Second-hand, a local label, a traditional store and a hire service – we tried them all on as we made our way through Munich's selection of traditional dress.
Traditional Bavarian dress is popular throughout the world – even H&M launched an Oktoberfest collection in autumn 2019. In Munich, they're not just the preserve of the Oktoberfest, they're also worn at the Frühlingsfest (Spring festival), the Auer Dult (festival) and at the Kocherlball (folk dance event) in the English Garden. People get married, go the beer garden and party in traditional dress. The dirndl (women's traditional Bavarian dress) and lederhosen (traditional Bavarian leather shorts) are as much a part of Munich as pretzels and a "Mass" of beer. And there's plenty of choice when it comes to buying traditional dress. From high-quality dirndls by small Munich manufacturers to 80-year-old vintage lederhosen – we tried them all on.
Herbert Lipah from Lederhosenwahnsinn is a true Munich original whose been trading in old lederhosen for almost 40 years. He used to have a stall at the Auer Dult and you can see that reflected in his welcoming shop in the Borstei (housing complex) which looks more like a treasure chest. There's so much to explore here that even after two hours, you're a long way from having seen and heard everything. Herbert might even pour you a beer and invite you to take a seat and list to his crazy tales.
You'll always uncover some rarities here because with around 650 pairs, Herbert probably has a bigger collection of lederhosen than anyone else. The oldest example dates back to 1866, and is of course not for sale. His collection largely comprises vintage lederhosen given to him or bought from friends, acquaintances and strangers. It includes lederhosen once owned by the writer Oskar Maria Graf and a pair from the noble house of Wittelsbach – made from soft chamois leather and weighing just 320 grams.
We learn from Herbert that lederhosen come in different price categories depending on whether they are made from cowhide, goatskin, chamois or deerskin – this latter being the most expensive. What's the best way to look after lederhosen? "Your own body fat and moisture." You should only take them to a dry cleaner when it's absolutely necessary – and you need a professional on the job. Herbert doesn't think much of the latest trend of wearing lederhosen that are narrower and sit on the hips: "Trousers should be comfortable, and shouldn't be tight-fitting. The only thing you should feel are the braces. You live in your lederhosen!"
Herbert is able to match every traditional dress he sees at the Oktoberfest to its region: "Green bands and embroidery on the lederhosen mean Werdenfelser Land, the yellower it becomes the closer you get towards Tegernsee." New entry-level models at Lederhosenwahnsinn start at 250 euro, but exceptionally rare examples can cost several thousand euro.
Please don't let your outfit yodel – less is always more!
To learn more about vintage dirndls, however, head to Michaela Klein at Holareidulijö. The trained master leather-worker has run her shop in the Maxvorstadt for almost 30 years. Like Lederhosenwahnsinn, the place is packed with hundreds of lederhosen, dirndls, accessories and rare items. What's really special: not only are second-hand traditional costumes for sale, the owner also restores them herself. Used dirndl blouses start from ten euro, with vintage dirndls costing between 30 and 300 euro. With particularly rare pieces, like an old pair of lederhosen with two-colour embroidery, Michaela copies the original and replicates it in a cheaper version so that anyone can afford it.
Holareidulijö is also a label that designs new dirndls from second-hand ones. For a long time, Michaela herself wore only lederhosen, but these days it's 50s dirndls from the Salzburger Land (region) that set her heart racing – but she's always loved vintage traditional dress: "Old traditional dress has much greater appeal for me, and the fabrics are usually more special too. Plus, when I'm wearing something like that, I know its a unique piece!" Her tips when purchasing traditional dress: Avoid polyester because if you're going to sweat, cotton is the only thing. The plainer the better and please, no checked shirt! Choose white or a striped pattern as they are more timeless.
In 2010, there came a new take on old-fashioned traditional dress: when Jörg Hittenkofer founded his label Gottseidank, Munich residents and visitors snatched up his traditional and fashionable dirndls and lederhosen, items so beautiful you want to wear them all the time. And luckily you can, because the label also makes everyday clothing.
As soon as you enter the light-drenched store on the Schleissheimerstrasse, which is rather reminiscent of a hippy studio, you can't wait to touch and try on the dirndls, knitted jackets and woolen trousers. The creators at Gottseidank puts a lot of value on the materials – some of them are sourced regionally from Chiemsee, as well as from Italy. The knitwear is produced in Germany, but the yarns conversely come from Austria. The most important thing is getting the quality right, and you can feel it – from the buffalo horn buttons to the hand-pleated apron.
I can decide what's beautiful and what's not – in my little world.
The samples are made either in the label's own sample-making department in Milbertshofen, right next to the shop, or made in the Bavarian Forest. Gottseidank has its dirndls made in Hungary and Poland, while the lederhosen are made in Germany by master leather-workers from the Bavarian Forest. The starting price for a dirndl: 549 euro, but for that you get something that will really last and that you'll love wearing. Jörg's vision for his label: To further develop traditional dress, yet keep things authentic, and return to its roots in a move away from new fashion mass production and back to high-quality, traditional clothing. And he's made a real success of it.
It's definitely the most sustainable option if you just need traditional dress for a day: Bavarian Outfitters. The Munich rental service has been hiring out dirndls and lederhosen at low prices for eight years. You can rent a lederhosen set with a shirt and socks for 49.90 euro, or a dirndl for 42.90 euro. You can return your outfit up to 10.00am the following day, or pay half the hire fee for a second day if you want to keep it for longer. The 100 euro deposit also covers you if you fail to return your traditional costume in tip-top condition. But most of the customers are companies that hire from here for events, and take good care of the clothing.
You can rent online all-year-round, and also rent offline for the Oktoberfest period. During the Oktoberfest, there's a small shop at Auenstrasse to serve customers every day, including sundays – with a counter, changing rooms and around 1,200 outfits in stock. There's a choice of around 20 different dirndl styles, and for the men, there are ten lederhosen models combined with shirts in multiple colours and patterns. The lederhosen look high-quality and are a delight to wear, and the dirndls are made from pure cotton in a standard cut. If you need a decent traditional costume for a single Oktoberfest visit, this is the place to come. And it works out cheaper to hire a good traditional costume here than to buy a poor quality one that sits at the back of your wardrobe for ever. You can also hire lederhosen from Wolfgang Zeilinger on the Amalienstrasse, while women will find just the thing at Dresscoded – Abendkleider & Dirndl-Verleih.
The go-to place for business people, tourists and long-standing residents of Munich are the traditional retailers such as Hirmer. Although this fashion house has specialised fully in menswear, there happen to be a few dirndls in the regional dress department. But if you want a big choice of dirndls, Lodenfrey is the place to go. As well as popular lederhosen makers like Meindl there are young traditional dress labels on the hangers such as Amsel and Gottseidank. There's a great choice and the department is so big that you can easily spend an entire afternoon there. Hirmer is deserving of its title as the biggest men's fashion store in the world.
The lowest price for lederhosen starts at 299 euro, or you might choose to invest in a decent pair. And especially with lederhosen, you get what you pay for: Meindl tans and dies according to European regulations – which means that the tanning process in Salzburg takes a year; the colour is brushed on by hand. In addition, the brand uses only goatskin or deerskin in its production. "But deerskin is becoming scarce, which is why it is so expensive," explains Agnes Mayr, who has worked at Hirmer for 15 years and now manages the "Landlust " traditional dress department.
Everything you can buy in the shop is not worn by a tradtional costume club. They have their own tailors.
Ms Mayr has loads of tips for buying traditional dress. An absolute no-go far as she's concerned are neck scarves ("No one wears them these days!") and pulled down socks ("Pull your socks up!"). Haferlschuhe (traditional Bavarian shoes) should definitely be worn only with lederhosen, never with jeans. And if you want to wear trainers with traditional dress that's fine, just never wear them with traditional dress socks. "If you don't want to spend much money, I recommend simply buying a nice waistcoat, a janker (traditional Bavarian fulled woolen jacket) or a knitted jacket that you can wear anywhere. If you're just visiting the Oktoberfest once, you don't need a full outfit!" she advises. There's no need to be overdressed and feel like the trash of traditional dress. The invaluable thing from fashion houses like Hirmer is definitely the consulting.