What to wear to Oktoberfest?

  • Updated May 23, 2015

How I got my "Tracht"

After a decade of visiting the Fest in jeans, I could finally convince my wife Petra that I needed a "Tracht" - the traditional dress worn in Bavaria. (Tracht, by the way, means just "traditional attire", be it for women or men.) Here's what happened: That summer we had been off to one of those fantastic "Oktoberfest warm up" events that take place before the main Oktoberfest. These events help you get in the mood and also to get used to some drinking, otherwise you won't survive the Fest. One of Petras colleagues from the U.S. brought her husband (a Brit), and they both showed up in traditional Bavarian dresses! I was the only one wearing jeans and a normal shirt. Boo! While I am not a native Bavarian, I had been living in Munich for 12 years by then, and concluded that if these guys could wear a Tracht (proudly and good-looking), then I should be allowed to get one, too. All said and done. Off we went to one of the major Trachten outlet stores in Munich, and I got a nice Tracht for myself.

And this brings me to the ultimate question, asked again and again each year by the foreign guests to the Oktoberfest: What to wear to Oktoberfest?

Traditional Bavarian dress for him

Traditional Bavarian dress for him
Photo: Petra Zanzig

Here we go. That's me with my Tracht, consisting of:

  • Checkered Shirt (plain white is also OK)
  • Leather trousers (with suspenders, without is also OK)
  • Off-white Slouch socks (pulled down!)
  • Haferl Shoes (black!)
  • No scarf (even if they sell it to you!)

Actually, there is very little you can do wrong. However, if you are opting for medium length leather trousers, there should be enough leather to fully cover the knees when sitting. Otherwise the trousers are too short, and you may become the laughing stock at the Oktoberfest.

A word about the price for a Tracht. The Munich dealers offer complete sets, containing the items above (including the dreaded scarf). These usually are Euro 199.00 including taxes. If you want more robust leather trousers, we recommend to have a look at the more expensive ones. You will still receive a discount on the list price when you are buying a complete set. For example, the regular price for my combination was 367.90 Euro, but I negotiated for a 35% discount and paid just 239.60 Euro. In any case, please rest assured that when you buy your Tracht in Munich, the sales ladies at the stores will help you with the selection of the right items.

Traditional Bavarian dress for him

Traditional Bavarian dress for her
Photo: Mark Zanzig

And this is Petra showing off her Tracht, consisting of:

  • Short-sleeved white blouse
  • Traditional dress (the Dirndl)
  • Pinafore
  • Sheer pantyhose
  • Elegant low-heeled loafers

You should be aware of a few rules for the female dress:

  1. The knot of the pinafore indicates the status of the woman. Bound on her right side (just as Petra above) means: "I'm Taken". Bound on her left side means: "I'm single and/or available". Cool, eh?
  2. The traditional Dirndl is long and falls down to below mid-calf, just as in the photo above. They will sell you a short Dirndl as well, and as a male I agree that it looks quite appealing, but this is a tourist item and has nothing to do with the traditional dress.
  3. The pinafore should end at the same height as the Dirndl itself. Having a shorter or longer pinafore will definitely indicate that you are not one of the locals. A big no-no. (Petra's pinafore has the correct length, but the camera angle makes it appear to be slightly longer than the Dirndl. It is not.)
  4. The pantyhose should be just a sheer one, maybe tanned, but definitely not black or weirdly colored.
  5. The shoes should really be low heeled loafers or ballet flats, black or white. High-heeled pumps might be a beautiful sight and a nice surprise for your husband, but it's not something you wear as part of a traditional Oktoberfest dress.
  6. Some dresses allow you to thread thin silver chains through the front section. If you have one of these you should definitely wear the silver chains, otherwise the empty hooks will look just plain weird.

Other than that, it's pretty simple, really. The sales ladies at the stores in Munich will help you with the selection of the right items anyway.