Oktoberfest Girls

Oktoberfest girls are an essential part of the harvest celebration every fall. Whether you’re attending the big festival in Munich or you’re partying at your favorite pub, chances are good you’ll see women dressed in traditional Bavarian garb and men dressed in leather shorts, suspenders, and jaunty hats.

Oktoberfest Costumes
Oktoberfest Costumes

Oktoberfest costumes have a long history, one connected to the story of Oktoberfest itself. Most people can recognize the dress, but not everyone knows what it’s called. The traditional Bavarian outfit is called a dirndl. This style of dress was first worn in the eighteenth century, the same time the first Oktoberfest was taking place. In the years before, the peasants and other lower class folks only wore drab colors, except for blue on Sunday.

Soon the maids and peasants began dressing in brighter colors, and by the 1870s, the upper class adopted the look. It wasn’t long before the dress became the traditional costume of women from Bavaria and the surrounding regions of Austria, Liechtenstein, and Northern Italy’s South Tyrol. In fact, the term dirndl originally meant a young girl and the dress was called dirndlgwand. It didn’t take long for the word to shorten up, with dirndl soon meaning the dress or the woman wearing it.

Oktoberfest Girls Picture
Oktoberfest Girls Picture

Ladies’ traditional Oktoberfest costumes consist of a full skirt with a bodice and blouse, all underneath an apron. The traditional dress was rather plain, but the dresses can be rather intricate, sometimes featuring silk or intricate embroidery. In some of the quieter corners of Bavaria and Austria, some rural women wear this style on this regular basis. Many of the ladies in the hospitality business at restaurants and cultural sites also don the dirndl.

These days, you’re most likely to see the dress in red and most likely to see it at Oktoberfest events, but it’s not impossible to see prints and a rainbow of colors. And as hemlines have shortened and necklines have dropped, modern sexy versions of the dresses have become more common.

Oktoberfest Girls
Oktoberfest Girls

At the Munich Oktoberfest celebration as well as events throughout the world, it’s quite common to see Oktoberfest girls dressed in this traditional garb. Some will be serving beers and delivering meals while others will be performing German dances or just having fun in the crowd. All three weekends of the Leavenworth Oktoberfest in Washington State feature plenty of costumed gals in German dress.

The male counterpart to the dirndl also is based on the rural wear—the famous lederhosen also are common Oktoberfest costumes. The leather shorts first worn by Alpine shepherds have become emblematic of Oktoberfest. The version with long pants is properly called bundhosen.

Much like the kilt of the cowboy hat, lederhosen have become a symbol of the entire culture. At the same time Oktoberfest was getting going, this style of dress was thought to be out of style—a symbol of rural existence that was being replaced by city life. The citizens of Munich wanted to preserve their culture, so the lederhosen and the dirndl became the iconic dress of the Oktoberfest celebration.

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