Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous and popular festivals; the largest Oktoberfest celebration takes place in Munich every year. Most people associate it with beer — and rightly so! This year’s festival in Munich saw 6.2 million visitors drink 6.7 million “Maß” (pronounced mass, usually a liter of beer). The tents are divided by brewer, and everyone has their favorite tent. But it’s not just about drinking; there are actually lots of family activities like carnival rides and everywhere German treats and foods are on sale. Walking around the Wiesn and just soaking up the atmosphere is free.
While the big festival may be over for this year (don’t be fooled by the name; it brings in the month of October, meaning it generally takes place in September), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing for next year already. In fact, now is exactly the time to be thinking of what to wear. You think I’m kidding? Müncheners go nuts over Tracht (traditional wear), and during the ‘fest season, the town fills with serious people in traditional German costume. The Bavarians are the most likely to wear Tracht elements in their wardrobe all year, so when September rolls around, they hold no stops: dresses bare/ly hide cleavage under frilly white blouses and fat German bellies and legs squeeze into Lederhosen and knee socks. Weekend nights on public transport, one has the feeling of stepping back in time. It is festive and funny and fun, and reminds one how different and colorful the world was before all the world’s clothes were made in China.
So how do you get in on the Tracht action without breaking the bank? More after the jump.
Traditional German costumes are today a far cry from the simple dirndl once worn everyday by peasant women. Today’s Tracht is often like formal wear — and even simpler versions go for formal-wear prices. After seeing everyone dressed up, I wanted my own dirndl to wear, but every shop we visited sold only dresses which cost more than any prom dress I’d ever worn (and I’m guessing if you regularly read this site, more than any YOU’ve ever worn). I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of euros on something I would only wear a few times in my life. So my mother and I ended up borrowing a pattern from a German friend and sewing one instead. It turned out great, was a good conversation starter at presentations I gave on Germany, and is something I will treasure probably more than one we would have purchased.
But sewing is labor intensive and not everyone knows how. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret I discovered while shopping today in Berlin. I was in the second-hand store/charity chain Humana and there found an entire corner of the store dedicated to German traditional wear. They had a pretty amazing selection and I am certain had I been in the market for a dirndl I could have found something appropriate there. They had plenty of men’s and children’s outfits as well. The selection at Humana is like at Goodwill in the U.S.: every store is different, some are bigger or smaller than others, so not every store is going to have a Trachten section. Here’s a listing of Humana shops in Germany (for reference, I was at 10827 Berlin-Schöneberg, Hauptstr. 147). I’m certain Humana’s not the only second-hand chain to have traditional wear — if you’re serious about dressing up, I would encourage you to ask around in used clothing stores. Bavaria’s likely to have the best selection, given the sheer number of people wearing Tracht, but you’re going to have the best chance of finding something you like and that fits now, long before the ‘fest is underway and the good pieces have already been snapped up.
In summary, if you’re thinking of traveling all the way to Germany just to drink liters of beer at long tables, it’s not too much more work or money to dress the part as well. If you buy a second-hand outfit, you’ll end up with a great souvenir and can relive your glorious moments at the Wiesn every time you play the German at Halloween!
- Headed to Germany for Oktoberfest? Check out these other money-saving tips and travel suggestions from yours truly!