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Tradition makes a comeback for fashion-conscious Bavarians

By Catriona Davies for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Traditional Bavarian costumes have had a resurgence in popularity
  • Prices for dirndls range from 50 euros to 2,500 euros
  • Young people wear the costumes for Oktoberfest, weddings and parties

CNN's global series i-List takes you to a different country each month. In February, we visit Germany and look at changes shaping the country's economy, culture and social fabric.

(CNN) -- To an outsider, lederhosen and dirndl -- the traditional costumes of Bavaria -- may seem like an outdated symbol of a bygone age, last seen in "The Sound of Music."

But the outfits -- short leather dungarees for men and wide skirts with corsets for women -- have become must-haves for the young and fashion-conscious of Munich in south Germany.

They are particularly popular at Oktoberfest, Munich's annual beer festival attracting 6.4 million visitors, and increasingly at fashionable parties and weddings.

The German edition of Vogue magazine regularly features Bavarian costumes in its September issue, according to Simone Egger, a researcher in cultural studies, and shops open around the city every August specifically to sell Oktoberfest costumes.

When you see someone in dirndl or lederhosen they look wonderful.
--Lola Paltinger, fashion designer
RELATED TOPICS
  • Bavaria
  • Fashion Trends
  • Fashion Design
  • Munich

Lola Paltinger, a designer who sells couture dirndls for 2,500 euros, or about $3,440, said: "When I first went to Oktoberfest everyone was in jeans. The only traditional costumes were dark, sad and unfashionable.

"Now they come in bright colors, modern designs and are more comfortable. It still has a wide skirt and a corset, but it's one you can breathe, eat and drink in."

Paltinger began designing dirndls as a project at her fashion college, and after an apprenticeship with Vivienne Westwood, began her own business.

She said: "I was sitting outside at the Oktoberfest with my friends talking about what we were going to do for our diplomas. The atmosphere of the Oktoberfest got to me and I just thought of doing traditional costumes."

When she started her business 11 years ago, Paltinger sold about 20 dirndls a year. She now sells 1,000 a year, both custom-made and off-the-rack, and supplies 20 to 30 weddings.

She said: "When you see someone in dirndl or lederhosen they look wonderful, and you are really disappointed later when you see them in normal clothes. The dirndls in particular are very sexy and feminine.

"For women there are bright colors and modern styles, but for men you can't really do lederhosen in a modern way. In my opinion, there's nothing nicer than a real, traditional lederhosen."

Of course, most people can't afford to buy their outfits from designers like Paltinger. You can pick up a new dirndl for 50 to 60 euros or lederhosen for 120 euros, according to Karoline Graf of the Munich Tourist Office, and there is a thriving second-hand market.

Paltinger said: "Many, many shops sell dirndl and lederhosen in the run up to the Oktoberfest. Some of them just open up especially and sell them very cheaply, made in India. It's a big business.

"Some people say it's not good to sell cheap ones, but I think it's really nice that so many young people want to wear them and pay homage to Bavarian tradition."

Angermaier, a traditional clothes business with two stores in Munich and other temporary stores in high season, has seen lederhosen sales double over the past 10 years. Sales of dirndls have risen 500% over the same period.

Axel Munz, director of the company, said: "The customers have become younger and more trendy. Fashion has found its way into tracht (traditional costumes).

"People wear traditional costumes at weddings, special events or folk festivals, but mainly they wear it at the Oktoberfest."

Egger, a researcher at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, wrote a diploma thesis on the popularity of traditional Bavarian costumes.

She said: "About 10 years ago I noticed all the young people wearing dirndl and lederhosen and thought 'what's going on?' I'm a cultural scientist so I wanted to find out why.

"At the beginning, it was just for the Oktoberfest, but now it is for parties and sometimes weddings. Nowadays pretty much everybody in Munich and the surrounding region has at least one traditional outfit."

She added: "The choice to wear traditional costumes appears to be more than just a fashion trend.

"Possibly, a mobile society wishes to demonstrate affiliation. In times of international networking, local and regional references become even more important."

She added that the first to take up the fashion were 16 to 18-year-olds who felt free to wear traditional costume precisely because there was no pressure from their parents to do so.

Gabriele Hammerschick, chief buyer of traditional clothes for the clothes store Lodenfrey, said customers had become younger in recent years and bought dirndl and lederhosen all year round for weddings, parties, christenings, Christmas and of course, Oktoberfest.

She said people had rediscovered tradition for its permanence in a fast-paced world.

Graf said: "Twenty years ago, no young men or women would go out in traditional costume because it wasn't fashionable.

"Now teenagers, students, people of all ages wear them."

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