Oktoberfest, an important event in the Bavarian culture, is also one of the biggest funfairs in the world held in Munich, where litres and litres of (not so free!) beer and German food, music gigs, attract visitors from all over the world – over 6 million, to be precise!
And of the ways to really enjoy the event is to soak yourself in the Bavarian way – and no, we aren’t talking only about the beer! As you would have seen, men and women during this time wear a traditional costume – an important aspect of the Bavarian culture. Women typically wear a ‘dirndl’ – consisting of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and an apron. Though it may appear to be a simple dress, dirndl can be quite expensive. Men wear a checkered shirt, leather trousers (called lederhosen), trachten socks and shoes.
When I moved to Germany, I got acquainted with this very beautiful dress. The first time I saw it was during the many Christmas markets. But it was during the summer months and the various smaller beer fests around our cities that I really had a good look at what a dirndl looks like. I loved the flowing skirt and a bright apron, often coordinated with hair done up in braids – it looks straight out of a story book, and yet stylish in its own simple way.
So, if you are looking forward to visit this year’s Oktoberfest (Sept. 19 – Oct. 6) like a true Bavarian, why not do it in authentic Bavarian style! Dirndl designer and owner of Rare Dirndl, Erika Neumayer, talks about the tradition of Dirndl, how she mixes traditional concepts with modern design, and how you can rock one this Oktoberfest, in this very special Oktoberfest special guest post.
Over to Erika!
Each year the popularity of the classic and traditional Bavarian dress known as the dirndl increases. Last year, in “Dirndl, Dress of Past, Makes a Comeback in Bavaria” appeared in the New York Times, and in it Melissa Eddy states, “Long considered the dusty uniform of an older, more conservative generation, the erstwhile dress of the Alpine regions of Bavaria and Austria has become a wildly popular symbol of the good times and good life of Germany’s most prosperous region. This is especially apparent during the two weeks of Oktoberfest, which ends Oct. 6, where a dirndl for women and its male counterpart, lederhosen for men, have become must-have outfits.”
About 10 years ago, it was uncommon to see dirndls and lederhosen at the Oktoberfest, however, today, dirndls have made an incredible comeback. This trend is not just in Germany, but also in the USA.
In 2010, after graduating with a degree in apparel design, I saw how dirndl designers in Germany were taking what was a old-fashioned and often frumpy dress and turning it into a high-fashion and trendy garment. Dirndls were becoming the hottest trend in southern German fashion and America was lagging behind. Growing up in the German community in Chicago, IL and being an active member of the American Aid Society of German Descendent Jugendgruppe, I was no stranger to the dirndl. We wore dirndls for our performances, but often changed into regular clothing afterwards because the dirndls weren’t very exciting. After seeing how German designers were transforming the dirndl, I knew that there was a gaping hole in the American Dirndl market… and Rare Dirndl was born.
Rare Dirndl is contemporary German style clothing that is fresh, modern and edgy. My designs take what is trending in current American fashion, what I predict will be trending in the future and the classic dirndl style, and blend them all together. I love unique details, textured fabrics, and using unexpected trimming and treatments such as spikes, fur, chain, etc. I take inspiration from anything and everything. My most recent collection was inspired by a trip I had taken to Hungary, the people I met there and the colors and classic embroidery of the traditional clothing. Americans are craving new and fashionable dirndls and I’m beyond happy to be able to provide them with new designs.
During a recent trip to Germany, many Munich residents were shocked to find out that I was American, designing dirndls that are made in America and selling them all over the world. I’ve also created over 100 one-of-a-kind pieces, including 5 bridal dirndls and entire bridal parties. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
This time of the year is the busiest because of the Oktoberfest in Munich! Many local Chicagoans come to my studio looking for a dirndl to wear and often ask, “What do I wear with it? Socks? What Shoes?”
Here are my top 5 tips to rock a dirndl:
1. Motorcycle boots and dirndl socks: This look is so unexpected and mixes hard edge and a soft traditional look that I think is so new and fresh.
2. Trachtenhüte: A decorated trachten hat with feathers, ribbon, flowers and pins is very on trend this year and it takes every dirndl to the next level. Some of the best Trachtenhüte come from Dekadenza.
3. Floral crowns: If you’re not into hats, a floral crown is just as on trend this year! For my latest collection I featured large over the top floral crowns, but a simple (not cheesy) crown is just as gorgeous for Okotberfest!
4. The proper undergarments: Underneath every great dirndl is a great set of underwear. I did a blog post a while back on the proper undies to wear with your dirndl, because there is not a woman on earth that can pull off a dirndl with a sports bra! Get your push-up bra and bloomers ready because wearing a dirndl is meant to accentuate only the best a woman’s body has to offer!
5. And last but not least… bright lipstick to accent that smile! No one likes a German girl with a frown and there is no better way to accent a gorgeous smile then with bright lipstick. I don’t listen to trends when it comes to lipstick color… play off of the colors in your dirndl and go with it. Hot Pink, Blush, Bright Red, Dark Plum – any color that accentuates your dirndl is the color to choose.
Erika Neumayer was born in Chicago, IL and her journey in the fashion industry started with her bachelors degree with distinction in Apparel Design from Dominican University. In 2008, Erika designed and created eight garments for the Dominican University Fashion show and once again came away with the Up and Coming Designer of the year award. In 2010, Rare Dirndl was born. Realizing the need to a fresh, modern, and edgy twist on the traditional dress, she designed her first collection and released it in March. She also makes custom drindl. You can visit her website to know more about her and to buy her designs.