Traditional Oktoberfest Clothing | Cliffs Notes Beer Guide

Munich’s 16- to 18-day beer festival may be more famous for its Oktoberfest draft beers, numerous attractions (such as amusement rides, side-stalls, and games) and its wide variety of traditional foods—but in recent years it has also become a fashion event, briefly diverting the attention of Germany’s style writers from international runways to traditional and non-traditional folk costumes. What exactly is a: dirndl, Wildbärte, Gambsart, Lederhosen, Charivari, Loferls, etc…

In the 1500 and 1600s, traditional Bavarian outfits were everyday facets of life for common people in Munich from going around town to even working in the fields.  As the use of the traditional clothing started to fade in favor of the fashion of the 1800s, wealthy people from the city began to revive the old clothing out of a longing to capture the romantic feelings they got while visiting their country-side vacation homes.  Groups of locals then slowly came together for a huge revival to make sure this part of Alpine culture stayed strong.

In 1835, the first Riflemen and Costume (Tracht) Parade was added to the Oktoberfest celebrations, and in 1883 they started the traditional costume association called the Traditional Custome Society (Trachtenverein).  Today you will find that in upwards of 90% of visitors are dressed up on some level for Oktoberfest in Munich with most wearing full traditional outfits.

Headwear

A good alternative is a classic Tracht hat, which are available in all price ranges and quality levels, and always look good, and can be adorned with a Wildbärte.

The Wildbärte is a traditional hat decoration for men. It is worn in combination with Tracht, on top of the hat. It is made of hair from a badger, deer, boar, or chamois, bound together at one end so that the loose hair can puff out in a bushy, round shape. The most famous kind of Wildbärte is the Gamsbärte (Gamsbart), but can also be made from other various animals’ hair, such as Dachsbärte (badger), Hirschbarte (stag), and Saubärte (wild boar) which has the most durable hair.

The Gamsbart —which translates as ‘chamois beard’ was originally a deer hunting trophy. A Gamsbart, is the most famous of all beards. It is made exclusively from the hair from the chamois’—a European Mountain goat—taken from the area between the neck to the frond, called the Aalstreif. The tuft plume is made by enclosing the lower end of the tuft in a setting of metal or horn that allows the upper end to spread in a brush-like fashion. The tips of the hair must be light so that there is a “frost” that makes the Gamsbart shimmer at the end.

A large Gamsbart is made up of 35,000 to 40,000 individual lower neck hairs from several chamois, which are selected in winter. It can take up to two weeks to be created, costing around £1,600. The size and diameter of the Gamsbart are important signs of the wearer’s pride and manliness.

The Tyrolean hat, also known as the Alpine hat or Bavarian hat, is the traditional hat worn by many festival goers are made from either felt or wool. The hat comes from Tyrol in the Alps which is now a part of Italy and Austria. When you see someone wearing one of these hats at Oktoberfest, they will most typically be accompanied by a feather, most likely pheasant or ostrich. In bygone times the size of the feather indicated your wealth, the larger the feather the wealthier you were. As an alternative to the feather you see well-goers with pewter pins on their hats typically used to display their travels like a scrapbook.

For women,the classic ‘Hiedi’ look is to have pigtails (or twin ponytails) secured with pieces of ribbon to match their dirndl.  You often see women who have braided small meadow flowers, mini roses, or pieces of ribbon into their hair which can look great in modest amounts. Appropriate headwear includes fancy headbands, stylish hats with or without feathers or Hutradl (hat jewelry), or other options. Historical Trachten are often combined with a hat have become a lot more common with women as they now come in many colors. The women’s hats are a little narrower than the men’s and are often dressed up with a long flamboyant peacock or pheasant feather.

Dirndl

What exactly is a dirndl? An interesting question:

The traditional Alpine dress for women is called the “dirndl. and its story goes back to the 19th century.  Originally the dirndl emerged in Germany during the 18th century as a costume for servants in lordly households, and was also intended for working peasants. This female Tracht was designed to be a maid’s dress for house and farm workers. Rather than using the same affordable wools of the peasants, richer dirndls were made of silk, satin, and expensive fabrics. They eventually evolved into regular dresses, thus outsourcing the need for separate bodice, blouse, skirt and apron. Additionally, the culture of the apron knot-tying is a pretty modern emphasis. This rule was a loose code centuries ago, as most maids were not wearing these outfits to impress anyone while they did yard work. However, this code is taken more seriously now than it ever has been historically.

Dirndls are made of cotton, linen or velvet. Exclusive models made of silk or the finest leather are also possible. The apron is either made of the same material or of silk, some with a lace. Ideally, a dirndl should be very comfortable, without much fuss and neatly laced up. Preferably they should be one or two colors. Simple, fat shoes and crocheted stockings are worn with a dirndl.  A dirndl consists of a linen or fine cotton “Schmisl” (blouse) in a subtle color with gathered or puffed sleeves and a round or square neckline that can be chaste or allow for a lower cut look. Over the blouse is the “Mieder” or “Leibl” (the actual dirndl dress) made from linen, silk, or cotton. Usually there is a pocket on the side or front of the skirt which is hidden under the obligatory apron. 

There are also two-piece dirndls which allow for countless combinations, since the skirt and bodice are separate. You should wear the bodice tight enough that there are no wrinkles, but not too tight—it should look pretty, not keep you from breathing. The simpler it is, the more lovely and attractive. Many dirndls have nice lacing. The Mieder used to be laced up from bottom to top with a silver chain. Today it is usually closed with a small chain or simply a zipper hidden by the lacing. The silver chain is decorated with coins and amulets.

Women also like to wear a matching shawl over their shoulders—preferably artfully embroidered with a small pattern. A choker with a nice pendant is a better accessory than a bunch of necklaces which will fly up around your ears on the roller coaster. The high-waisted, pleated dirndl skirt is usually ankle length. A petticoat gives it the right volume, keeps it from gathering between your legs, and looks nice when it peeks out from underneath. If your skirt must be short, it should at least cover your knees. Only shepherdesses who don’t want to trip while climbing mountains have a good excuse to wear their skirts any shorter.

The strength of the dirndl doesn’t lie in bare legs, but rather in the lovely décolletage. Nothing should distract from that. There are generally very few real color rules when it comes to a dirndl. It shouldn’t be too gaudy, but rather a subtle color such as light blue or pink. Black with a white blouse is uncommon, since it used to be the color worn by servants. A tasteful dirndl, with fine embroidery, well-tailored darts, and pretty buttons, enhances a woman’s natural beauty; a baggy, beige farmhouse dirndl that fits like a sack or a garish Christmas candy-colored dirndl, on the other hand, do not.

With a length of about 50cm, these dresses are ideally suited to women who are 1.7 metres tall or shorter, or for wearing in spring or summer when the weather’s warm. Sexy and sassy, this option is ideal for anyone who wants to show off their legs in style.

If you’d prefer something less revealing but which still displays a little leg, a midi version might be the perfect solution. Lying just below the knee, these chic dresses are long enough to be worn to many types of events.

A fantastic choice for those who like their dresses to be more traditional, as well as taller women and those attending formal events, the maxi-dirndl falls above the ankle. Elegant enough for any occasion, this type of dress is particularly suited to bridalwear, and looks stunning when teamed with a shape-boosting petticoat.

Dirndl Apron — Bow Placement

You’re at Oktoberfest in your trendy dirndl — but be careful which side you tie the bow of your apron! The placement of your dirndl bow is very important as it tells people your relationship status:

Dirndl apron bow on the left side

If a lady ties the bow on the (on her side) left side on the dirndl, she is at least not averse to a single flirtation. Here, as a man with a call to dance, you probably have good cards. And as a woman you should not mind to make the acquaintance of one or the other “Schürzenjägers”!

Dirndl apron bow on the right side

A loop in the front right signalizes that the wearer is already permanently assigned and you bite on granite with adulterants. But vice versa, if no one appeals to you even though you’re interested, check out where your bow is knotted! Some suspect that the tradition stems from the fact that married women in public went to the right of their spouse. A generous Dirndlschleife on the right side of her skirt would therefore have disturbed the narrow Lustwandeln rather, while singles in dirndl loop binding on this detail need not take into account.

Dirndl apron bow in the middle

Traditionally, a dirndl loop tied in the middle of the apron means that the Madl is still a virgin , and therefore also not to have any idle games. Whether this is still done today is doubtful. More often, ladies signal that they are uncertain about their own relationship status – or just do not want to reveal it. Brave men could risk their luck here, and the ladies should be prepared for all sorts of sayings.

Dirndl apron bow in the back

The wearer of a dirndl loop tied to the back is either widowed or belongs to the staff. Occasionally, however, you also see young ladies, to which neither of these applies – these either wear Dirndl for the first time and have not read in enough, or they simply refuse the “bow tie code”. Also, the bow tied to the back of the apron is customary in some regions – eg in the Austrian Styria. That is, a tied back dirndl must not give reason to express condolences!

Oktoberfest Dirndl
Lederhosen

There are “Bundlederne” (lederhosen that gather below the knee) and “Kurze” (short lederhosen that expose the knees). The simplest are made from pig leather, which hardens quickly and is difficult to care for and therefore not recommended.  Better lederhosen are made from cow leather, even better from deer leather, and the best from chamois leather, although you must be careful since it is not very sturdy and tears easily.  Lederhosen have a flap in the front which can be opened quickly by a man to answer the call of nature (or for totally different reasons). When the need arises, women can open the flap on a man’s pants just as quickly. The buttons are designed for quick access from above or in front.

On the right side (as seen from above) of each pair of lederhosen there is a knife pouch, where you would traditionally keep your hunting knife. Since knives aren’t allowed at Oktoberfest for safety reasons, you should find something else to put in there in this case. When the police come by on their patrol, they will take your knife away, and it will be very difficult to get it back. That’s why when I’m at Oktoberfest I keep useful things in my knife pouch such as a flashlight, a fountain pen, or a thermometer to measure the temperature. 

Many lederhosen have suspenders that are kept stable by a strap across the chest. Embellishments and embroidery depend on the origin of the lederhosen.  You can wear lederhosen without suspenders if you are built so that they won’t slip. That really looks stupid and it significantly hinders walking. Some modern lederhosen have belt loops. I strongly recommend that when you are choosing your belt, you go with a belt buckle appropriate to the occasion, for example the face of King Ludwig II, or a simple Tracht belt.  If you’ve done it right you should look wild, rustic, and bold in your lederhosen.  Don’t part your hair, let it be a bit messy, and open the top button of your shirt. 

Accessories

For a man dressing for Muncher Oktoberfest, there aren’t as many accessory options as the women get, but there are still a few that can be added.  Similar to adding pins or feathers to decorate Alpine hats, Charivari chains can create some flair for the lederhosen. Trachten belts are popular accessories, which gentlemen and also ladies,  love to wear. It goes without saying that Lederhosen suspenders round off traditional German Trachten, and other traditional German fashion.

Tracht Belt   

As a rule, a Tracht belt is a rustic leather belt with embellishments and embroidery. It is worn over the Tracht, be it lederhosen, a bodice, a skirt, or a blouse. Many younger men might prefer to wear traditional or modern belts with their jeans or leather pants, according to their taste in fashion.

With their Bavarian and rustic design, they enhance the look of every leather trousers and jeans. Made of leather, these belts feature a traditional buckles that show regional designs, Bavarian crests and motifs of King Ludwig, or can be imprinted deer and regional flowers, such as  the edelweiss.

Charivari

The most important costume jewelry for men are in addition to the traditional knives for the Lederhosen so-called Charivaris. A Charivari is a large, silver chain attached to lederhosen or a Tracht vest. The word “Charivari” originated from the French language and describes the sound of the medals jingling.

Nowadays, upstanding gents embellish their lederhosen look with this trinket. It used to be a talisman that was bestowed on real hunters after a successful hunt. It was also an important status symbol for prosperous farmers and landowners. In the very early days, the charivari was a fob chain that was attached to the button hole of a traditional vest and people loved to hang little trophies on it. Interesting fact: They couldn’t be bought and had to be passed down from generation to generation

It is hung with many pendants, traditional hunting and animal motifs, animal teeth, paws, replicas of antique coins, metal decorations, charms, badger fur, and precious stones. Traditionally, charivari (also spelled Shariwari) are individually put together, and grow in the course of life as more and more pendants, trophies and memorabilia are added.

The ideal length of a man’s charivari is 33 centimeters. The latest versions are generally made from 925 sterling silver, although in earlier years they often consisted of 800 sterling silver. To this day, small parts of animals killed in a hunt are worked into charivaris. Parts of antlers and the claws of birds of prey enjoy great popularity, as do fangs. If it’s above the fly, your charivari is in the right place.

Suspenders

The one thing that really sets Lederhosen off, and makes them different from the normal pants you see worn every day, is the H shaped suspenders and the fancy embroidery.  These accessories do not only fulfill functional, but also visual purposes in Trachten fashion: They round off your costume, make it appealing and give your outfit an individual touch. Rustic Lederhosen suspenders are available in tones like fir green, olive, blue and red.

Suspenders are designed with a Y-shape in the back and are decorated with typical motifs, for example, edelweiss flowers and hunting motifs—deer and horns which are not just printed, but are embroidered.

Socks & Shoes

For a man dressing for Muncher Oktoberfest, there aren’t as many accessory options as the women get, but there are still a few that can be added.  Similar to adding pins or feathers to decorate Alpine hats, Charivari chains can create some flair for the lederhosen. Trachten belts are popular accessories, which gentlemen and also ladies,  love to wear. It goes without saying that Lederhosen suspenders round off traditional German Trachten, and other traditional German fashion.

Loferls   

Loferls also go by the name of ‘stutzn’ or ‘beinhösl’ and are worn below the knee, on the strongest part of the calf. Usually don’t wear them with socks, but sock liners which are hidden inside your shoes are often included in a set. Originally, loferls were worn without any socks at all, which may not be to everyones taste, particularly on cooler days. The traditional costume should determine the color and design of the loferls, so that everything is ultimately coordinated. The rules to remember: You should be able to see the skin between the calf and the foot and should under no circumstances be worn with anything other than traditional shoes, i.e. haferl shoes.

Originally, they were made from spun lamb’s wool in ecru. For women — yes, women too wear loferls — it was customary to use particularly fine lamb’s wool. It is said that loferls originated in an era when not everyone could afford a pair of shoes. At least stutzn could be worn to protect the legs from cold weather. To that end, the original socks were longer than those found today, spanning from the knee to the ankle. That was also considered a plus as naked skin, even if it only applied to a man’s leg, was not as acceptable as it is today. The separation of the leg section (loferl) and the foot (sock liner) was also an economic benefit. If the foot section was severely worn and could no longer be darned, the leg section could still be used and replaced by new sock liners only.

Haferlschuh

The best shoes to go with Bavarian lederhosen are Haferl shoes. They are traditionally made from black nappa leather. Variations made of suede or other good leather are completely acceptable. You should made sure that the inside leather is soft so that the shoe is comfortable and doesn’t get uncomfortable with hard wearing. Guys should wear sturdy shoes with a wide sole and a strong profile. For the youngsters in the past, the path to the dance floor often went through puddles and rocks, so, the shoes should be able to withstand the today’s stresses. Because you just never know. 

Tracht Socks

Traditionally, a dirndl loop tied in the middle of the apron means that the Madl is still a virgin , and therefore also not to have any idle games. Whether this is still done today is doubtful. More often, ladies signal that they are uncertain about their own relationship status – or just do not want to reveal it. Brave men could risk their luck here, and the ladies should be prepared for all sorts of sayings.

Content courtesy dirndl.com, wiesnkini.de, alpenclassics.co.uk., & oktoberfest.de