When Alpine peasants
danced the Schuhplattler back in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were
dressed in the same clothes they wore out on the farm or in the
village, pursuing their various crafts. For the men, these were sturdy
lederhosen that never needed washing and seldom
needed repair. The leather breeches were so practical that women sometimes wore them as well, but more often women did their work in a long skirt of cotton, linen or wool, topped with a bodice, blouse and apron. In Bavarian dialects, a young women was called a “dirndl”
and the dress was a "dirndlgewand," but gradually the shorter word came
to be used for the traditional women's costume as well.
On Sundays and holidays, people would brush off their work clothes and
wear them to church or festivals, often with a clean white shirt or
blouse, a scarf or a hat, and maybe a fancier pair of stockings.
was summer, the breeches or skirt might be shorter and the shirts of a
lighter material, but a whole new wardrobe for special days, seasons or celebrations was out of reach for the common folk of Bavaria and Tyrol.
Lederhosen and dirndls were standard garb
for many boys and girls in Germany and Austria through the 1960's, and
continued to be popular in East Germany and Bavaria until the end of the
They are still worn as everyday attire by adults and kids in some areas
today, but they are most often seen in festivals and traditional
costume clubs (Trachtevereine), of which there are thousands in
the German-speaking Alps. Many scouts in Germany and Austria, and even
some in France, wear lederhosen shorts with their uniform, and hikers
favor them as the most practical
wear in the mountains.
For the Schuhplattler, lederhosen and dirndls are a must. These range
from the simple, practical styles that have been worn for generations to
the finest ornate varieties that can cost a thousand dollars or more.
lederhosen (knickers) are worn by some Schuhplatter
groups, but they can be uncomfortable to dance in, especially in warm
The Jungen Wimberger
in Kniebund Lederhosen
More common are short lederhosen, which range from the knee
amost-knee-length shorts favored by traditionalist groups and
Oktoberfest visitors to the much shorter variety worn by the
Oberbairing Kinder and other modern clubs. Although scouts have always
lederhosen without suspenders, costume and dance groups wear
either standard narrow H-bar suspenders or the wider, heavily
Lederhosen are usually made from cowhide or wild buck, and
the colors vary from gray to green to a smooth, shiny black. Most
have a drop down front flap that buttons to the pants, but double-zippered
shorts became popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s and are still sometimes
Lederhosen shorts usually have cuffs and often have a waist
in the back that can be let out as kids grow. Lederhosen are so
expensive that as late as the 1960's many boys would get an oversized
pair at the age of six or seven,
wear them every day for five or six years, and then wear their next
pair for another several years. Since washing usually ruins leather
these lederhosen were never washed in all that time!
Making Lederhosen (from German TV)
Wie Man Lederhosen Herstellt
solid white shirts or red, blue or green gingham-style checkered shirts
are usually worn by Schuhplattler groups. The finest
shirts often have embroidered flowers down the front. Many Schuhplattler
groups dance with their sleeves rolled up above their elbows.
Socks & Shoes
Socks are knee length in solid gray, green or white.
Loferl-style socks are ankle-length and have a separate band that goes
around the calves. The best shoes are leather-soled and neither too light nor too
heavy and cluncky. Genuine Schuhplattler Haferlschuhe are ideal, but they are
expensive, are not good for everyday wear, and kids grow out of them
Jackets, Vests & Hats
Janker jackets are often worn with lederhosen for
special celebrations and formal occasions, but they must be taken off before
dancing. They are made of lambswool, have no collars, often have wide lapels, and
are typically grey, green or brown. Their buttons are made of buckhorn or plastic made to look like
Vests are worn by some groups, as are felt hats, which may be
decorated with a feather, a Gamsbart ("goat's beard"), or
various pins and badges.
dirndl emerged during the 18th century as a plain but practical servant’s
dress with a long skirt, bodice, blouse and apron.
In the wintertime it was made of heavy cotton,
linen or wool with long sleeves, and in summer it was short-sleeved and of
lighter material. In the second half of the 19th century, as the
Schuhplattler and lederhosen became fashionable amongst the nobility, dirndls
evolved into stylish attire made of silk or satin for the very rich. Their
popularity has risen and fallen over the years, but like lederhosen, the dirndl
has lately had something of a resurgence in both Germany and Austria.