Lightfooted in Lederhosen

High Fashion Lederhosen from Peter Hahn
High Fashion Lederhosen from Peter Hahn

Go ahead. . .I know you want to laugh, to sneer, or to feel yourself superior to that poor sod who’s had a lapse of judgment (or an outrageous amount of beer) and decided to put on lederhosen.   The ill-conceived costume of Oktoberfest.

Well, idiot that I am, I LOVE lederhosen!   So far, I’ve resisted the urge to buy any dirndl or lederhosen for myself or my husband…actually, I’ve resisted with the gentle coaching (scolding?) of family and friends.  “What are you thinking?”  “You’d really wear THAT?”  The ever popular, “BAAAAAD idea.”  (But the  inner voice that says, “You know, your cleavage would look awesome!” keeps my heart in the game.)

And, now that Oktoberfest is upon us, it’s open season for leaderhosen in Germany.

So what are  lederhosen and dirndl and when/why/how did they become traditional?  You’ve always wondered, haven’t you?  Just been waiting and hoping that someone would bring you the story.   Well, wait no more–I’m your girl.

Some outlet Lederhosen
Some outlet Lederhosen from Lidl

Here’s my five cent version of the history of lederhosen:

Lederhosen (for men) and Dirndl (for women) are both called Tracht.  “Tracht” derives from the word “tragen” which means “to wear.”  Very practical origin, right?  Well, that gives you a hint about the clothing’s past.

A photo of Bavarian Trachten from Pintrest
A photo of Bavarian Trachten from Pintrest

Tracht originated in the southern area of Germany and Austria.  This sort of clothing (especially the leather pants)  was associated with the working class/peasant community, and it seems to have grown out of 18th century traditional clothing.  It was, above all else, very sturdy and practical garb–both for working and hunting.   It’s possible that this clothing, most often associated with Bavaria, was also influenced by French fashion.  Whether or not that’s true, it did take a “high brow” turn when it’s popularity rose and it became not just working clothing but fine, festival clothing, sometimes richly decorated and embroidered.  (But, not to worry, it can be had on any budget.  Mass produced Trachten can be found at discount stores, but some specialty stores sell very expensive, and very beautiful, outfits.)

Of course, the female version of Tracht, the Dirndl, isn’t characterized by leather pants.  It comes from the 18th century peasant’s or maid’s dress: it has a blouse, a bodice, a skirt, and an apron.  Winter dirndl would, obviously, have been heavier, and wouldn’t have featured the same (summer weight) tailored bodice and plunging neckline that has made St. Pauli Girl beer so famous in the USA!

I’ve read that some villages produce a regional Tracht that locals like to wear on festival days. It sounds like Tracht is to Germans what Tartan is to the Scots: a sign of cultural and regional (or clan) pride, as well as a festival costume.  And that makes me like it even more!  And no wonder that it may look silly to outsiders–anything that goes deep into your own personal, cultural psyche will ellude the grasp of the universal imagination. Roots that go deep don’t spread wide.

Despite my love of cultural costume, my husband is unlikely to wear a kilt or leather knee-britches anytime soon.  It’s just too hard of a sell.  I’m holding out some hope–based only on the fact that he’s recently taken to drinking good Scotch Whiskey. . . so some sort of cultural roots are beginning to grow.  Maybe a small sartorial concession will come. . . A Tweed jacket in his future?  A Bavarian wool jacket or a German gingham shirt?  ( A spirited Scot or a barmy Bavarian?  I’m not sure he’ll like these options–he’s more of a fanatical francophile.)

Well, regardless of who wins the wardrobe wars at my house,  I love lederhosen!   And, anyway, if it must be left to the Germans to carry that cultural torch themselves. . . I suppose that seems fitting.

Kilt from MacGregor and MacDuff Catalog
Kilt from MacGregor and MacDuff Catalog


Lederhosen from Fendt catalog
Lederhosen from Fendt catalog


9 thoughts on “Lightfooted in Lederhosen

  1. I love Lederhosen too! It took me over four years to finally buy a Dirndl and then I bought two. 🙂 You should go ahead and get one if you want one and have a great time wearing it! I might just have to buy myself a pair of Lederhosen next, they have some really nice ones for women.

  2. Kilts are fun. Never thought about lederhosen. Unfortunately we’re primarily boring English stock so no fun ethnic garb for us :{
    But what’s with ethnic garb and going commando?

    Good to hear your Scottish roots are rubbing off on James. Nothing like a good single malt.

    1. I can’t follow you down that whiskey trail–more fire than water to me…but Southern bourbon is my concession. And your English stock contributes Sticky Toffee Pudding to the equation–that’s plenty to be proud of!!

      Glad to hear that al’s well with you!

  3. We visited the Volksfest (Stuttgart area) last weekend and there were more lederhosen and dirndls visible than anything else! This fest claims to be the second largest in Germany – Oktoberfest in Munich being the largest. The vast majority of people visiting the Volksfest are locals/Germans. I was surprised at the number of girls & women wearing lederhosen with their dirndl blouses.

  4. As a German I love Lederhosen and Dirndl but I don’t own one. In the north of Germany nobody wears this kind of clothes, it is more a southern thing ,-). In the last years it has become very fashionable to wear a “Tracht” on local feasts like Okoberfest ect.

      1. No, no, in the true south of Germany on the border to Austria people really wear it every day. We call ourselves “southwest” but nobody would wear dirndl and lederhosen.

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