Look the Part at Oktoberfest

October 23, 2007

in Budget, Cheap Activities, Drink, Europe, Germany, Travel

Traditional German DressOktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous and popular festivals; the largest Oktoberfest celebration takes place in Munich every year. Most people associate it with beer — and rightly so! This year’s festival in Munich saw 6.2 million visitors drink 6.7 million “Maß” (pronounced mass, usually a liter of beer). The tents are divided by brewer, and everyone has their favorite tent. But it’s not just about drinking; there are actually lots of family activities like carnival rides and everywhere German treats and foods are on sale. Walking around the Wiesn and just soaking up the atmosphere is free.

While the big festival may be over for this year (don’t be fooled by the name; it brings in the month of October, meaning it generally takes place in September), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing for next year already. In fact, now is exactly the time to be thinking of what to wear. You think I’m kidding? Müncheners go nuts over Tracht (traditional wear), and during the ‘fest season, the town fills with serious people in traditional German costume. The Bavarians are the most likely to wear Tracht elements in their wardrobe all year, so when September rolls around, they hold no stops: dresses bare/ly hide cleavage under frilly white blouses and fat German bellies and legs squeeze into Lederhosen and knee socks. Weekend nights on public transport, one has the feeling of stepping back in time. It is festive and funny and fun, and reminds one how different and colorful the world was before all the world’s clothes were made in China.

So how do you get in on the Tracht action without breaking the bank? More after the jump.

Traditional German costumes are today a far cry from the simple dirndl once worn everyday by peasant women. Today’s Tracht is often like formal wear — and even simpler versions go for formal-wear prices. After seeing everyone dressed up, I wanted my own dirndl to wear, but every shop we visited sold only dresses which cost more than any prom dress I’d ever worn (and I’m guessing if you regularly read this site, more than any YOU’ve ever worn). I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of euros on something I would only wear a few times in my life. So my mother and I ended up borrowing a pattern from a German friend and sewing one instead. It turned out great, was a good conversation starter at presentations I gave on Germany, and is something I will treasure probably more than one we would have purchased.

But sewing is labor intensive and not everyone knows how. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret I discovered while shopping today in Berlin. I was in the second-hand store/charity chain Humana and there found an entire corner of the store dedicated to German traditional wear. They had a pretty amazing selection and I am certain had I been in the market for a dirndl I could have found something appropriate there. They had plenty of men’s and children’s outfits as well. The selection at Humana is like at Goodwill in the U.S.: every store is different, some are bigger or smaller than others, so not every store is going to have a Trachten section. Here’s a listing of Humana shops in Germany (for reference, I was at 10827 Berlin-Schöneberg, Hauptstr. 147). I’m certain Humana’s not the only second-hand chain to have traditional wear — if you’re serious about dressing up, I would encourage you to ask around in used clothing stores. Bavaria’s likely to have the best selection, given the sheer number of people wearing Tracht, but you’re going to have the best chance of finding something you like and that fits now, long before the ‘fest is underway and the good pieces have already been snapped up.

In summary, if you’re thinking of traveling all the way to Germany just to drink liters of beer at long tables, it’s not too much more work or money to dress the part as well. If you buy a second-hand outfit, you’ll end up with a great souvenir and can relive your glorious moments at the Wiesn every time you play the German at Halloween!

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Headed to Oktoberfest? « Less Than a Shoestring
09.30.08 at 3:02 pm
Thursday Photo Friday #10 « Less Than a Shoestring
10.30.08 at 2:01 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ruth Meyer 10.31.07 at 4:37 pm

I attended the 2007 Oktoberfest. I did not wear traditional clothing because I was in sticker shock at the amount of money to outfit myself. I want to know wear to get a pattern. I can sew and didn’t think of looking for a pattern before I came home. Can you help me?

2 poetloverrebelspy 10.31.07 at 5:42 pm

Ruth, how’s your German? I found you German patterns to order, but all of the instructions will be in German. My friend and I spend a couple hours translating the instructions for the one I planned to sew. There is lots of specific sewing vocabulary that we had trouble directly translating.

If you don’t let that stop you, I think the following links look good:
Dirndlrevue 2007, for 12.10 euros (it looks like the publisher releases a new one each January, so maybe you want to wait?). If you click here, you can page through it by clicking on “nächste Seite.”
Here are two pages of individual patterns. I think this one looks promising.

It’s your lucky day! I found the latter pattern on two U.S. websites: official Burda here, and cheaper here. I also found this other pattern at the official Burda site as well.

I hope that helps. And happy sewing!

3 poetloverrebelspy 11.13.07 at 9:17 am

I note the cheaper link above isn’t working. If you type in the search term “dirndl” on the page that does come up, it will be the first pattern found in the results. Otherwise, here is a direct link to the pdf.

Those of you searching for lederhosen patterns can find female and male versions, though I must say the women’s pattern is truer to the original.

4 Barbara Wessels 06.02.08 at 4:05 pm

I am looking for a pattern to make German lederhosen.
Hope you can help me, I have not been able to find one in US pattern books.
Thanks, B. Wessels

5 poetloverrebelspy 06.03.08 at 12:34 am

Barbara, please refer to the comment above yours for two links to patters for men’s and women’s lederhosen.

6 jonny 06.25.08 at 11:45 am


i’m also interessted in sewing pattern for mens lederhosen.
but i couldn’t find anywhere.

can you help?


7 poetloverrebelspy 06.25.08 at 12:13 pm

Jonny, please read comment #5. The link is in comment #3.

8 Rachael 08.08.08 at 9:19 pm

I found another dirndl pattern. Try Butterick pattern #3906. Go to sewingpatterns.com and look under costumes. It costs about 5.99 (US dollars… I dunno how many euros)

9 Tracy 09.19.08 at 2:54 pm

I can’t help you with a lederhosen pattern, but Folkwear patterns (www.folkwear.com) has a terrific dirndl pattern! I made one for myself three years ago, and the pattern was very well constructed and easy to understand. It was also easy to fit. Burda pattern company also has a dirndl pattern that looks good, and it’s not in the costume section but in the regular dress section of the catalog.

Before I made my dirndl, I looked at lots of websites that sell them to get an idea what color combinations were traditional. An especially helpful site was http://www.country-online.com. They have some beautiful dirndls.

10 Andrew Gilmore 09.28.08 at 3:01 am

I am looking for the pattern for a german lederhosen and i just need the basic format.
I am a talented creater of random things and have the ability to
Ich spreche Duetch…
so Ich habe nicht verdeutschen.
Thanks much

11 poetloverrebelspy 09.28.08 at 8:31 am

Andrew, please read comment #7.

12 txdakota 10.01.08 at 1:04 pm

Does anyone know of a better site for a lederhosen pattern than what poetloverrebelspy came up with.

13 poetloverrebelspy 10.01.08 at 1:48 pm

A quick google doesn’t bring up anything better, just the patterns I already link to. If someone knows of something, feel free to share!

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