If you say “Germany” to most Americans and then ask them to list everything they know about the culture, you’ll probably get a response that starts with two words: Lederhosen and Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is just one of many, many festivals here. I posted a gallery back at the beginning of April from a smaller festival when Palmator was tapped for the first time, back on Palm Sunday. There’s one coming up here in Regensburg called Dult. Mai Dult, in this case, because it’s in May. There’s another Dult in September. This has all the trappings of an Oktoberfest, though, including rides, crowds, tents with live music, people in traditional outfits, and, of course, beer.
As for the traditional clothing, there are many different types of tracht. While the word tracht translates to costume, this isn’t just a costume for those who wear it, it’s a part of their cultural heritage and tradition. However, tracht is not traditional for all of Germany- it’s regional. It is mostly found in Austria and here in Bavaria. Tracht is often worn for festivals, but it’s not at all uncommon to see it worn here for bachelor and bachelorette parties and other festive occasions.
The female traditional wear is called a Dirndl, and it usually consists of a bodice, blouse, and a full skirt and apron. There are versions for both cooler and warmer weather, with the primary differences being sleeve length and the materials used. The warm weather dirndl is usually lightweight cotton whereas the winter uses heavier fabric such as wool.
The colors of a dirndl are often quite bright, and a quick view of the window of any Tracht store you might happen across will show you examples in all colors- bright greens, turquoise, yellow, red, royal blue, and even pinks and purples. They’re available in both a knee length style as seen in the picture at left, as well as a longer ankle length style.
The placement of the knot on the apron has significance as well- a knot on the left signifies the wearer is single, on the right indicates that she is married, engaged, or otherwise taken, and a knot tied at the back indicates that the wearer is widowed.
Lederhosen, which literally translates to leather pants, and their longer cousin bundhosen, are what most Americans think of when they picture Germans at a festival. The shorter lederhosen are leather breeches, typically worn with suspenders and a brace, which is that bit in front of the chest. The shirt, socks, and shoes are all very specific, as is the stitching on the lederhosen. The shirts are typically a checked pattern and are available in all colors. The socks are worn a specific way, and there’s even a style that covers the calves for cooler weather.
Lederhosen are never washed in the same way that you would wash other garments. They are supposed to develop a shiny patina from age and use. Care instructions include things like “if it gets wet, dab but don’t rub” and the like- after all, they’re made of leather.
Since I’m going to be living in Bavaria for several years, I thought it would be a good idea to have a set of these for festivals and special events. I’m not really certain how often I’ll wear my lederhosen, but I wanted to do this right. I got one shirt in forest green, and another with royal blue checks, and the rest of the outfit looks like this: