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Traditional German Costumes – Trachten Fashion

To the untrained eye, traditional German costumes seem to be unchanged from their centuries-old versions, but their cuts and colours can evolve just like any other fashion trend.

Take those German folk dresses which will be in the news soon when the Germans set up giant tents, lay out long wooden benches and don old-style garb as part of their Oktoberfest (it’s actually held in September).  While the men’s lederhosen leather pants don’t change much, those dresses, known as dirndl frocks, undergo subtle tweaks each go-around of the beer festival.

So what trends will be ruling the beer hall runways this year? Look for simple cuts, high-quality material and elegant colours, in keeping with the overall theme this year of less is more.

“The trend is towards high-quality costumes,” according to style adviser Monika Hoede. And, says Alexander Wandinger, who works at an institute dedicated to all things Lederhosen: Showing one’s sense of hometown pride and identity are increasingly important to younger generations, which is reflected in the current fashions.

For women, extreme styles such as the miniature dirndl or loud colours will be the exception; classic is the name of the game.  The blouses worn with the dirndl will also reflect this year’s tendency towards simplicity. “Opulent blouses are old-fashioned,” says Hoede.  Unfrilled styles with sleeves that go to the elbows will dominate the festival grounds.

But the trend away from extravagant styles and colours in traditional German costumers translates into putting details in the spotlight, for example, small stitched designs that lend the outfit a personal note.  “It doesn’t always need to be a flower or deer antlers,” finds Hoede. If the little touches aren’t enough, a nice accessory can perfect a look. For men, that could be a fancy neckerchief, and for women jewellery.  “There’s a little more imagination” when it comes to putting together a costume, says Wandinger. Hoede also sees the tendency towards individualization: Little designs or accessories with personal touches make the costume into a personalized outfit.  Hoede’s tip for the Oktoberfests to come: “Small bags that can be tied around the waist.” Not only can they be easily personalized, they are practical for carrying money and other items to boot.

Where it does get a bit more extravagant under the beer tents are the dirndl styles that are influenced by other cultures; ethnic patterns or Victorian baubles lend a dirndl a touch of the exotic overlaid on the exotic.  The same applies to the use of unique fabrics, such as that used to make saris. Otherwise, the usual velvet, brocade and silk will be just as popular as cotton, linen and high-quality loden.  For some extra pep, petticoats and lace underskirts can do the trick.

When it comes to the rainbow of dirndl colours at this year’s tents, blue, green, red and all the berry shades will be most common.  Those could include royal or midnight blue, olive green, Bordeaux red or fashionable strawberry tones, says Nina Munz, who works for an Oktoberfest costume manufacturer. In addition, the more subtle colours, which lend a more regal look, are popular.  But who says women need to stick with the dirndl? Lederhosen, when well-made, can be worn for life.  “Short lederhosen, when combined with a bodice, are absolutely in,” says Munz. And while the classic brown tones are always a great choice, there are now also alternative colours such as tomato red. Vintage styles featuring elaborate designs are also widely available in stores these days.

For shoes, Hoede suggests basic styles, preferably with a small heel. Men can also incorporate a bit of colour into their outfit when it comes to footwear: In addition to the classic beiges, greys and browns for socks, there are now some available in blue, apple green and pink.

On a final note, a word on skirt ribbons, which are said to have different meanings based on how they’re tied. “It’s just a myth. The meanings don’t have any historic background,” says Wandinger.

But just because the ribbon myth isn’t a real “tradition” doesn’t mean dirndl wearers can’t have a bit of fun with it. So just for reference: If the bow’s on the right, it means “I’m taken,” left is for the single ladies, and in the front is only for virgins. Tying the ribbon in the back is reserved just for widows. – Julia Ruhnau, dpa

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