I know, Oktoberfest is supposed to be about the beer, and how it’s flowing like the Amazon River, people are jolly, dancing on tables, making new friends, and eating sausages. This is the month hordes of beer lovers crowd into Munich to celebrate the golden liquid. An estimated 7.5 million liters of beer are consumed by 5.9 million festival-goers during Oktoberfest in Munich where the normal population is only 1.4 million.
And since we are talking numbers then lets talk about the millions of aprons that will also be worn in Munich during Oktoberfest. No, I’m not talking about the waitresses serving those giant mugs of beer who are wearing aprons; I’m talking about aprons being worn be practically every woman at Oktoberfest.
Aprons? Yes Aprons
When I think of aprons I think of my mom. She always has one on at home and even packs them in her suitcase when traveling. She wears them not for a fashion statement, but for their intended use – practicality and keeping your other clothes clean when cooking and cleaning around the house. After all, the apron is the iconic symbol of the American housewife in the 1950’s, but it goes way further back than that – the apron is actually a key part of the Bavarian Dirndl – (pronounced DURN-dul) – the national and beloved ‘uinform’ for Bavarian women.
This outfit that started as a servant garment in the 19th century, evolved into rural community fashion, and has walked on fashion runways was baffling to me; how did the Dirndl fad catch on with young and old, Germans and foreigners? Bavaria is the only region I’ve been to that somehow has made their traditional national outfit something that is super cool, modern, sexy, and coveted by all. And yes – it includes an apron – the kind that housewives wear.
Dirndls and Festivals
The first time I became aware of the dirndl’s popularity was last year when I attended Volksfest in Stuttgart. It was my first German beer festival so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The beer tents were bigger than I expected, the beer mugs more giant than what I was expecting, and there were these strange cookie hearts everywhere. All of this surprised me, however my biggest surprise was just how many people were dressed in traditional German/Bavarian dress for the festival. Sure, I expected older women to wear the traditional dress, but I wasn’t prepared for groups of teenagers wearing lederhosen and dirndls! The teenagers had somehow found a way to make the old traditional outfits cool again by making the skirts a little shorter, and the tops a bit more plunging – but they all still had aprons. I tried to imagine my teenage nieces excited about wearing an apron and I just couldn’t picture it.
Cannstatter Volksfest (beer festival) in Stuttgart is a great option for those who don’t want to do the giant crowds of Munich’s Okotberfest – plus – the Volksfest is actually in October and lasts 3 weeks! More Info here
I’ve never actually been to THE Oktoberfest in Munich, but I was recently in Germany drinking lots of beer along the Young Danube River and I did spend a little time in Munich at the end of my trip. After my experience last year, I decided I should try to understand how the apron and the dirndl became so popular…and quite frankly, sexy.
Where Hip and Traditional Co-mingle
I went to the mecca of Bavarian traditional fashion, Munich’s Angermaier clothing store to learn how the old, stuffy, conservative dirndl morphed into popular fashion (yes – there are even dirndl fashion shows and dirndl designers). Somehow Angermaier has done the impossible; they have found a way to fuse hip and traditional into one garment.
“With our ideas and courage to find new ways, we have freed the costume from their dusty image and ensure that it is fashionable again today. Not only on festivals like Oktoberfest but also at festivals, weddings and everyday thousands of costume is now worn.”–Angermaier
Nina, the daughter of the Angermaier founder, said that they were one of the first shops to offer a traditional outfit set for a couple at an affordable price (currently 139 Euro for women and 199 Euro for men), which began to grow the market. Then they started to design them a bit edgier, more colorful, and sexier, and soon they became the ‘outfit’ of Oktoberfest and beyond. Angermaier still produces outfits for all ages and tastes with stores in Munich, Berlin, Stutgart, and Nuremberg. Plus they have a healthy online presence for online ordering and shipping.
The origin of the dirndl was in the countryside, it was a rural outfit that signified the region you were from my colors and patterns. It has now moved into German urban life with the colors and traditions disappearing, and the skirts becoming a little shorter. “However, it’s still an unwritten rule that the skirt goes over the knee,” cautioned Nina.
The Dirndl Recipe
• Start with one special dirndl bra that will provide just the right amount of push up no matter what your size.
• Add a sheer and full Petticoat to provide the right amount of ‘fluff’ to the skirt.
• Add one white halter blouse – sort of like a dickie. It’s best to secure the bottom of the blouse under bottom of your bra so it stays in place. The halter blouse comes in all shapes and sexiness – the amount of cleavage you want to show is your choice.
• Next step into the dress and zip it up to the waist and then take a deep breath and tighten the buttons or corset-like ribbon around your rib cage. It is tight, but it sort of made me feel like I had to have good posture…as it’s impossible to slouch in a proper fitting dirndl. The dress is actually one piece which makes is easy to put on.
• Add an optional cotton sweater or jacket if it’s chilly.
• Then for the finale, add the apron over the top of the dress and tie at the waist. But don’t take the tying lightly – rumor has it that there is special meaning to how your apron is tied. If you tie the bow on the right, that indicates you are a married woman, on the left means you are single and open to a little flirting. It’s unclear if this is really a historic tradition, but it is a popular tradition today that is followed.
Since I was in the Dirndl Mecca in the heart of Barvaria, I decided that I would try on this outfit that seemed a bit strange to me. I wasn’t quite sold on the dirndl as I still had an impression that it seemed gimmicky, and really just for older women who wore aprons. An Angermaier sales associate went through the racks and racks of dresses and tops holding colors up to me and pulling out designs as if she were on a mission. For a moment I felt a little like I was in the German version of the Pretty Woman shopping scene with people scurrying about me bringing me things to try on!
I tried on 4 different dirndls at Angermaier and here’s how it went:
In the end…I was won over by the traditional outfit. It was comfortable, fun to wear, forced me to have great posture, was flattering, made my boobs look big, and yes, I even loved the apron. I’m not sure I would buy one to simply wear around New York City, but I would get one for attending Oktoberfest for sure.
I was a guest of Germany Tourism on this trip, however all opinions here are my own.