Dizzied by a Dazzling Array of Dirndls in Bavaria

Whenever I see Bavarians dressed in traditional German attire, I can’t help but recall a playful prank that my former American colleagues routinely played on friends and family who would come to visit them in Germany. The husband and wife would get laced up in their finest Trachten-wear (German traditional dress consisting of men’s Lederhosen (leather pants) and a St. Pauli Girl-esque Dirndl (dress)) and pick up their guests at the Frankfurt Airport in costume. Before their meeting, they explained to their friends that they would be dressed in such a manner so they could better blend in with the locals, and not perpetuate the ‘ugly American’ stereotype.

A shop in Oberammergau, Germany.
A clothing store in Oberammergau, Germany.
Traditional Bavarian clothes hang outside on clothing racks in Oberammergau, Germany.
A traditional Bavarian woolen hat sits atop a mannequin head.

Anyone who’s been to Germany would know their clothing caper to be just that – a prank – but apparently many friends were initially naïve, resulting in a good laugh.

In Oberammergau, where we’ve been living the past two months, it’s not uncommon to see a handful of locals sporting their Bavarian best. Most often, we spot gentlemen in green or grey woolen hats – adorned with pewter pins with hunting motifs, feathers, and brushes made of spiky goat hair.

Dirndl blouses.

A few days ago, my husband and I, battling a case of ‘cabin fever,’ embarked on a brisk walk through the village. The weather has been unseasonably cold lately, and we quickly developed popsicle toes and fingertips. Seeking an escape from the chilly temperatures before we turned back toward home, we stopped in a traditional clothing store and found ourselves wowed by the array of Bavarian garments for sale.

A red and green Dirndl (traditional) German dress.
Children's traditional Bavarian clothes for sale in an Oberammergau shop: Lederhosen and a red and white checked shirt (left) and a red, checkered Dirndl (right).

The attention to detail was pleasing: engraved buttons, intricate stitching and colorful fabrics. Prices there generally averaged 200 Euro (about $265) for a Dirndl, plus the price of a frilly, white, cropped blouse. Needless to say, I have three simple Dirndls in my wardrobe (two of which I’ve sported and been spilled upon at Oktoberfest), so I didn’t buy another. The shopkeeper was so friendly and enthusiastic about the upcoming collection, that I might be inclined to do so in the future, though.

German swimming trunks, designed to look like Lederhosen, for sale in a German clothing store.

For the record, Shawn didn’t take an interest in the Lederhosen-inspired swim trunks. :)

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

32 thoughts on “Dizzied by a Dazzling Array of Dirndls in Bavaria

  1. Your story reminds me so much of what happened when we had a 16-year-old German exchange student staying with us in Ohio. For his birthday, we took him to a German-Bavarian restaurant where they were, of course, dressed in Lederhosen and playing traditional instruments and singing traditional songs. Thomas was horrified! “That’s not what Americans think Germany is like, is it?” We reassured him that we didn’t, but in all honesty – yes, we Americans do.

    1. Juliann, hosting a foreign exchange student can be such a rewarding experience. My parents hosted four when I was in high school (two from Germany, one from France, and one from Hungary), and the students taught me much about their cultures and about myself. Up until then, I’d been an only child; now, I count the students as my international brothers and sisters.

      The student ambassadors can do a lot to ease stereotypes too, as it sounds Thomas did! :) For how long did he live with your family?

  2. I love the colours of the clothes but even for the most slender of person they are not that flattering. I occasionally see German clothes in our local thrift shop, and have picked up a couple of beautiful “boiled wool” jackets. The quality of the German made blazers and suits is excellent. always a good buy if they fit. BUT Tricia I stay away from dirndls. V.

    1. Virginia, the Bavarian/Austrian boiled wool jackets can be quite pretty, so I can see why you favor them! And I agree that Dirndls can be tricky to wear with all those pleats and puffiness. Add Oktoberfest eating and drinking to the mix and those Dirndls get harder to squeeze into. :)

  3. Hi Tricia,
    We have really been enjoying your excellent blog, so we wanted to let you know that we’ve nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. The VBA shines the spotlight on bloggers who are adept at creating and handling change – whether it’s their life or the lives of others. We think you’re very versatile!

    Please see your award and details on our site. We think it’s a great opportunity to introduce your wonderful blog to more readers. They’re gonna love you!

    All the Best,
    Terri & James @ Gallivance.net

      1. Terri & James,
        Wow, I’m flattered to be nominated. Thank you for the kind gesture!
        I’m off to explore the details now on your site, and look forward to being introduced to the others you’ve nominated.

  4. I love dirndls, lederhosen and I have many many. Mostly becuase we have been selling them for 9 years. I actually love it because while American, I am half German and actually…Bavarian. For me it has not only been a business but truly a labor of love. I have learned so much about my families heritage and culture,I can not be more happy. I am a short, very round woman (not like most of the tall thin German women I know) and I wear my dirndls quite proudly. The swimming trunks actually have been quite the hit here in the USA. I think the people who love to look different, and not like they bought their entire wardrobe off the rack at a big box store, and who appreciate Germany, love these types of things. Thanks for the nice article and the pictures.

    1. My pleasure, Bobbie! I didn’t know that the swimming trunks had hit American shelves? I have my own pair of red leather Lederhosen, but definitely wouldn’t be able to squeeze into them now. My parents got them for me when I was 2 or 3. :)

      In what American state is your shop?

  5. My wife and I love wearing our Trachen. We even host our own Oktoberfest Celebrations. However, as a rather round American of German descent, I often have trouble finding “German-styled” clothing. Can you suggest “Big and Tall” stores featuring men’s Trachen?

    1. Helmut, thanks for your message. It’s fun to hear that you’re continuing in the ways of your German ancestors by hosting some Oktoberfest get-togethers. :)

      Regretfully, I’m not familiar with any online retailers for purchasing Trachten as I’ve always bought my Dirndls in person, either at department stores or boutiques in Bavaria. The former is a more economical option, though the quality isn’t as good as what you’d find at a boutique. I’m guessing that a Google search might bring up some retailers in the United States though, with a good selection.

      Either way, Prost! :)

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