Let us know what you think about table manners.
Wherever you go, one of the things you take with you is your (table) manners. Apparently, people still dress up for special occasions. At least they think they do. The Times (UK) published today a small piece about Oktoberfest in Munich. A straightforward guide on how to offend your host. And it is not about how you hold your beer glass, or, to be precise, your one-litre mass. It is more about the inappropriate cultural appropriation of traditional dress. Or is it just having grown-up fun?
Oktoberfest backlash at ‘porn’ outfits
For the people of Munich, preparations for Oktoberfest this month not only involve laying out trestle tables and rehearsing oompah bands but also girding themselves for an influx of scantily dressed British tourists.
While Britons may think that they are paying their hosts a compliment by wearing lederhosen and dirndls, German cultural figures are quietly appalled that much of the clothing is a pornographer’s interpretation of Bavarian traditional dress.
The irritation spilt over this week as a Munich-based crime author asked in a newspaper interview why so many people felt the need to dress in the Bavarian style.
“With the young women it often looks like porno dresses, short and low-cut and cheap material,” he said. “It has nothing to do with identity.”
The number of people wearing Bavarian folk costumes to the world’s biggest beer festival, which starts on September 22, has surged over the past decade.
Franz Thalhammer, 70, an accordionist and former chairman of Munich’s Georgenstoana Baierbrunn folk group, said that women’s costumes were a travesty of the real thing. “A dirndl is something nice, it can make almost anyone pretty. But some of the dresses you see these days are crazy,” he said. “You go in a tent and it’s full of paralytic Australians and Italians and they’ve forked out €250 [£224] for a complete Bavarian outfit and think they’re Bavarians. It’s as if I’d walk around half-naked and say I’m Australian.”
Fancy dress shops in Britain said that when they offered their customers a choice, they preferred sexier versions.
Ulku Stephanides, who has run the Carnival Store in Kensington, west London, for 29 years, said that female customers heading to Munich had a set idea of how they wanted to look. “For women, we have either knee-length or shorter than knee-length dresses. People used to have a normal size. Now, because models are wearing these costumes, the girls come to the shop and they say: ‘I want to look sexy’.”
Ms Stephanides, 55, said that she had visited Germany during Oktoberfest and found that although locals preferred knee-length skirts they were just as risqué when it came to the cut of the dress. “They have their boobs out,” she said.
Her customers also wanted to show plenty of cleavage. “That’s the new generation. Last week I was serving one girl; she was like the Queen of Sheba. She was buying a costume for £20 and taking photographs to show friends on Instagram. She said: ‘I don't look sexy enough. I have to go to Germany, to Oktoberfest’.” Some 6.2 million people attended Oktoberfest last year and drank 7.5 million “Mass” or 1 litre glasses of beer. Britons were in the top ten among foreign visitors. Many newcomers take the spontaneous decision to buy lederhosen at Munich airport.
Benedikt Daller, a Munich outfitter, said that lederhosen with multicoloured stitching looked plain silly, anything made of cowhide or pigskin was a waste of money because it would tear, elaborately embroidered shirts were unacceptable and neckerchiefs were an “absolute no-go”. It really has to be deerskin or goatskin, he said.
In the 1980s and 1990s anyone wearing Bavarian dress at Oktoberfest would have stood out unless they were performing in an oompah band or serving beer. Now, putting on folk costume has become a ritual of the festival, alongside queueing, trying to smuggle beer glasses past security and coping with double vision after downing the potent beer brewed exclusively for the occasion by six Munich breweries.
Michael Ritter, a researcher at the Bavarian Regional Heritage Society, suggested that young people were simply trying to find a sense of identity in a globalised world. He added that it was ridiculous to claim that there was a single authentic style because fashions changed over hundreds of years. Many designs stem from the 19th century when they became fashionable among the Bavarian and Austrian aristocracy. Mr Ritter said that the costumes raised awareness of Bavaria’s historical dress, which originated in the Alps where cattle herders needed tough leather trousers to take livestock across rough terrain and through thorn bushes.
“I know of many women who bought a cheap €50 dirndl made in the Far East and realised how pretty it looks,” he said. “Then they buy a second and a third and a fourth and go for higher quality every time.
“It’s the same with lederhosen. Our tailors are doing good business despite the foreign competition.”
For Mr Thalhammer, Oktoberfest will rise above controversies over cheap clothing. “Six million people from all kinds of nations go there and party and toast each other and there’s hardly ever any trouble,” the accordionist said. “It makes you think, why can’t the whole world be like that? But maybe it’s because they’re all drunk.”
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