Bavarian way of life Sep 17, 2019

Traditional dress tradition in Bavaria: from work clothing to a fashion trend

The Oktoberfest 2019 is round the corner and with it the international main dirndl and lederhosen season too. But where do these fashionable and traditional items of clothing come from? We explain and give you an insight into which traditional dress fashion trends from Bavaria will dominate the world’s folk festivals this year.

Not all traditional dress is the same


This should be obvious to some people but we’ll remind you again nevertheless: there are different kinds of traditional dress throughout Bavaria! Each region has its own history and its own traditional dress. It’s not just Franconia, Allgäu and Upper Bavaria that differ in their traditional dress tradition. Different customs and traditional dress are even sometimes preserved within individual regions. Anyone who thinks of the “dirndl” and “lederhosen” when it comes to “traditional dress fashion”, is thinking, for example, of the Upper Bavarian traditional mountain dress. But there is more than one version of this too. In fact, there are six different traditional mountain dresses that can be mentioned: 


  • Berchtesgaden traditional dress
  • Chiemgau traditional dress
  • Inntal traditional dress 
  • Isarwinkel traditional dress
  • Miesbach traditional dress
  • Werdenfels traditional dress

At the same time, none of these six can claim the title of being the “correct Bavarian traditional dress”. But we do not want to involve you too much in the factual definitions. We’ll just say this much: If you want to join a Lower Franconian traditional dress association, you should not turn up to the first meeting in lederhosen! 

Lederhosen: timeless, beautiful, robust, practical


The lederhosen is undoubtedly a classic in the Bavarian traditional dress tradition. It was originally a pair of work trousers for farmers, which was very robust due to its material and able to withstand the hard working day. Traditional lederhosen are still made of chamois or deer leather today. This item of clothing was already in fashion just before 1800, but it disappeared again a bit later. Its return to fashion began in 1883 when the teacher Joseph Vogl founded the first Bavarian traditional dress association. The members were laughed at in their town but King Ludwig II was a fan. So he made sure that the nobility wore lederhosen on the hunt and the trousers came back into fashion. Bavarian traditional dress became a trend. The biggest difference between the various models today is in the length: knee breeches, short Plattler and Bermudas or long boot lederhosen are possible. The latter are without a doubt found most rarely, probably also because wearing long lederhosen at a packed folk festival can be quite uncomfortable after some time. 

2019 lederhosen trends


As far as traditional dress is concerned, the most important trends naturally come from Bavaria. Anyone who wants to buy a lederhosen, will find a rich variety on offer here. But one thing can be said and this applies to lederhosen more than virtually any other items of clothing: quality means everything. You definitely should not buy a cheap pair made from inferior leather. Although lederhosen made from deer or chamois leather are clearly more expensive, they last much longer than cheaper models. One important fashion factor also only affects these models: they age beautifully. Traditional Bavarian men’s lederhosen actually look best with a beautiful, elegant sheen, which can only develop after them being worn repeatedly. Some traditional dress professionals even help a new pair of trousers out a bit by treating them with butter or milking fat. If you are only an occasional wearer and want to look fashion-conscious straight away, you should buy a pair of trousers with a used look, vintage look or used finish. These have been elaborately treated and thereby have traces of use such as seat folds and a beautiful sheen. So even as a newcomer to the traditional dress tradition, you can also make a stylish appearance. 

But how do you combine lederhosen?


As a man, it's always been easy if you want to dress appropriately. Lederhosen are traditionally worn with a white, loose-cut traditional shirt made of linen, which can easily be replaced by a subtly chequered, more colourful, fitted model today. In fact, whatever the person wearing it likes, is allowed. Anyone who wants to can complement the shirt with a traditional waistcoat. This should be finished with elegant materials such as velvet or brocade and taffeta. If the traditional waistcoat seems a bit too formal, you can complement the traditional dress from Bavaria with trendy knitted waistcoats too. Whether you choose wool knits, pure wool, cotton or wool-blended fabrics is up to you. In general, the Bavarian traditional dress interprets the dress code less strictly for men than for women.

Dirndl: a traditional head-turner


Centuries old and yet it’s virtually impossible to imagine the fashion world without this item of clothing. Originally it was the work clothing for young maids, who served at the courts in Austria or Bavaria. Hence the simple, hard-wearing fabric: dirndl blouses were originally made out of linen or cotton fabrics with a dirndl dress made of the same fabric but in a different colour worn over them. To complete the dirndl there’s finally an apron, which used to be made out of bed linen. The simple nature of the traditional dress only changed around the 1930s: holidaymakers from the city discovered the dirndl in the countryside and gradually made it suitable for the city. As a result, the dirndl became more colourful, elaborately finished and decorated. 

2019 dirndl trends


It is difficult to identify specific trends with the women’s traditional dress from Bavaria, as so much is possible. Dirndls are becoming increasingly personalised and versatile. For many people, a low-cut neckline goes together with a classic dirndl like “pretzels” and “sausages” but traditional blouses with a high neckline can now often be seen and are popular too. At the same time, the dresses are getting shorter: a traditional dirndl ends the length of one big jug above the ground, but hardly anyone wants to wear such a long skirt nowadays. “Mini dirndl” are in, which do not even cover the knees. You can also see more and more fancy or unusual fabrics. Models made of pure silk, brocade and lace are just as much a part of the standard repertoire of designer collections as dirndls made of jeans or even sari fabric. The latter is a clear sign of the Indian diversity in Bavaria. The traditional actually most harmonious version of the tradition dress made out of cotton has meanwhile acquired the nickname “Waschdirndl” and is very popular with dirndl novices. The name comes from the fact that you can simply put these dresses in the washing machine and they do not need much special care.

But how do you combine a dirndl?


With so much choice in terms of fabrics alone, the possible combinations are endless. Which is quite surprising as the Bavarian traditional dress custom originally strictly prescribed to women which piece of clothing was to be worn when and exactly how it was to be worn. Starting with the traditional blouse, which does no longer has to be pure white today but may set also colour accents, through to the traditional hat, which has been in fashion for some years: women are spoilt for choice nowadays. As far as footwear is concerned, they are freer to choose than ever before. There were strict fashion regulations for which socks, tights and shoes were allowed to be worn with a dirndl until well into the 20th century. “Haferlschuh” shoes are still considered traditional today but many consider them to be too bulky and not ladylike enough. Therefore it is completely legitimate to wear high heels, court shoes or ballerinas with your dirndl. In the meantime, even sneakers in a matching colour can often be seen walking over the “Wiesn” (the Bavarian’s name for the Oktoberfest) under a Dirndl. You can of course also wear jewellery to spice up your dirndl. Pearls are especially popular, which you wear either as decoration on the dirndl, as a chain on the wrist or on a headband.

The only no-go for the dirndl style


One final tip for the dirndl apron: traditionally, the position where the bow is tied has a meaning. If the apron is tied at the front on the right, the person wearing it is spoken for, if the apron is tied at the front on the left, they are single. This tradition is now more fluid, you can tie your apron wherever you like. You may, however, be addressed by more men if your bow is tied on the left. What has been left from this tradition is the meaning of an apron tied at the back: a bow at the back means the person wearing it is widowed. Out of respect to widowed women, you therefore should not tie your apron at the back for fashionable reasons. 

Tradition combines the present and the past


Innovation is regularly combined with tradition in the most positive sense in Bavaria. It can be seen on the basis of the dirndl and lederhose how a strong reference to one’s own past can lead to creative new products that have a worldwide influence. It's not without reason that all the FC Bayern Munich players still wear traditional Bavarian dress at official occasions to this day. The Oktoberfest also shows how fit for the future traditions can be, if you tackle them correctly. Just like the largest folk festival in the world, different traditional dress from Bavaria are not a short-lived trend, but timeless classics. 

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