Unlike other festivals around the world Munich’s Oktoberfest is an easy one to dress for, with the burden of outfit selection taken away from us and replaced with two of our new favourite German words, dirndl and lederhosen. Dirndls, for women, and lederhosen for men and some women, make up Munich’s Oktoberfest trachten, or traditional costumes, and with well in excess of 90% of revellers in the beer halls sporting some kind of Oktoberfest dirndl or lederhosen, for even the short-term visitor an investment in some Oktoberfest clothes can really enhance the experience.
A Very Brief History Of Oktoberfest Outfits
What might seem surprising, given the prices they fetch these days, both dirndls and lederhosen had humble beginnings as rural and alpine German peasant clothes. Their use was widespread around the middle ages, when lederhosen, meaning literally leather breeches, emerged to combine the European pant of choice – the pedal-pusher below-the-knee – with German practicality, making them leather to suit hard work and high mountain environments. At the same time the dirndl came onto the scene, intended as an outfit for maids and farm workers, but fashioned from durable wool, not leather, nor in the silks we see today.
Both the lederhosen and dirndl had fallen out of fashion by the time the first Oktoberfest rolled around, before being revived to celebrate German folk history and made the official Oktoberfest outfit in 1887. Since then they have become the most easily identified traditional outfit in the world, not just with Oktoberfest but with Germany in general, and whenever someone slides on their leather ¾ pants it’s almost guaranteed that they are down to drink some beer.
Do I have to wear the outfit to Oktoberfest?
Nope, you don’t have to, but you will want to. Like we’ve already mentioned, the vast majority of revellers in the beer halls are locals, or from other parts of Germany, and they take the trachten very seriously, with items of clothes and the trinkets that adorn them having meaning – from either clubs or associations or professions – and with many items having been passed down throughout the generations. So while there is no actual dress code, so to speak, you really will have a better time if you make some effort with what you wear, and at least utilize some parts of the men’s and women’s Oktoberfest outfit.
What do women wear to Oktoberfest?
Let’s talk about dirndls
Women wear whatever they want, because who run the world, etc, but if the women want to get down with some German folk culture and dress the part they wear dirndls. Now dirndl, in Bavarian dialect, means both girl and the dress that women wear to Oktoberfest, that’s how entwined this outfit is in the local culture, and dirndls consist of a few different parts.
- The bodice, or meider in German,
- A blouse, bluse, usually white with puffy sleeves,
- The skirt, rock, which can come above the knee for a mini style, below the knee for the midi, or all the way down to the ankles for a more traditional look. More on dirndl skirt length later,
- An apron, schürze, which is tied with a ribbon, the side of which denotes the wearer’s availability – to the left, single, to the right, taken, in the front, a virgin, or to the back meaning that they are either a widow, or working.
Oktoberfest can get chilly, so layer your dirndl up
In addition to the traditional trachten, women attending the festival should remember that the weather during Oktoberfest can be varied, and so while your blouse, skirt, bodice and apron combo might be fine during the day, or in the beer halls, getting there and home of an evening could be chilly, and so it is advised to layer up, with a cute little cardigan or coat, and downstairs with a pair of stockings, or something like that. It’s also fun to partner up with a hat, if you’ve got a face that adores that kind of adornment. On your feet, throw on some boots, or flat sole shoes, or whatever is comfortable and cute. Avoid heels because you’ll fall over/get them stuck in the beer hall floorboards, and sneakers are probably erring a little too far on the side of comfort over looking hella hot.
How short is too short for your dirndl skirt?
The length of the dirndl skirt is a subject of much contention. You can go for the long ankle-length traditional cut, the more modest midi, or the legs revealing mini. The choice is entirely yours, and while some might counsel against the mini, they’re just being prudes. Show off your pins if you want, it’s Oktoberfest after all and we’re living in the swinging 20-20s. Just remember that you will be dancing on tables, so prepare your outfit for that contingency.
A note on dirndl sizing
From years of fitting literally hundreds of dirndls at our own on-site trachten store, we have some advice on sizing. Because Oktoberfest is boisterous, and you’ll be dancing around and chugging beers, and basically moving a fair bit, if you’re doing it right, you don’t want your dirndl to be too tight, less you pop the zipper in the back while riding the shoulders of some burly Bavarian. You should be able to pinch the fabric around the waist just so you can be sure that you have some room to move in as the beers start doing their work. But you can definitely go smaller with you blouse, because it’s sole purpose is to push the puppies up.
Oktoberfest is all about the cleavage
Dirndls are notorious(ly awesome) for their low-cut blouses, and the high cleavage push they not just allow, but encourage. The locals call the Oktoberfest cleavage the décolétte, or the balkon, or balcony, and use special bras to push the girls up to spectacular heights. Most men and women visiting Oktoberfest would agree that the proliferation of balconies in the event are one of the festival’s most redeeming features.
Don’t cheap out with the fancy dress Oktoberfest dirndls
On that, outside of Bavaria and Germany there has been a proliferation of dirndl-style costumes available for fancy dress parties and halloween and the like. These go for the super short skirt length and, like most halloween costumes, could be described as being “slutty” versions of otherwise not-overly sexualised costumes, uniforms, celebrities or inanimate objects (slutty toaster, anybody?). We would recommend against these dirndls, and not because we’re prudes when it comes to above the knee skirts, nor that we want to “slutty costume” shame anybody, but because these halloween-style costumes are crappy quality and look cheap, and when you see just how resplendent the locals look in their Bavarian party finery, well you don’t want to be the dollar store trash bag in the corner.
Stoke Travel will be able to fit and sell you the perfect dirndl on-site
Our festival crew are absolute experts on fitting dirndls, and making sure that your Oktoberfest party outfit fits you in all the right places by mixing and matching the various components of the dirndl, and in addition to this personal touch, our dirndls are perfectly priced at €70.
Women can also wear lederhosen
It’s becoming more and more popular and acceptable for women to wear lederhosen, to hark back to that initial point of being able to wear whatever you want, and many opt for super short cut leather pants and the traditional overall-style bib, with button up, chequered blouses, and they look great! But really, the lederhosen are mostly for the fellas (who can’t wear dirndls, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective).
What do men wear to Oktoberfest
All about the lederhosen
Leather pants. Leather, three-quarter peddle-pusher pants with a buttoned peepee flap, and a bit of a brace setup, and a checkered business shirt tucked into them. Yeah, that’s the traditional Oktoberfest lederhosen in a nutshell, but there is far more to it than this, frankly unflattering, brief description. Let’s break down the bits of the traditional Bavarian beer drinking kit for men.
- The lederhosen is a traditionally deerskin, or chamois skin, leather pant. It can be embroidered with family or club affiliations, or just for the look, and has a animal-bone/horn buttons, most notably on a flap on the front to make it easier to whip out your dick at the busy beer fest urinals, which is called either a hosentürl, little door, or a servierbrett, or serving plate. Scandalous.
- Oktoberfest shirts, hemd, are long sleeved, plain, or checkered, collared, button up shirts. Often you will see revellers wearing them with the sleeves rolled up, as if the wearer was a depression era field worker pausing in the middle of a long, hot day of toil, and there are buttons to enable this. The colour of your shirt is up to you, with blue and white being the traditional colours, but pink popular and really whatever you can get your hands on to bring out your eyes.
- Your suspenders, hosenträger, are designed to hold your pants up, while giving you a solid nerd-chic look. In the middle of your chest there should be a cross plate that is an opportunity to add a bit of design flair to your outfit. You can go without the suspenders, but your pants might fall down and everyone will see your beer-willy.
- Shoes and socks make up a not-entirely-essential part of your trachten, but as a man going without will out you as an Oktoberfest rookie, more so than for the women. Long wooly socks with funky designs, nice little shoe-boot combo numbers, and even these weird middle of the ankle sock things called wadlestrumpf, which you should probably wear just for the name alone.
If you want to get pedantic about it with your German, lederhosen come in well above the knee like shorter shorts, platterhosen are just above the knee, bundhosen are lower or around the shin. As tourists you can get away with calling all simply lederhosen, and you can choose your length depending on how much leg you want to show.
Lederhosen means “leather breeches” in German, and so any lederhosen worth drinking in should be made of some kind of leather. Regular cow, or goatskin, leather is more affordable, whereas deerskin leather lederhosen are the next level up, while chamois, or elk, is the fanciest of the lot. Whatever you can afford, you know that your leather party pants will be durable and a little stinky – which is perfect when you’re a bit on the nose yourself.
Lederhosen fitting guide
You want your lederhosen to be a little loose, which is why the suspenders come in handy. One handy trick direct from the Oktoberfest fitting crew at Stoke Travel is that you should be able to do a squat in your lederhosen with ease. If they are too tight, then you’ll likely rip the butt out of them while you’re dancing on the tables, and nobody needs to see that.
Oktoberfest hats and accessories
Hats at Oktoberfest are a huge deal. Traditionally the bigger the tuft of feathers or boar fur in your hat meant that the wearer was a rich guy, but these days that isn’t always the case, so if you’re searching for a German sugar daddy best be looking beyond the headwear. Still, the hats look totally sweet and you can buy them in the beer halls, because the beer hall staff know that people who drink strong beer by the litre are generally down for some impulse buying. Some dudes also throw scarves around their necks, which isn’t as hipster-lame as it would be anywhere else in the world.
Guys should layer up for Oktoberfest too
But not like the girls have to, because there’s an inherent warmth difference between a short skirt and an apron, and a pair of leather pants and a long sleeved shirt. Still, you will get chilly on the Hackerbruecke train station platform waiting for your ride home, and so you can think about chucking one of the sweet Oktoberfest collarless jackets, or cheaper cardigans over your lederhosen – or go for the vest. This is a perfect opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise wear a vest to give one a run.
And don’t cheap out on your Oktoberfest outfit
There are plenty of costume-style Oktoberfest outfits that might be passable at a low-key, small town Halloween celebration, but these are the big leagues, the main event, the Superbowl of beer fests, and once you see just how magnificent everyone else is dressed, you’ll definitely feel like a chump decked out in cheap, ill-fitting, flimsy lederhosen.
Stoke Travel’s fitting experts will get you in the right lederhosen
We have all sizes in our campsite store, as well as cuts, so we can get you into the lederhosen that you were destined to drink beer in. The Stoke crew know how to fit you into a lederhosen that will withstand the level of partying that you’ll be partaking in, and we’ll get you into the perfect Oktoberfest beer drinking lederhosen and shirt combo for just €90.
Do I need to buy the traditional Oktoberfest clothes?
Well, unless you can borrow somebody else’s, or decide that you’re going to go without (not recommended), yeah you’re going to have to buy the traditional Oktoberfest outfit, be it a dirndl for the womenfolk, or a lederhosen for the fellas. There is no hiring or renting of Oktoberfest trachten, because they touch your genitals and it’s not really all that hygienic.
How much are the traditional clothes?
The prices can vary wildly. The Halloween costumes are cheap, cheap, cheap, like €20 or something, but they will last you for five minutes and for those five minutes you’ll look like a goose. When you get around the €50-100 mark you can find some good stuff, but beware that at this price point there’s a lot of shit, so make sure you trust who you’re buying from. Stoke Travel is at this price point, and we buy bulk from a trusted supplier, so we know that all of our stuff is good quality for the price. From there the prices just skyrocket, and it’s not uncommon for locals to be sporting trachten that go into the 1000s of euros. Those are expensive pants to probably piss in.
Cheaper ways to have the Oktoberfest outfit?
If you’re really struggling with your travel budget, you can work around it – especially if you’ve got a bit of style. Guys can pull off wearing the button up shirt with their regular pants as a bare minimum, but you’re not really going to mingle with the crowd so easily, unless you’re Mr Charisma, the world’s best drunk, and you have one of those faces that people just want to stick their tongues into. Gals, you can also wear one of the shirts, tucked into some shorts or something, and that way you’d be paying some kind of lip service to the traditional garb, and maybe adding your own flair to it.
But really, it’s just best to grab the trachten, and if you’re scared you’ll never wear it again, then you’re really not considering just how handy a pair of leather drinking pants/maid’s outfit can come in handy.
What else will I need to pack for Oktoberfest?
This is an article all of its own, given Munich’s penchant for changing the seasons on us around the September/October mark, but if you jump over here we’ll give you a full rundown of things to throw into your backpack before you head over to Stoketoberfest.
And for the best value Oktoberfest outfits, and the best value/most fun stay in Munich, make sure you reserve your spot with us at Stoketoberfest, where all your new best friends and drinking buddies are waiting for you.
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