196  Days
October 6-14 2017

How To Dress For Oktoberfest



Tracht is a traditional national costume of a country (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and many others).  Most often the word is associated with Austrian and Bavarian costumes, even though many other people and countries have them. A national costume expresses an identity, which usually relates to a geographic area or a period of time in history, but can also indicate social, marital and/or religious status. Trachts often come in two forms: one for every occasion, the other for festival and formal wear. Trachts are usually worn in connection with special events and celebrations, particularly those connected with cultural traditions, heritage, or pride. Costumes worn by professional guilds are also called “Tracht”. While many have fallen into disuse, carpenter journeymen can still be seen wearing their traditional costume while traveling throughout Europe.  Here in Kitchener/Waterloo, Trachts are part of our Oktoberfest celebrations.


A dirndl is a type of traditional dress worn in southern Germany and Austria based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants.  The dirndl originated as a simplified form of folk costume and consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron. While appearing to be simple and plain, a properly made modern dirndl may be quite expensive as it is tailored and sometimes cut from costly hand-printed or silk fabrics.  The winter style dirndl has heavy, warm skirts and aprons made of thick cotton, linen, velvet or wool, and long sleeves. The colours are usually rich and dark.  The summer style is lighter and more frivolous, has short sleeves and is often made of lightweight cotton, silk or satin.

Today, dirndls vary from simple styles to exquisitely crafted, very expensive models. The dirndl is mostly worn in Bavaria and Austria.  Although not an everyday dress, many women may wear it at formal occasions and during certain traditional events.


Lederhosen are knee-breeches (knickerbockers or shorts) made of leather.

Lederhosen were traditionally worn by Germanic men of the Alpine and surrounding regions, including Austria, the highlands and mountains of Southern Germany, the German-speaking part of Italy’s province of Bolzano-Bozen but not Switzerland. The areas in Western Austria and Northern Italy are known as Tyrol and lederhosen are a characteristic of this region.  Lederhosen are made of different types of leather, come with buttons made of deer horn, embroidery in traditional patterns and leather braces, etc. There are two variations:  A short one that ends above the knees and a longer one, the “Kniebundhose” that extends just below the knee. The former, was traditionally used for hunting and working; the slightly longer Kniebundhose was more formal and meant for holidays.  Lederhosen have remained regionally popular and are commonly associated with virility and brawn.  The have remained a symbol of regional pride.  Their role in Bavaria is thus comparable to that of the kilt in Scotland or the cowboy hat in the United States. 

Traditional Bavarian dress for him

Tracht, consisting of:

Actually, there is very little you can do wrong. However, if you are opting for medium length leather trousers, there should be enough leather to fully cover the knees when sitting. Otherwise the trousers are too short, and you may become the laughing stock at the Oktoberfest.

Traditional Bavarian dress for her

Tracht, consisting of:

You should be aware of a few rules for the female dress:

  1. The knot of the pinafore indicates the status of the woman. Bound on her right side (just as Petra above) means: "I'm Taken". Bound on her left side means: "I'm single and/or available". Cool, eh?
  2. The traditional Dirndl is long and falls down to below mid-calf, just as in the photo above. They will sell you a short Dirndl as well, and as a male I agree that it looks quite appealing, but this is a tourist item and has nothing to do with the traditional dress.
  3. The pinafore should end at the same height as the Dirndl itself. Having a shorter or longer pinafore will definitely indicate that you are not one of the locals. A big no-no. (Petra's pinafore has the correct length, but the camera angle makes it appear to be slightly longer than the Dirndl. It is not.)
  4. The pantyhose should be just a sheer one, maybe tanned, but definitely not black or weirdly colored.
  5. The shoes should really be low heeled loafers or ballet flats, black or white. High-heeled pumps might be a beautiful sight and a nice surprise for your husband, but it's not something you wear as part of a traditional Oktoberfest dress.
  6. Some dresses allow you to thread thin silver chains through the front section. If you have one of these you should definitely wear the silver chains, otherwise the empty hooks will look just plain weird. 
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