Oktoberfest has officially begun, and the dirndls are out. Munich’s two-week beer festival may be more famous for its hoppy amber drafts, 600 to 800 pass-out-drunk bodies, and impressive but steadily decreasing number of brawls—but in recent years it has also become a fashion event, briefly diverting the attention of Germany’s style writers from international runways to folk costume, and turning magazine websites into the mother lode of 16-part slideshow tutorials for dauntingly complicated, hauntingly beautiful braided updos that make DIY bridal hair this side of the Atlantic look like amateur hour.
The dirndl, a dress traditionally made from loden cloth and consisting of a close-fitted bodice over a blouse, with a full skirt and apron, is one of the female iterations of the Alpine folk costume native to southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Italian province of South Tyrol. Somewhat more widely recognized is the commensurate male attire: lederhosen. While it’s not uncommon for such Trachten to make an appearance at other special occasions throughout the year, Oktoberfest brings them out in force, with tourists frequently donning the garments as well.
This year, most style-watchers agree, “traditional” is in fashion. That may sound obvious, but in fact it’s a shift from the modern styles floating around over the past decade, which included a hemline falling to the thigh rather than the calf or ankle, an off-the-shoulder, low-cut blouse, and aprons adorned with contrasting and equally bright embellishments. Now the pendulum has swung back in the other direction, both in size and sensibility. “Mini is a no-go,” one young saleswoman told the Berliner Zeitung last Sunday.
“Rhinestones, ruffles, and other bling-bling has had its day,” wrote Jana Stegemann in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “The fashion-conscious dirndl-wearer this season will rely on optical understatement, quality material, and solid workmanship.” Trends affect even the composition of the fabric, which this season mainly features cotton and linen, according to Stegemann. But high-end companies are also offering combination dirndls—not the “glitter aprons” customers wanted in prior years, according to one designer Stegemann talked to, but bodices of leather or velvet and skirts of cotton. Colors flit in and out of style as well. Another designer told Stegemann that this year’s colors were split into two groups: “the classical costume colors dark green, navy, and Bordeaux, and on the other hand pastel shades like apricot and vanilla.”