Bavarian way of life Sep 19, 2016

Traditional clothing and customs at Oktoberfest

In September, travellers in Munich could quickly get the impression that the whole city is in love with traditional clothing. If you stop a minute and wonder about how the next business meeting could take place wearing a dirndl (a traditional dress) or lederhosen (leather pants), relax: Traditional clothing is usually worn for Oktoberfest and for other events, such as the spring Strong Beer Festival – Bavarians wear normal clothing during the rest of the year.

Dirndl and lederhosen have only recently made their comeback. The traditional clothing seen at Oktoberfest has only become stylish again in the last few years, and especially with young people. For anyone interested in wearing, more or less, traditional clothing, here are a few guidelines for entering this world:

True dirndl and lederhosen style

The dirndl comes from the old village-dwelling, practical clothing for women from the 19th century (dirn meant girl) and consists of a skirt, apron and blouse, not to mention diverse accessories. What was then standardised working clothes can now be chosen based on personal preference, like colour and pattern, which makes Oktoberfest a bright sight to see. Women who are putting on a dirndl for the first time need to be careful about tying the bow. You see, young men might demonstrate their interest in a lady based on how her bow is tied – because it indicates her relationship status. To the upper right means a woman is taken, to the left means single and up front in the middle traditionally meant a woman was still a virgin though today, it is more along the lines of “it's complicated”.Men should also be aware of certain aspects of their outfit, as anyone who wants to avoid looking like a newcomer should keep the following tips in mind:


  • lederhosen are always to be worn with socks or the typical calf warmers (loferl).

  • A pair of braces may never hang down. If a pair of braces is not your style, wearing a belt is no problem.

  • A shirt should be worn with lederhosen, either the classic white linen shirt for every fan of tradition or a modest plaid shirt.

  • Shoes: Even though trainers are more or less tolerated today, the “haferl” shoes are still the classic. Hiking boots are a possible alternative to them.

  • A good pair of lederhosen lasts a lifetime so it should not be a cheap, mass-produced article, and most important of all, it shall never see the inside of a washing machine. This is the only way to form the typical patina.


Keeping customs alive in Bavaria

It is important to know: Traditional “Bavarian clothing” as such does not exist. Even though there are undeniable differences in the patterns, the traditional village clothing developed very differently in the various Bavarian regions. Societies for traditional clothing are responsible for keeping these customs alive. Strictly speaking, these traditional clothes are not historical garments. Instead, they first really came to life around 1900 when the societies for traditional clothing became more widespread. Additionally, the Wittelsbach noble family was a great fan of these original types of clothing and made a significant contribution to supporting the societies for traditional clothing. The lederhosen, already gone from the fields where peasants used to wear them, thus experienced their revival – and are now more splendid than ever before thanks to the multitude of embellishments.


Regardless of whether historical or not, this traditional clothing is inextricably linked to the perception of Bavarian customs the world over. On this note, I wish you “O zapft is!” or rather “The beer is tapped, cheers!”

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