Our firm hosted a ‘sales and marketing day’ last week for the all employees in the Munich office to ‘promote talent and opportunities across service lines’ – i.e. a means to justify a large celebration.
Lured by a night out for a pre-Oktoberfest party (and informative workshops of course) I accepted the invitation. In preparation for the event, the invitation described:
Dresscode Dre Dresscode sowohl für die Tages – als auch die Abendveranstaltung ist Tracht, bayerischer Landhausstil oder Casual. (The dresscode for both the day-time and evening event is Tracht (Dirndl / Lederhosen), Bavarian country estate style or casual).
Putting aside my Greek heritage and the multiple, annual events I (forcefully) participated in as a child*, the notion of an official national ‘costume’ as an Australian – let a lone wearing it in the work environment – is definitely something new to me.
Being who I am (Australian, Greek, and a little stubborn), I don’t find it easy to thrown on my Dirndl at all occasions (e.g. work festivities) and act like I’m one of the locals. My colleagues on the otherhand were excited to know that they could mix things up a little from the ‘contemporary businesswear’ that is usually required.
While having a national costume is common to many cultures around the world what I see here is an evident enthusiasm to dress in traditional costume. Dressing in Tracht isn’t restricted to Oktoberfest / Volksfest celebrations; in Bavaria Tracht is often worn at parties, weddings, to church, by waitstaff in traditional restaurants, on Sunday picnics and also accepted in the workplace. Enthusiasm is also seen through the desire to have the latest Tracht accessories, hairstyles to match and even Karl Lagerfeld’s latest 2013 leather Dirndl styles.
For me, this enthusiasm depicts an appreciation of tradition – something which has struck out to me through many other aspects of German life and culture. What I also see is that having a national costume not only creates association within social and cultural groups but also assists to distinguish these groups. Seeing friends and colleagues of non-German background ‘dress up’ for events expresses a connection with the German culture and is appreciated by the natives. And not only do they dress up in Germany – but Oktoberfest or other Volksfest celebrations held in Australia see many German and non-German people dressing up as part of the celebration – even if it means putting on the stereotypical ‘beer wench’ outfit hired from the local party hire store.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have given this as much thought if we had an Australian national costume. Yes we have many things that are recognised by foreigners as ‘Australian’; kangaroos + koalas, Ugg boots, our beaches and landmarks, the Crocodile Hunter, Kylie Minogue, meat pies, etc – but these ‘things’ don’t really depict the Australian. We all know that the image of the aussie ‘bloke’ (in King Gees, a wife-beater singlet, RM williams boots and a cork hat of course) or ‘Shiela’ can’t really hold up for the majority. You don’t see too many people lining up to buy the latest singlet for an Australia Day party. However with the number of Australian flags worn across the shoulders (or in other styles) throughout ‘Aussie’ events could be a point to show the faint interest in the Aussies wanting a defining ‘costume’.
Munich being famous for its beer-drinking culture, it is often the destination for many celebrations. During summer I recall seeing a particular group of bachelors celebrating in one of the English Garten’s biergarten. As Australians they were easily identifiable – with all members of the party parading around with giant blow-up kangaroos on their head. While we obviously need to move away from such poor fashion choices, the desire for an socially-integrating costume is obviously there. Now to find something a little more tasteful…
Without getting too caught up in thought, sometimes nothing can be more fun than playing dress-up. And that I have. Embracing the Oktoberfest spirit in the air I have worn my Dirndl three times in the past week – the highlight being at an Almabtrieb in Berchtesgaden (south of Munich, bordering Austria) where we watched a herd of beautifully decorated cows being led from the alpine pastures down into the local valley. Such an event occurs only when all cows of the herd live through the summer – thus to celebrate the success and happiness of the farmers people gather with folk music, homemade kuchen and of course Bier to welcome the cows home. And while there were only a handful of people dressed in Tracht, I did not feel one bit out of place.
For those of you that don’t know:
Tracht is traditional costume worn throughout Germany (and Austria), it consists of the Dirndl (for females) and Lederhosen (for males) and different regions throughout Germany sport slightly different styles.The current Bavarian trends are:
Landhausstil (country estate style), was something I hadn’t heard of before but have since learnt that it is a style that originates from the lower socio-economic class of rural society. ‘Modern’ interpretations of the style in fashion look like:
*This included – Greek poetry readings on stage in front of crowds, marching down Macquarie St Sydney in costume and the mandatory saturday afternoon Greek dancing classes.