In the 202 years since Oktoberfest began as a wedding
celebration for the Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, it has grown from a local party for
Bavarians into the world’s biggest beer festival, attracting between six and
seven million visitors from across the globe each year.
Germany’s most famous party has also remained steeped in tradition, from
the servers who carry prodigious amounts of locally-brewed beer to the classic
Bavarian music that can be heard in beer halls throughout the region. But one of
the festival’s most iconic images -- lederhosen-clad men guzzling
beer and dirndl-wearing women dancing on tables – faded over the years, as festival-goers
chose to wear jeans and shirts instead of trachten
(traditional German clothing).
However, in the last decade or so, the region’s beer
tents and fairgrounds have become reminiscent of scenes of the past, with women
sporting the hottest new dirndls (wide skirts with corsets and aprons) and men donning
their best lederhosen (traditional leather shorts and suspenders).
The trend has meant big business in Germany, and
according to Lola Paltinger, a
designer of couture dirndls, Bavarian costumes have slowly become fashionable
again largely because designers have put a modern twist on the traditional threads. But
while there are a few relative newcomers to the scene — like Paltinger — Munich
also has several specialists that built a reputation long before trachten came
back into style.
— a clothing store specialising in dirndls and lederhosen for the last 65 years,
with locations throughout Germany — has experienced a 500% increase in the sale
of dirndls in the last decade, while doubling their sale in lederhosen. Their
competition has also grown, with department stores and costume shops selling
shops … sell dirndl and lederhosen during Oktoberfest. These clothes are very
cheap, but of bad quality,” said Nina Munz, a spokeswoman for Angermaier. “Quality is very important. A lederhose,
for example, made of deerskin, you have your whole life.”
From its roots as working clothes for farmers and
servants in south Germany and Austria, trachten has evolved over the years to become leisure wear at festivals and
celebrations. As demand has grown, the fashion — especially for dirndls — has
While dirndls still give a nod to tradition with wide
skirts, corsets and aprons, designers have given the outfit a modern twist with
brighter colours, fresh design and a little extra room in the corset to allow
for plenty of beer drinking.
“In some way it was very important to interpret the
traditional style in a modern and younger way. [There were] women who never
were interested in dirndls because they were too traditional and old fashioned,”
Paltinger said. “Also men love to see this extremely feminine style on their
women, and so time after time our Oktoberfest visitors all started to wear
dirndls, to be really a part of the fest community.”
When Paltinger started
her business in 2000, she
sold about 20 dirndls a year. Now she sells about 1,000 for up to 2,500 euros
each, at Munich stores like Angermaier and Lodenfrey, as well as custom-made dirndls to
Of course, dirndls can be found much cheaper elsewhere, with the least
expensive starting at about 50 or 60 euros. Lederhosen are more expensive,
starting at about 120 euros each, but those looking for high-quality items
should expect to reach deeper into their pockets.
also a huge second-hand market for lederhosen, but unfortunately, the older the
outfit, the more expensive it is. Lederhosen made of leather were designed to
be easily cleaned and last a lifetime, so it is not uncommon to find traditional
trousers more than a century old.
Joseph Lipah, who claims to have the largest collection of used lederhosen in
the world, sells items from 200 to 2,000 euros at his shop, Lederhosenwahnsinn. The 2,500 pairs
of lederhosen hang from the wall along with less-refined swag (like postcards
of naked women and men’s underwear), and those who want to try on a pair better
not be shy as there is no dressing room.
enter Lipah’s shop, the self-proclaimed “Bavarian lederhosen king” will likely offer
you a beer, reaching into the fridge at the back of the store for a bottle of weiss
or dunkel, giving potential customers a dose of Bavarian hospitality as he
offers quick quips and outrageous stories, like the time he drove from Germany
to Iran wearing nothing but lederhosen the whole way. With a private collection
of 300 lederhosen, including a pair from 1820, he is clearly not just in the business
for the money.
Lipah remembers a time when there was no money in traditional clothing.“Thirty
years ago, nobody had lederhosen. When I opened in 1982, the normal people say
‘he is crazy’. All the television and radio and newspaper came to me and asked
me about the lederhosen,” Lipah said. “This was the beginning for the new
lederhosen hurricane. Only music groups and traditional groups wore lederhosen
then, but private people never [did].”
now times have changed, which is good news for Lipah and many other Munich business
owners. “People from Australia, America, Africa fly special to Germany to come
to my shop,” Lipah said. Seems times are good for the lederhosen king.