In contradiction to beer, “Tracht” has already played an important role in 1810.
Already at the original Oktoberfest, the celebration of the wedding of crown prince Ludwig and his Therese in 1810, Bavarian Trachten were presented by children, who were meant to represent the variety of the different regions of the new kingdom of Bavaria. Apart from organized displays of Trachten, the history of the clothing of Oktoberfest visitors has been inconsistent.
There are not many contemporary sources depicting Oktoberfest visitors throughout the first hundred years of the festival. It’s safe to assume that most visitors would dress for Oktoberfest as they would have for other similar occasions – some like every other day, others more festive. Special events like the main Sunday or the inauguration of the Bavaria statue were more likely to be celebrated in festive attire.
The clothing of farmers from villages incorporated by the city of Munich was defined by the cardinal direction. South of the historic center, in Sendling, for example, they would usually wear the alpine “Gebirgstrachten”, while farmers from Schwabing would show up in clothing from the Dachau area. Munich’s bourgeoisie liked their townsmen garments, including the spencer, a Munich corsage or the “Riegelhaube”.
During the 19th century, civic fashion took up speed, though, which made the uncomfortable corsage lose its omnipresence after 1870. However, it didn’t disappear. People who moved from the countryside into the city adopted the traditional garment, which thus became very popular among maids and waitresses. Not by accident, August von Kaulbach portrayed the waitress Coletta Möritz in his famous painting “Schützenliesl”. For Oktoberfest, however, people would still not dress in an Oktoberfest-specific way. Nevertheless, during the 1930s, Tracht became more and more visible on the streets of Munich after the Olympics in Garmisch-Patenkirchen and the great success of the play “Im weißen Rössl” and thus also at Oktoberfest.
Until the 1960s, Tracht was worn for Oktoberfest just like at any other Bavarian fest. Then, the disconnection between the unorganized wearing of Tracht and the Oktoberfest started to dramatically change. It was the local fashion store, Loden Frey, to create the first commercial link between Oktoberfest and Tracht. For the very first time in Munich, Tracht was advertised as the perfect Oktoberfest apparel. This link became stronger due to the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, where hostesses wore Dirndl and Bavarian culture got displayed, not least, during the opening ceremony to a worldwide audience. Resembling today’s Tracht hype, even Yves Saint Laurent sold Tracht-like clothing back then.
Shortly after, that hype already came to a very quick end but returned every decade in some way. Its 90s incarnation also created the so-called “Landhausmode”. A type of fashion, which combined naive medieval and Tracht references to a short-lived esthetic incident. Quickly disappeared, it made room for a new Tracht wave starting in the 2000s, which has survived ever since and may still not have reached its peak. In the second half of the 2000s, even tourists started to dress up for Oktoberfest. At the same time, purely commercial events using the name Oktoberfest appeared all over German-speaking Europe.