German Clothing  
Traditions & Customs

Interested in learning more about the customs and traditions behind German clothing? Or maybe you’re off to the Munich Oktoberfest and wondering what on earth to wear and also on which side to tie your Dirndl apron strings?? Ladies….you have been warned! :)

Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find:

·         An overview of the history of traditional German clothes

·         Insider information on the famous German Dirndl and Lederhosen (including lots of photos!!) including how to wear them and how not to!

·         Where typical German clothes are worn nowadays

History of German Clothes

The most internationally recognized ‘typical’ type of German clothing is, of course, the traditional Bavarian ‘Trachtenmode’ which basically consists of the Dirndl (dress) worn by the ladies and Lederhosen (leather trousers) worn by the men. When translated literally, ‘trachten’ means ‘costume’ in English and is thought to have originated from the word ‘tragen’ which means ‘to wear’.

The German national costume originated from a fashion phenomenon at the time and was initially worn by the working classes. There was a renaissance of the costume in 1853 when the government of Upper Bavaria decided to revive the feeling of patriotism and, in particular, the ‘trachten’.

One of the most famous historical figures to wear the national costume was Prince Leopold of Bavaria who was the successor of Ludwig II. Like him, the former Kaiser of Austria, Kaiser Frank Joseph I, was also often seen sporting his short Lederhosen while hunting!

Let’s have a look at the typical German 'Trachten' in more detail and how it is worn nowadays.

Traditional German clothes for women Dirndl

A Dirndl is a dress which usually consists of a low and either square or round tight white blouse and pinafore. The length of the dress depends on the fashion at the time. This also applies to the Dirndl blouse which can either have puff sleeves or more tightly fitted ones and can also be either short or long. A traditional Dirndl is normally made from cotton or linen but nowadays, as you can imagine, many are also made from polyester.

A traditional Dirndl would normally have a small pocket integrated on the side or at the front. A traditional necklace, bracelet and bag would normally finish off the outfit.  The colour of the shoes would depend on the colour of the Dirndl.


TIP: Ladies be aware:  If you tie the pinafore strings on your Dirndl to the right this signalises that you are in a relationship, engaged or married. If you tie the strings to the left this means you are single! One that is tied to the front means you are a virgin and tied to the back means you are a widow….so watch out at the beer festivals ladies and tie your pinafore carefully!

Such clothes are worn all over Germany - normally during times of celebration - and there are small, subtle differences depending on which region you are in. I’d like to concentrate on the following two as they are my favourite and probably the most famous J

If in Bavaria…

If you want a Dirndl which is more traditionally Bavarian, you should choose a simple and more conservative colour. These tend to be red, brown, white, green and pink. The more vibrant, flash colours are more modern and are generally worn by the youngsters.

There are so many variations though as you can see in the photo just above. This Dirndl belongs to my Bavarian mother-in-law and was bought about 20 years ago. This style of Dirndl is known as 'Landhausstil' which means 'country house style'. As you can see this Dirndl has a flower pattern, a belt but no pinafore or blouse.

In Bavaria, men generally wear black or brown Lederhosen with braces and a white or chequered shirt. Red, green or blue shirts are normally worn. (More on men’s clothing below).

If in the Black Forest…

The ‘Trachtmode’ here isn’t too much different to in Bavaria. The blouse sleeves on the women’s Dirndls tend to be even more puffed up and are generally black and white. The men’s clothing is very similar. The main thing which distinguishes the Black forest’s traditional clothing to the Bavarian is the head garments worn by both men and women (see photo!) and the white socks worn by both genders too.

The men wear a flat, black hat called a ‘Melone’ not to be confused with the fruit! And the women wear the famous ‘Bollenhut’ which means ‘pom-pom hat’ in English.

Let’s now take a look in more detail at the men’s clothing:

Traditional German Clothes for men: Lederhosen

It is not just the women who need to look the part in Germany! A typical man’s costume comprises all or some of the following:-

-          Leather trousers with braces = Lederhosen

-          Traditional shirt / chequered shirt = trachten hemd / kariertes Hemd

-          Long socks = Strumpfhosen

-          Shoes (laced on the side)= Haferl / Trachtenschuhe

-          Traditional jacket = Trachtenjacke

-          Vest = Weste

-          Felt hat = Seppelhut


Where is traditional German clothing worn?

Customary German clothing is most well-known from the various beer festivals and most famously the Munich Oktoberfest which takes place annually. Here virtually everyone is dressed up in their ‘Dirndls’ and ‘Lederhosen’. I have been a couple of times and you can guarantee your costume will end up getting rather dirty with the amount of beer being sloshed around from people dancing on the tables!!

'Trachten' clothing is also worn at many different special occasions in Germany, such as family gatherings and weddings. Even at our wedding, which took place in England, my husband’s German friends wore their ‘Lederhosen’ much to the delight of the English guests! ;) Even sometimes at work – such as on the first day of the Oktoberfest – my colleagues will come to work dressed in their Dirndls and Lederhosen.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you are travelling to Germany soon for the Oktoberfest then I suggest reading my German travel phrases section. It's really handy to know some basics, like how to order a beer:)

Or if you'd like some more fun, how about browsing my Long German words section - you will not believe you many letters some words contain!!

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