Numerous native dress societies and clubs called “Volkstrachtenvereine” promote the preservation and revival of traditional German dress. Referred to as “tracht” (or plural “trachten”), today it denotes any form of rustic or traditional clothing of supposed Germanic origin, although most typically it refers to lederhosen and dirndls.
Historically, tracht identified a person’s social and legal status (married), origin (Bavaria) or trade (craftsman) and referred not only to clothing, but also to adornment, facial hair, religious background and social standing. Clothing from each region and purpose varied accordingly. As urban bourgeoisie and aristocrats developed an affinity for rural customs and country living in the 19th and early 20th centuries, interest in adopting, preserving and cultivating rural and regional styles of dress resulted in more common timeless designs.
Short leather trousers--lederhosen--worn by rural peasants and woodsmen of the Alpine regions of Austria and Germany appeared among the aristocracy in the mid to late1800s, under Kaiser Franz Joseph. Bavarians (southern Germans) developed the distinctive style of lederhosen with the front flap most commonly seen today. Traditional man’s dress includes the lederhosen with shirts or sweaters of rustic linen or wool, heavy wool stockings and country shoes. Jackets and hats vary by occasion or by region and may be made of leather, wool felt, cotton velveteen and other natural fibers with metal buttons and chains, braided trims or embroidery.
Comprised of a close-fitting bodice, full skirt and petticoats, and combined with a contrasting apron, the dirndl is sometimes worn sleeveless or with a cotton or lace blouse. Originally the working dress of female servants (from Austrian “dirn” or maidservant), the dirndl became popular among upper-class women for summer holiday and country living wear after male aristocrats began wearing lederhosen. Elaborate hats, varying by region and occasion, added expense to the costumes and appeared mostly on festive holidays. Other fashionable additions included embroidery, lace, ribbons and braided trims.
Traditional Dress Today
Wearing tracht today is a sign of national and ethnic pride, especially in areas of southern Germany, Bavaria and Austria. Special occasions like holidays, weddings and festivals, such as Oktoberfest, readily lend themselves to the donning of traditional clothing. Both young and old enjoy wearing lederhosen and dirndls at festive occasions.
German Fashion Industry
Industrial production of tracht thrives today in Germany. Contemporary influences seen in colors, fabrics, trims and shapes add variety and a bit of modern panache to the traditional garments.
- kzenon/iStock/Getty Images