Every year you slap your palm into your face during October as another year goes by where you’re missing out on Oktoberfest. Every year, you think, “This will be the year that I finally make it out to Munich for the most famous festival in the world.” This year, you’re making that dream a reality. You’ve got your flight booked, your accommodations reserved, and you feel ready to go. But before you start packing your normal street clothes for the German pilgrimage, you should consider getting some apparel that’s reflective to the local culture. You’re finally going to Oktoberfest and you need to do everything big. You need to go big with the nightlife, go big with your beer intake, and if you’re feeling daring enough, you need to go big with your costume. That’s right, I said, “costume.”
Though there will be plenty of people dressed normally, Oktoberfest is no time to be conservative. The most fun people are dressed up in traditional Bavarian attire, also known as Tracht. The costumes are funny looking, don’t get me wrong, but they’ll be great conversation-starters for the Oktoberfest crowd. Locals will be dressed the same way and they’ll be impressed with the efforts you’ve put in to respect the traditional attire (or they’ll think you’re mocking them, which is just as good). Other tourists will also be impressed by your bravery and obvious spirit for the German party. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to imitate the costume under a modest budget.
The traditional Bavarian costume for men is much simpler than the women’s. There are just a few simple steps that we’ll be walking you through.
Light Shirt: Wear a light long-sleeved button-up shirt. It can either be a plain white dress shirt or a checkered plaid/casual shirt. Both of these designs are used just as frequently as the other. You can get away with using the lightest regular shirt that you have packed. No need to bring anything extra.
Lederhosen with suspenders: This is the big one. Your entire costume rests on it. The lederhosen are the part-pants, part-shorts combination that are held up by suspenders. These usually are green or brown. You can buy a pretty cheap pair of lederhosen from either a Halloween store or eBay for anywhere between $20 and $50. You could spend more and get an authentic pair from an actual German vendor while you’re in Munich, but you probably don’t want to throw down too much cash on an outfit you’ll only use a couple of times. Leave the authentic attire to the locals who do this every year. It actually pays off for them.
Haferl Shoes: I’d love to say that you can cheat on the shoes, but you really can’t. The Haferl shoes are really the only kind that the traditional Tracht uses. These shoes are characterized by their dark leather, sideways lacing, and thick soles, which are perfect for climbing a mountain to yodel. These shoes run for about $80 - $100. After wearing them to Oktoberfest, you can bust them out on your nights on the town as well. You can be the guy with rad German clogs. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Socks: Since the lederhosen do not come all the way down to your feet like a pair of pants, you should be aware of the traditional socks worn in Tracht. You will need either white, light grey, or off-white calf socks. If possible, make the socks match your shirt. These socks should go up to your knee, but you can also pull them down to be mid-length (which is an equally-used style).
Hat (Bonus): When you’re pushing things around in your bag trying to make space for your necessities, an alpine hat doesn’t have to be a priority. If you have the space, get one by all means. They finish the look and shield you from the mean October sun. Wrap a rubber band around the hat to keep a feather attached.
The Tracht for women is a little more complicated than the male counterpart, but we’re about to make it easy. Below are the items you’ll need to complete the Bavarian look.
Trachtenblouse: We start with the shirt. The Trachtenblouse is distinct blouse style due to the lace trim on the sleeves and neckline. The shirt is usually white, but it can also be checkered (like the male shirts). The color for your Tracht really depends on what color dirndl you get, but white works with everything. A Trachtenblouse can run anywhere between $20 and $60.
Dirndl – Just like the lederhosen for men, expect to drop a little more cash on a dirndl, as it is the most important part of your Bavarian fit. The dirndl skirt is characterized by its laced straps and circular cut, which starts at the waist and falls below the knee. For dirndls, you can expect to pay from $40 to $150. You can also find a dirndl set, which includes the blouse, dirndl, and pinafore (apron) for around $80 total.
Pinafore (apron): Over the dirndl, a matching pinafore (or apron) is worn. As mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you buy a dirndl set which includes a pinafore. Getting a pinafore with the skirt is much easier because the color matching is already done for you. Important Note: The knot on the pinafore indicates your relationship status. If the knot is on your right side, that means you are taken (or that you don’t want to be bothered by anyone). If you tie the knot on the left side, it means you are single. It’s very important that you know this. Especially during Italian Weekend…
Pantyhose and stockings: Pretty straightforward. Wear sheer nylons and some knee-high white stockings over them
Low-heel loafers: Imagine that: the women’s footwear guidelines are actually less demanding than the men’s. Wear some black or white shoes without laces or heels. This can be anything from loafers, ballet flats, or even some subtle Toms. Just like that you have a Tracht outfit without breaking the bank.