Finally, finally, finally, Peter and I had a proper Oktoberfest. This year, we day-drank in a proper tent and we wore traditional Bavarian clothing.
During our prior two Oktoberfest visits, we wore normal street clothing, and, honestly, nothing made me feel more like a tourist at the festival than being dressed in street clothing. We stuck out like a sore thumb.
My best guess is that 98 percent of people at the Oktoberfest are dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing. The percentage is less in the biergartens that dot the city but it’s still pretty high.
Women’s Bavarian garb
Women’s Bavarian garb is comprised of three main pieces: A dirndl, a chocker-style necklace, and shoes.
The dirndl (dress) is comprised of four main pieces, including the actual dress, an apron, a blouse, and a push-up bra.
Dirndls come in a wide variety of patterns, lengths, and styles and they vary greatly in price.
We purchased my dirndl on a whim earlier this year at a store in Vienna, Austria. At the time, we had no intention to go to The Oktoberfest but the store was having a sale and we knew that we wanted to go to The Oktoberfest again at some point, so the stars seemed to align at this very moment.
Every time I look at my dirndl, I think of my mom because we purchased my dirndl about two hours before we found out that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Traditionally, the skirt of the dirndl should fall below the knee but due to my height, finding a dirndl “off the peg” would not have been possible.
Dirndls are intended to be worn tight. I had great posture during those three days that I lived in my dirndl!
Even though the top of the dirndl is tight (very tight), the bottom (beginning at the top of the apron) is loose, allowing enough room to grow a substantial beer baby.
The apron is probably the most significant piece of the outfit because there is significance to where the bow is placed on the apron.
The bow placement rules are as follows.
-On the left means you are single
-On the right means you are in a relationship/married
-In the middle means you are a virgin
-In the back means you are a widow (although I saw a lot of servers with the bow placed in the back)
Protip: Regardless of where your bow is placed, here is a video on how to tie your apron bow neatly. I’ve got to admit that I had one of the neatest bows at the Oktoberfest.
Flats, low heels (perhaps 1.5-inch height maximum), and mary janes are the acceptable types of shoes to wear with your dirndl. All other shoe types are unacceptable. These include, but are not limited to, Converse, leather boots, stilettos, flip-flops, leather sandals, Tom’s, Uggs, and Keds.
Knee-high socks or hosiery can be worn but it was more common to see naked legs and no socks.
Necklaces. I failed completely in the necklace department. I’ve never been one to wear accessories, so a necklace did not cross my mind and I felt like I was the only woman in traditional garb who was not wearing a necklace.
Protip: If you can’t find a chocker-style necklace that you fancy, then a 1/4 inch ribbon tied around your neck with a neat bow will suffice.
Now that I’ve covered the main pieces of traditional Bavarian clothing, I want to briefly touch on the type of clothing that you should avoid wearing. That type of clothing is what I refer to as the sex kitten dirndl paired with stilettos.
I understand that the world’s marketing machine has made traditional Bavarian clothing out to be sexy but please remember that this traditional clothing is still worn by women in rural Bavaria ALL THE TIME.
Finally, let’s talk price.
Dirndl prices range between 40€ to several thousand Euro.
We purchased Peter’s traditional clothing at a local store called C&A and whilst there, I browsed the dirndl section. At C&A, you can buy a dirndl set (including apron and blouse) for as little as 40€.
My dirndl was considered by my beer-drinking peers to be posh because they referred to it as a “very nice dirndl” and then repeatedly asked me where I bought it because they were trying to figure out its price tag. I’ll just say that it was more than 40€ and less than several thousand Euro.
It’s easy to distinguish the quality of a dirndl at a quick glance. During our short dirndl quality discussion, one beer-drinking peer explained that wedding dirndls are priced 300-600€. I chucked to myself when I heard this because I was wearing an almost-wedding-quality dress to a messy beer drinking festival and, to be honest, I was a little scared that it was going to get damaged based on the way they were talking.
Protip: My dress worked wonderfully during our three days of beer drinking but if we go to Oktoberfest again, I’ll invest in a second apron. Aprons are cheap and switching out the apron every other day can given the impression that you are wearing different dirndls. In reality, you’re just chilling in the same bear-soaked dress from the day before.
Men’s Bavarian garb
Men’s Bavarian garb is comprised of four main pieces: Lederhosen, a checked shirt, wool socks, and boots.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
Ankle-height or low-height leather boots are acceptable. All other shoe types are unacceptable. These include, but are not limited to, Converse, athletic shoes, Doc Martins, Teva sandals, Birkenstocks, flip-flops, leather dress shoes, and boat deck shoes.
Wool socks are the only type of socks that are appropriate. They should be tall enough to scrunch at the top of the boot.
Protip: Invest in two (or more) pairs of wool socks. Why? Wool stretches and it’s gross to wear the same pair of sweaty, beer-soaked socks multiple days in a row.
Lederhosen are the leather pants/trousers and they range in lengths from above-the-knee to ankle-length. Lederhosen stretch over time and it is recommended to buy a size down or a size that feels slightly too tight when you try them on for the first time.
It is acceptable to wear a leather belt with lederhosen but make sure the belt has a belt buckle.
Lederhosen should never be washed – the more stained and worn-in they are, the better.
Lederhosen can range in price from 40€ to several hundred Euro. As a baseline, we purchased Peter’s checked shirt, lederhosen, and socks at C&A for 110€.
A checked shirt is the only acceptable shirt to wear with lederhosen. Checked shirts come in a variety of colors. The colors do not have any meaning so choose the color you like and you will be good to go.
Protip: Invest in two checked shirts and alternate wearing them or buy only one and smell like stale beer. Either works.