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May 1998

Folklore Finery

The traditional costum of the Bavarians.

The wearing of Trachten, or folk costumes, has experienced a resurgence in Bavaria after fading somewhat in the late 1800s. Whether newly made or painstakingly restored, each of these garments represents a connection with the region's history. Folk costumes are much more than Lederhosen and Dirndl. Trachten (in Bavarian, G'wand), is the sum of its parts. Each variation, each minute detail is threaded together to tell a story about the individual wearer. A popular Latin proverb says clothes make the man. But in the case of Trachten, clothes reveal his heritage: at one glance, you can tell if someone is from the city or the Gebirge (mountains), from Munich or Moosburg, Daglfing, Dachau, Englschalking or Erding. The tradition includes special buttons and shoes, exquisite hat feathers and intricate embroidery, colors, fabrics - even the Unterrock, or slip, worn under a skirt. Helena Kirschenhofer, who teaches a course on Trachten at Munich's Volkshochschule, makes all of her own Trachten by hand. She says creating such garments by is a fufilling yet labor intensive process. Each outfit requires about 100 hours of work from start to finish. Many of the elements are still hand-embroidered. With all the attention to detail, folk costumes can be expensive; a hat feather can cost DM 400, or silver button DM 150. The most elaborate of these outfits are worn only by members of Trachtenvereinen - clubs dedicated to preserving Germany's folk history and culture through song, dance and traditional dress. THE WOMEN HUT - Peeking at a woman's hat could tell you if she's single, married or widowed. In some areas, a Riegelhaube, a type of crown-like hat is worn at the back of the head. Silver is reserved for single women, gold for married and black or dark blue for widows. KROPFKETTE - The choker, made of silver with a gold clasp, is often set with gar-nets and seed pearls. The more elaborate it is, the wealthier the family. SCHULTERTUCH - Whether in pastel or bright colors, the shawl is usually made of patterned silk. MIEDER- The black, corset-like bodice has hidden hooks or a complicated Schnurlochleiste and helps create the desired "hourglass" figure. GESCHNÜR - A beaded silver chain is used to cinch the Mieder. It is at least 2 1/2 meters long and laced around silver hooks and decorated with coins, medals and amulets. MIEDERLEIBL - In spring, fresh flowers draw attention to the cleavage area of the dress. DIRNDL - With its basic design carried over from the 18th century, this garment is usually made from separates called a KITTL and a SPENSER. It is unicolored or with a small floral pattern, depending on the region and season. SCHÜRZE -Originally to protect the skirt, aprons developed into a decorative element, and are sometimes made of silk that matches the shawl. In some regions, single girls tie their apron strings on the left, and married women on the right. UNTERROCK - As many as seven starched petticoats are worn underneath the skirt to emphasize its bell-like shape. THE MEN HUT - The tilt of the hatband and the shape of the crown can tell you whether a man comes from the mountains or a farm. Most hatbands are decorated with feathers or flowers. GAMSBART - These originally signified that the wearer was a hunter, with the tuft of hair worn like a hunting trophy. Made from hair of the chamois, a small goatlike animal, the tufts (the longer the better) should be dark at the base and light at the tips to produce a halo-like effect. JOPPE - Short jacket ranging from loden green (for hunters) to black. Buttons, pleats and piping, as well as the embroidery on the lapels, all reveal the wearer's home region or rank in his club. CHARIVARI - This chain is decorated with lucky charms including the Dachspfote (badger's paw) for luck in love, Bergkristall (rock crystal) for good fortune, and of course, Koralle (coral) for potency. LEDERHOSE - Centuries ago, pants made from the hide of indigenous deer gave the clue as to a man's homeland. Today, the trousers' color, ranging from black to beige, and the pattern of hand-stitched embroidery tell the story. QUERSTEG -The middle band that connects the suspenders (Hosenträger) is embroidered or embossed with a club name, the Bavarian emblem or, even a picture of King Ludwig II. LOFERL -Hand-knit split stockings, sometimes embroidered, show off the muscular calves of strong Bavarian men. HAFERLSCHUH - Black leather shoe with lacing on the side and square-formed toe. Some areas wear Altenstiefel : leather boots with pleats at the ankles indicating a man's wealth and his standing in society.

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