
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 €.
More Posts With Traditional Tracht:
A Beginner’s Guide to Oktoberfest
Regensburg’s Dult is the NEW Oktoberfest!
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Replies to Understanding the Lederhosen Culture
Nice article! But there are two items needing some additional information:
The Gamsbart: Not the hat itself is called Gamsbart, but the tuft of chamois hair itself. Long chamois back hair is quite rare, thus the prices.
Washing Lederhosen: Lederhosen can be washed. You don’t wash them as often as a pair of jeans, but some times it has to be. (Typically I wash mine once a year.) An interesting detail: When being washed, the initial black dye fades out a little. So the colour changes over the time from black to brown and some times even to a light brown.
Thank you for that bit of information! Would you mind if I added that in? 🙂
First, it’s a fantastic article, however I’ve got to add something. You mentioned the Gamsbart, but you can also wear the feather of a eagle eine Adlerfeder at the hat. Wich is often seen in the Chiemgau, while the Gamsbart mostly appears in the Oberland. Also I got to add that you forgot the Trachtenfesten and the Trachtenvereinen. Wich are essential to the culture of Tracht. In the Trachtenvereine the bavarian folk dances are practiced like the Schuhplattler. There are even championships called Preisplattlen.
Wow! Thanks for that extra tid bit of info! I didn’t know any of that! Thank you!
Well if want further informations you could visit the webside of the Trachtenverband Bayern http://www.trachtenverband-bayern.de/gauverbaende.html
There you can also find the link to the webside of the Gauverband I the oldest Gauverband of the world, founded in 1890
My father used to be trainer in the local Trachtenverein and I’m also a member of it too, however I’m not active anymore
Loved the article! I’m a big fan or all things German and Bavarian, and thank you for your insight! I may finally have to invest in lederhosen!
I simply love them ,and they are so practical ,I mean when you feel the nice thick leather pants with their thick leather suspenders IT S GREAT ! And so practical too !And since over 20 years the women have theirs too along with the suspenders wich make them very sexy!Anyway although being half English and half French I like very much Germany Because it has saved it’s HERITAGE AND CULTURE! A matter of fact I honestly love all that is german,their food,the pastries,their sausages ( best in the world) their beer ( best in the world too).their hospitality,everything ,Yes i’m not afraid of saying that I’m a bit “pro german!
What a great idea for a post! I mus admit I love the ladies dresses and if I ever get to octoberfest I am buying one! Not sure I will want my husband in leiderhosen though!!!
Lederhosen makes the tooshie look better haha
I love this! I love traditional costumes in every country, and I’m so glad people started wearing them again in the past decade or so, even if it’s only at festivals. It also brings back traditional folk dances, right? You look good in the dirndl, by the way. 🙂
Thank you! Wish we had more pictures of us in Tracht but it’s so difficult to get my husband in his Lederhosen!
Oh thank goodness I never wore knee high socks with my outfit, I never knew that but chose not to wear them on the day, phew! In saying that, unfortunately our party of people visiting Oktoberfest didn’t go for the traditional outfits, instead it was more fancy dress and oh yes, we stood out like a sore thumb haha. We were past caring after a few beers though tee hee. Pinned. #feetdotravel
Haha thank goodness! It’s so unbecoming! The Munich Hofbräuhaus in Kentucky makes the women wear dirndls with high stockings it’s really absurd!
Very interesting, I didn’t know that kings had to do something with those customs. I saw a lot of Lederhosen and Dirndl in Austria, not so many in Germany, but I guess I would need to visit Oktoberfest for that. 🙂
Oh there are people who wear them all the time – for bachelor/ette parties and the more traditional folks who hang out at Munich’s Hofbräuhaus!
It is so true that many people associate the traditional Bavarian costume with whole Germany! LOL I would absolutely wear one these if visiting Oktoberfest one day #FeetDoTravel
I’m always fascinated when I see men walking about Vienna in traditional outfits, not necessarily lederhosen, but sometimes. Great to learn a little more about the Tracht!
It’s interesting to learn that Lederhosen aren’t meant to be washed. And I wouldn’t have guessed that the way the ladies tie their bows had any type of meaning. I only see traditional Bavarian outfits here in the states in a little town called Helen, GA. Next time I go, I’m going to pay closer attention to the details! Very interesting read!
Such an informative article! I was just in Salzburg & there were lots of people in traditional costume going to concerts & I had so many questions that you answered for me. Thanks for sharing!!
This is so interesting! I’ve seen similar dresses but I had no idea people wear them. I’ve never seen such detailed description. It makes me want to get an outfit to go to the festival.
It would be surely disgusting to have pants that are never washed ?
I’m glad you explain exactly the culture and traditions around Lederhosen. My partner went to Octoberfest and came back with one, which he obviously never wear again haha! I want to go as well at some stage so awesome to know what the different ways to tie a ribbon mean! Wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a single girl haha!!
These days few people care about the meaning behind the bow