As you travel through Austria you will notice that people of all ages wear the Lederhosen and Dirndl, which are made with a mix of the old-traditional fashion with a modern twist. What started as the garb of the working peasantry of the 18th Century, the Lederhosen as well as the Dirndl has undergone many evolutions along the way. It’s evident that the fashion industry in Austria is putting a lot of effort into bring the fresh, new styling of the contemporary “Altdeutsche Tracht” while at the same time keeping all the old traditions alive and well, but with a more vibrant look.
The Lederhosen was originally well-made and held up to the demanding work of the time, but leather trousers were also worn in many regions of Europe by hunters and riders. It was in the south of Germany that a unique style developed – a pair of leather trousers with a front drop “flap”. This style became so popular that during the Late Baroque period it was also fashionable for the courtly society to imitate the simple life of the peasants, and hence, the style also took hold in the nobility. While the peasantry wore both short Lederhosen and longer styled “Kniebundhosen” made of goat or sheepskin that was dyed black, the nobles, who were often adept hunters, chose to make their Lederhosen of deerskins – a much softer and higher grade of leather. These were then richly decorated to symbolize their nobility.
One thing that makes the Lederhosen unique is their elaborate embroidery that is found both on the trousers as well as on the suspenders. Oftentimes the embroidery signifies a certain region of the country which in turns makes people attribute a regional pride in wearing their Lederhosen. In fact, in many of the small villages the regional Tracht was taken very seriously and one often owned several pair of Lederhosen for different occasions – for everyday work as well as for very festive occasions such as a wedding.
The Dirndl, or female dress of “Altdeutsche Tracht”, also emerged in the 18th century as a servant’s or maid’s dress. This unpretentious dress normally consisted of a blouse, bodice, full skirt and an apron and it was practically suited for a woman’s work around the home or a farm at the time. Women usually wore somewhat different styles and fabrics in the winter and in the summer. The winter dirndl was often a full dress with long sleeves, made of heavy cotton, linen or wool with warm skirts and aprons. In contrast, the summer dirndl was made of lightweight cotton and short-sleeved blouses were worn under sleeveless, tailored bodices.
Just as the Lederhosen experienced a fashion trend among the nobility, the dirndl was also adopted into the upper echelons of society in the late 1800’s, around 1870. Suddenly, the simple dresses made of practical fabrics, were transformed into very stylish, colorful dresses often made of silk, satin and other expensive fabrics. They then also evolved into dresses worn for regional pride and tradition, with each region taking on distinct differences in colors and style.
Today’s dirndl, while still sporting the basic elements of a blouse, tailored bodice, full skirt and apron, now ranges in style from the soft and simple, to very vibrant styles exquisitely crafted with rich fabrics and embellished with intricate embroidery. In recent years, the dirndl has also gained in popularity among the younger crowds. Younger women today often enjoy wearing shorter, flirtier and more revealing versions than in years past.
Source: Bavarian Specialties, LLC. http://www.bavarianspecialty.com
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