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As Oktoberfest is in full swing in München, many of you will be seeing (or wearing!) the traditional garments known as Lederhosen or Dirndl. In this post, I’m going to tell you a little about where they originate, why they were worn (and how they are worn today), and give you a few other facts and related vocabulary along the way!
First off, the Lederhosen and Dirndl are traditional Bavarian dress. Note I said Bavarian, not German! Although Germans are stereotyped outside Germany as being Lederhosen-wearing, Dirndl-clad folk, this traditional style of dress is inherently Bavarian, and you will not see it worn anywhere outside Bavaria (except perhaps at beer festivals, for fashion rather than for tradition). So: Bavarian. Not German. Got it? 😉 Guad! (That means ‘good’ in Bavarian!)
The general name for this style of Bavarian dress is Tracht, which is a word related to the verb ‘tragen’ – to wear/carry. This word is not limited to Bavaria, however, as it can be used to describe regional or specific kinds of dress anywhere in Germany. Shops selling Bavarian Tracht are often called things like Trachtenwelt (‘traditional dress world’) or Trachtenmode (‘traditional dress fashion’), so look out for them if you’re ever Dirndl shopping in München!
Now onto the history. Dirndl and Lederhosen originated in the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and can be traced as far back as the 1600s. They were worn by farmers, shepherds, carpenters and peasants for outdoor work (for the men) and indoor housework (for the women). The Lederhosen were especially suitable for work, as the leather made them extremely strong and durable. Meanwhile, the Dirndl had an apron tied around it (a feature that has remained to the day), making it ideal for housework and cooking. These clothes were never associated with city life, which makes it all the more remarkable how popular they are in the Bavarian capital today.
In the 1800s the first Trachtenvereine (‘traditional dress clubs’) were founded – a reaction from the Bavarians to modernity, and the fear that their traditions were dying out. These kinds of clubs flourished, and still exist today as a way for Bavarians to wear and celebrate their Tracht.
Here’s a video of one such Trachtenverein performing a traditional dance:
Today, the Dirndl and Lederhosen are worn in the following ways:
The last bullet point I’m going to mention is that they are worn for fashion purposes. This is where the modern Lederhosen and Dirndl styles come into play. As a result of the worldwide attraction that is Oktoberfest, Tracht is back in fashion, and there is no end to the variations of the Tracht you can buy today. They – the Dirndls especially – come in all sorts of colours, lengths, styles and fabrics, ranging from the simple to the elaborate, and from very modest to very, err, revealing!
Many Bavarians own at least one Dirndl or Lederhosen, but if you’re a tourist visiting Oktoberfest, for example, there is always the option of renting an outfit from a Trachtenverleih (‘Tracht rental place’) like Bavarian Outfitters if you don’t want to buy one (they can be rather expensive, especially if you want a traditional or elaborate one).
What do you think of the Bavarian Tracht? Do you prefer the traditional or the modern style? Do you own one? Leave me a comment!
Diandl – Bavarian way of saying Dirndl
Ledahosn – Bavarian way of saying Lederhosen
Blouse – die Bluse
Skirt – der Rock
Dress – das Kleid
Corset – das Korsett
Apron – die Schürze
Hat – der Hut
Feather – die Feder
Shirt – das Hemd
Trouser braces/suspenders – die Hosenträger
Shepherd – der Schäfer
Farmer – der Bauer
Carpenter – der Schreiner