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!
“MB-Tracht paar” by The original uploader was Aquajazz at German Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Commons.
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.