What to wear if you want to visit a folk festival or Oktoberfest in Austria? The rule of thumb: the best way to blend in with the crowd is to wear something traditional. Folk costumes are a good choice for a start. In Austria, these costumes are worn everywhere and almost in every occasion. Just walk down any street, especially in a rural and more traditional part of the country, and you will spot them. That is something that every tourist notices immediately.
Folk costumes are important part of one’s identity, culture and tradition. They mostly represent a specific geographic area or a period of time in history. Austria’s traditional folk costumes are recognisable in the entire world, probably due to the popularity of Oktoberfest.
You can notice a colourful variety of dirndl dresses and lederhosen, with hats decorated with the feathers or without them. What is the difference between them you may ask yourself? Let me introduce three different terms: tracht, dirndl, and lederhose. Many of you have probably heard at least for one of them.
Tracht is a traditional garment or a dress code typically associated with Austria and Bavaria. It is the Sunday-best that you would have in your wardrobe. It is mostly worn on special occasions such as important festivals, Easter, Christmas, weddings, etc. They are often richly decorated, and the quality of the work represents a sign of the riches and social status of the person wearing it. In the broadest meaning, it is just synonym for everything you wear, including clothing, jewellery, hairstyle, make-up, accessories and insignia.
Dirndl is a feminine dress based on the traditional clothing of the Alps peasants. Working women commonly wore them until the upper classes adopted them as a highly fashionable and popular must-have item. A modern dirndl is heavily stylised, often with floral patterns and vivid colours. Nowadays, it is a dress that you would wear for special occasions, folk festivals, or if you are an older woman from a rural area, maybe even as an everyday dress.
Lederhose is the male version of the dirndl. Once typical workwear across the Alpine region, nowadays, they became leisurewear and unavoidable part of the Oktoberfest iconography.
In Vienna, you can find a wide selection of dirndls and lederhose, from traditional businesses with the old-style attire to young designers who give folk culture a modern twist. One of the latter is Lena Hoschek, a regular at the Berlin Fashion Week, who combines traditional patterns with modern elements. Her flagship store is worth a visit. The store is located in the heart in Vienna, just around the corner from the famous and exclusive Golden U shopping area.
The Austrians are very proud of their national costumes. Although they were almost forgotten after World War II, they are reliving its second renaissance, not only as the regular party outfit for the Oktoberfest but as an everyday attire as well. So, let’s return to the question from the beginning: What to wear for Oktoberfest? A stylish dirndl and a lederhose are a clear sign of good taste, so go with it.
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