Linz and Vienna, Austria, October 2011
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It is hot in the “Europa Bierstadl” in Linz. In the middle of a funfair there is a big beer tent with music, beer, food and dancing people (click the link to see the video). It smells like french fries, beer and stale air. The Edlseer play Austrian pop songs, schlager music and folk music. The benches inside the marquee are filled with people swaying with the music. They sing aloud: “Cheers, cheers to the sociability – Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” and raise their glasses. We try to find a place to stand when one of the waitresses crossed our way. She carries four liters of beer in each hand and sidles easily through the crowded rows of benches. She looks traditional, elegant and proud of where she’s from – she wears a dirndl. For the staff it is obligatory to wear the traditional Austrian dress, but there are many customers wearing folkloric outfits. “That is normal in the beer tent”, explains Hans from Linz, who does not only wear leather shorts but also a leathern hat. Tanja also likes this style of clothes: “You can cloth dress figure-accentuating without appearing cheap”. Traditional Austrian clothes found their way back to everyday life.
Originally Dirndl and leather shorts where for the farmers, the main part of the Austrian population. Women used a short blouse and a long low-cut dress with the skirt flared from the waist on. Apart they wore a pinafore to protect the dress. Men wore short leather trousers with embroidered suspenders, a shirt and depending on the region knee socks and a leather hat. The design changed with the different kings and lords of the region. First farmer’s clothes where only brown or grey, in the middle ages they where multicolored, later black and then colored again.
Traditionally the folkloric clothes change by region and occasion. Short leather pants for the work outside, knickerbockers as Sunday best, noble dirndls for special occasions, easy ones for the everyday life. Very important for the men was the pinafore’s bow. Who loops it on the left side shows that she is single, on the right is where married women loop it. In some areas virgins looped it in the front and widows in the back.
Some years ago dirndl and leather pants was the everyday clothes only for “fringe groups”, explains Sascha Goitschek in our interview. He is the manager of the “Salzburger Trachtenoutlet”, an outlet shop for traditional clothes, in Vienna. In the Bavarian and Austrian gastronomy and in societies for traditional costumes this clothing was quite natural. In the countryside they were also worn for special occasions, but apart from that the dirndl and the leather pants were forgotten. Now the dirndl-fever is back. The Outlet is crowded by both, people from Vienna and also tourists, who try on leather jackets, dirndl and blouses.
Before young people did not like the traditional clothing at all. Now they proudly show their embroidered pinafores, knickerbockers and check shirts in the street and even more in the beer tents. It looks like as if they were proud of their traditions but at second glance it is a temporary fashion they like. Neither culture nor traditions are so important to them, but the fashion matters. They do as they like. Leather pants do not need suspenders, dirndls are worn with a mini skirt and blouses with puffy sleeves are combined with short skirts. In the outlet they offer both: Advise for traditional clothing and tips how to combine with everyday clothes.
The beer tent is where they are presented: colorful pinafores, decorated leather suspenders and low-cut blouses with even lower-cut dresses. Nowadays one should not confide too much in dancing with a fifty-years old virgin, only because she has the bow in front, the tradition is hardly used anymore. We see Dirndls without bow, with one bow on each side, dirndl blousons combined with jeans and long leather pants. We hardly see greasy old leather pants, most people wear new ones they only use a couple of times in the year. But still there are fans of the traditional Austrian clothing as Sascha Goitschek: “When I am invited I will come in 99 percent in traditional clothes.” Flared pants were in again, so are leggins. I am sure that Austrian grandmas would also be happy to see their grandchildren using dirndls in their everyday-life.