History of German Fashion

Dori Wittrig August 27, 2021

Did you go to the German Fashion show on Monday (Aug 30)? Hosted by Beauty Box Boutique, this event was sure to get you inspired for Oktoberfest later in September at Fountain Park. But have you ever wondered about the history of the famous German fashion?


Lederhosen never started out as an iconic costume for Oktoberfest. Peasants used this clothing. Germans had been using leather for centuries but up until the 16th century, French fashion began to influence Europe. Culottes (or knee-breeches) were designed for leisurely and aristocratic fashion as they were softer fabrics. By the 18th century, German workers adapted the culottes into their attire but instead of using a softer material, they went with their trusty leather. This is what we now know as the lederhosen, which translates to “leather breeches.”
Although the lederhosen was designed for peasants, the upper class eventually adapted clothing for outdoor recreation like horseback riding and hunting. In the 18th century, they also used lederhosen as a fashionable ensemble to mimic the peasant style. Thus, lederhosen became a common German attire for peasants and noblemen alike.
By the 19th century, the city-dwellers lost interest in the lederhosen, making it, once again, the attire for peasants. Eventually, a new fabric was introduced to country workers: jeans. Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, invented jeans in 1873. Not only were jeans durable for manual labor, but they were also seen as hip American fashion. Eventually, this caused the lederhosen to become unpopular in Germany.


The dirndl has a very similar history as the lederhosen. They were originally used as a maid’s dress for house and farm workers. By the 18th century, the upper class adopted this style into their fashion, much like the lederhosen. The only difference between the peasants and upper-class fabrics was the materials they used. Wools were more affordable for the peasants whereas the more lavish materials included silk and satin.
Eventually, the dirndl also started to fade out by the 19th century. It wasn’t until more recently that fashion emerged as costumes for Oktoberfest. Additionally, the tradition of apron knot-tying is a more modern practice since women did not wear these outfits to impress anyone centuries ago. If the girl’s knot is on the right, she is taken. If it’s on the left, she is single.
When you’re attending the Fountain Hills Oktoberfest later in September, remember to toast to the peasants that began this famous tradition. Prost!
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