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It’s time for the Oktoberfest. In the Bavarian dialect, it’s Wiesnîtime – when thousands of tourists descend on Munich to get sick on Bratwurst (sausage) and rollercoasters, dance and fall off benches with uncountable other sweaty bodies Beertents where they drink beer by the litre out of heavy glass mugs called “Mafl” (the fl is equivalent to an “ss” and you pronounce the “a” like a “u” in mug). This is also the best season for second hand vendors of Dirndl and Lederhosen, the traditional Southern-German and Austrian dress, which has gained world fame not least through the musical and film Sound of Music. Lederhosen simply translate to leather trousers. The word Dirndl is derived from the Bavarian word for girl: Dirn. With a little bit of luck you will spot politicians, pop-stars, our most loved BurdaStyle editors, and even “it-girls” like Paris Hilton in Lederhosen or Dirndl.

But whoever considers him or herself a true Bavarian (and there are quite a few) do not only unpack their Dirndl and Lederhosen for the Oktoberfest. Especially in rural areas, people will wear the traditional dress at festive days, for weddings, baptisms, birthdays, and to go to church. But even young urbanites are rediscovering the beauty and romanticism of Dirndls. If you are invited to a wedding in Southern-Germany you might find yourself surrounded by people wearing Dirndl and Lederhosen who in their everyday life run around like you and me, a very interesting double identity.

You can compare this resurrection of the Dirndl and Lederhosen with their first coming out as fashion icons at the end of the 19th century. Before then, they were the working clothes of farmers, lumberjacks and anyone else who did hard physical work. Especially lederhosen, which are made from dark brown or black leather or suede, with intricate embroidery on trousers and suspenders are indestructible and can last for a lifetime. Thanks to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. and various other royalties in Southern Germany who started wearing lederhosen at the turn of the 19th century, both became fashionable as summer holiday outfit with urban aristocrats and bourgeoisie who sought relaxation from urban summer dust in the cool Alpine regions.

Yet, there is much more attached to the traditional dress than simply fashion: traditional music, dances, songs, and celebrations which are being preserved until today. Like for example the “Schuhplattler” which could be translated as “shoe clapping”. To see what I mean check out these two videos on You Tube. One showing a dance from Vienna of the 1920s, and another from today.

8 Comments

  • Missing

    Jul 15, 2013, 05.38 PMby corendi

    I live in Kitchener-Waterloo and we have the largest Bravarian Oktoberfest festival outside of Munich. Our Thanksgiving Oktoberfest parade is nationally boradcast across Canada and I was asked to make some new lederhosen for the parade. Does anyone know where I can find a lederhosen pattern??

  • Missing

    Nov 9, 2008, 12.12 PMby momschmidt57

    Help! I am a volunteer costumer for my local high school- we are doing ‘Sound of Music’ in January and I need to find patterns for liederhosen and dirdl dresses (as well as ‘sailor’ outfits) We have a pretty limited budget. Any suggestions for resources I can utilize would be MOST welcome!

  • Missing

    Sep 16, 2008, 02.31 PMby jessdr

    Wow, those are pretty! I kind of want one – they cover everything but still show off your curves. I just need to find somewhere to wear it (in Boston)…

  • Emilykate_large

    Sep 14, 2008, 03.13 PMby emilykate

    THANKYOU for all the extra info Luzie!!! And now I have to find out what ‘carneval’ is…!

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    Sep 13, 2008, 02.37 AMby luzie

    huh, it’s more then “little” information – sorry!!!

  • A502ba6a087c7284117752785eec942e1e82784a_large

    Sep 13, 2008, 02.36 AMby luzie

    Hey – I just want to add a little information… EmilyKate, here in Germany there are many designers who make designer lederhosen/dirndls, I think the problem is, you won’t really wear them if you are not in bavaria or austria so those special creations don’t get very popular in other regions.

    A few years ago, other cities started to do their own Wiesn (but of course not that successful like the original one) – in my city Mainz (in south-west of Germany, but definitely out of Bavaria ;-)) they created a special Dirndl for “their” Oktoberfest, but people her only buy it, because they can use it for carneval as well, wearing it is just for fun. In Austria or Bavaria (half of my family lives there, so of course, I have my Dirndl hanging in the closet), if there are historical pageants, village fairs or traditional weddings, people wear their traditional clothes very seriously. You can buy Dirndls especially made for festive days like for weddings or processions (who are much too expensive to wear them on the Oktoberfest). So there are those for festivities and those to wear all day. In former times, my great-granny f.e. dressed up to go to Oktoberfest – people wanted to show their most expensive traditional dresses. Today it is more like going to a carneval-party where you wouldn’t wear your most expensive clothes because there always is the possibility someone drunken may spill a beer over it… And of course, young people can not afford the old traditional handmade Dirndls! I hope this was understandable – it’s not easy for me to explain this in english ;-)

    Finally a hint for those of you who go to Oktoberfest for the first time. If you tie your apron, the bow is like a “signal”: If it is on the left side it shows you are not spoken to someone/single, it it’s on the right it says you are engaged/married, etc. In front shows virginity and at the back widowness – but these two are obsolete.

    So have fun and be careful where you tie the bow! ;-)

  • Missing

    Sep 12, 2008, 08.48 AMby christy1

    Thanks for the info. I had no idea people still wore these.

  • Emilykate_large

    Sep 11, 2008, 02.56 PMby emilykate

    So, basically…. lederhosen could almost be thought of as German JEANS, as they are hard-wearing pants designed for working men. I think it can only be a matter of time before some German designer starts making… designer lederhosen!

    • This is a question
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