I have received several reader questions about whether I would be attending Oktoberfest in Munich upon my arrival. One particular reader, well acquainted with German culture, noted:
My lasting impression of Oktoberfest, beyond the Gemütlichkeit, was how native Germans wore traditional Bavarian costumes — and it was the tourists who stuck out in their plainclothes. Getting off the U-Bahn at Theresienwiese and seeing a throng of people in lederhosen and dirndls tickled me to no end. And it was people of all ages, from little kids to teens to grannies!
It is true that one way to pass for a native at festivals such as Oktoberfest or Maifest is to wear the traditional dress of a Dirndl or Lederhose. Bavarians and Austrians in particular seem to celebrate their regional identities and their heritage by sporting Tracht for special occasions (more so than northern Germans). But unfortunately, If I do make it to Oktoberfest before it ends, I will not be sporting my Salzburger Dirndl because it was far to heavy and bulky of an item to make my very strict packing cut.
I do own a Dirndl, as many a fanatic German studies major does, purchased at a second hand store in Salzburg while I was studying abroad in Austria. Original Tracht is very pricey and purchasing it second hand is one way to get an authentic Dirndl or Lederhose without breaking the bank. I love my Dirndl and have worn it to several festivities in Austria and for several more Halloweens in the US.
As a languages scholar, I am irresistibly drawn into the culture whose language I am studying. It is impossible to separate language from the geographical and historical culture of a given area. Traditional dress used to be the way people distinguished their regional and class identities; these garments are intricately woven (text)iles representing the communities and places of their origin. I love my Salzburger Dirndl because it represents a place and culture I have come to fondly know and appreciate since my two year sojourn there.
Similarly, I have a Romanian folk dress that is representative of the Transylvania area of the country, which is where I grew up. Pictures of my grandparents as children show them wearing the traditional dress as their daily outfits, as children of farmers often did. While members of German departments tend to be (understandably) weary of the ubiquitous Lederhose-wearing beer-slinging caricature, I appreciate the actual wearing of Tracht for its symbolic and celebratory function that aims to commemorate a given place and people in text as well as in textile. S.
PS: You can also check out the lovely Vera from Deep in Vogue sporting a traditional Bulgarian folk dress in a recent post of hers here. Do you own a traditional folk dress? If so, we’d love to see it and feature it in our Monthly Roundtable!