The Meaning Behind Which Side to Tie the Dirndl On

For ladies attending Oktoberfest in La Crosse, the dirndl costume is the traditional and trendy fashion of choice. It represents the appreciation and celebration of the Bavarian culture. But be careful which side you tie your dirndl on as this tells men about your relationship status! Part of the dirndl is the apron tied around a woman’s waist in a bow or knot. The placement of your dirndl’s apron waist bow or knot in particular has a significant meaning. It’s an easy way to know whether the woman is single and ready to mingle, in a relationship, married, or even widowed.

Tied on the Left
If the knot of the apron is tied in the front, towards the left side, it means that a woman is single.

Tied on the Right
However, if the knot of the apron is tied to the right side, it means that the woman is either married or in a relationship.

Tied in the Middle
Their relationship status is none of your business.

Tied on the Back in Center
The knot tied in the center on the back of the apron is for widows, waitresses, or children.

The Story of Oktoberfest’s Traditional Lederhosen

When you think Oktoberfest, you may envision beer and pretzels, but most of all, the traditional fashion of the men’s lederhosen. Lederhosen are short or knee-length breeches made of leather. Traditional lederhosen are hand made of tanned deer leather which makes the pants soft and light but very tearproof. All variations usually consist of two side pockets, one hip pocket, one knife pocket, and a codpiece (drop front). An Oktoberfest lederhosen costume consists of the following:

  • Leather trousers in brown, dark green or black leather breeches, commonly short or knee-length but also as long ones called Bundhosen or Kniebundhosen, braided or embroidered
  • Suspenders in “V” or “H” style
  • White or light checkered shirt, usually in red, blue or green
  • Socks, usually in cream, grey or hunter green in knee-length, ankle-length or Loferl-style
  • Shoes “Haferlschuh” or “Haferl” in black or brown

Formerly, lederhosen were worn for pheasant work among men of the Alpine and surrounding regions, including Bavaria, Austria, the Allgäu, Switzerland, the autonomous Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol (formerly part of Austria-Hungary) and Alpine area of today’s Slovenia.

La Couturière Parisienne, however, claims that lederhosen was originally not exclusively a Bavarian garment but was worn all over Europe, especially by riders, hunters, and other people involved in outdoor activities. The flap (drop front) may have been a unique Bavarian invention. The drop-front style became so popular in the 18th century that it was known in France as à la bavaroise, “in the Bavarian style.”

The popularity of lederhosen in Bavaria dropped sharply in the 19th century. They began to be considered as uncultured peasants’ clothing that was not fitting for modern city-dwellers. However, in the 1880s a resurgence set in, and several clubs were founded in Munich and other large cities devoted to preserving Bavarian culture with the lederhosen fashion. King Ludwig II was also a great fan of traditional costumes. His acceptance of lederhosen made it so popular that today Oktoberfest is not complete without it. Oktoberfest lederhosen represents the continued celebration, preservation, and pride of the Bavarian culture.


The History of the Honorable Festmaster

The selection and history of Oktoberfest’s Festmaster is one of the oldest and most cherished Fest traditions. The selection process and naming of the new Festmaster is very secret and the mystery only adds to the fun!

The Festmaster heads the Oktoberfest Royal Family and is chosen annually by the Board of Trustees. Once selected, the Board of Trustees Chairman, along with the past year’s Festmaster, mentors the new Festmaster, bringing him up to speed on his duties, expectations, and appearances. The new Festmaster & Frau are announced at the Festmaster’s Ball, held yearly in September.

1962 Festmaster Don Rice pictured above

The first Festmaster was Don Rice in 1962 at the second Oktoberfest. The first four festmasters were chosen by Bob Abbott, president of the board of directors of Oktoberfest. Bob Abbott chose these members that were part of a golfing foursome; Don Rice, Ray Ping, Roy Kumm & John Coleman; who had first proposed the idea of a festival to lift the spirits of La Crosse residents during a time when so many had lost their manufacturing jobs.

1964 Festmaster Roy Kumm with his granddaughters, Kristine, left, and Sandra, right, pictured above

In 1968 when Oktoberfest left the Chamber of Commerce and incorporated into its own La Crosse Festivals, the public was encouraged to submit nominations for Festmaster. Professional success, community volunteer involvement, personal ethics, family, age, and the availability to meet the year-long obligations of the honor were qualities needed. All entries are then reviewed and voted on by the Board of Trustees, who consist of all the former festmasters.

1965 Festmaster John Coleman pictured above

1970 Festmaster Cully Prinz and his wife Stubby in the Maple Leaf Parade

The search and nominations for the new Festmaster begin shortly after Oktoberfest is over. Entries must be submitted by January, at which point, a three-month selection process begins. The list is narrowed to 10 and then to 5. The final five are listed in order of preference by each trustee and ballots are sent to the current trustee president. He and the immediate past Festmaster open and count the votes. They are the only two who know the identity of the newly chosen man whose code name is “Herman.” Herman is contacted in late March to accept this honor.

The Festmasters in 2009 pictured above

To be chosen as Festmaster is considered to be one of the highest honors for any man in the La Crosse area. The new Festmaster & his wife known as the Frau, are announced in September at the Festmaster’s Ball, the most regal and special evening in La Crosse with over 1,000 attendees who dress in their festive suits and gowns. This event is open to the public with advanced reservations. Meet our 2019 Oktoberfest Festmaster & Frau here.

The Fraus in 2009 pictured above

Traditional Oktoberfest Fashions of the Woman’s Dirndl

You may have seen or heard of a dirndl, but what is it exactly and how did it come to be the traditional Oktoberfest fashion worn by women? A dirndl is the name of a woman’s dress traditionally worn in southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Alpine regions of Italy. The dirndl is a folk costume (in German – Tracht), and today is generally regarded as a traditional dress for women and girls in the Alps. It developed during the 19th century, originally worn by Alpine peasants as work clothes while they cleaned, worked on farms and in fields.

Today the term “dirndl” refers to a dress with a tight bodice, featuring an often deep rectangular or round neckline, a wide high-waisted skirt (whose length changes with prevailing fashions), and an apron. Styles and designs vary, from simple to high-end.

  1. Crown braids are the traditional hairstyle worn.
  2. The blouse accentuates the style of the dirndl; different styles include delicately hand-embroidered pieces, blouses with extravagant ruffles and lace, or simple ones with straight sleeves. It is short in length, reaching to just below the bust. Most blouses are white; typical materials are cambric, linen, or lace. Short puff sleeves are most popular, although narrow sleeves (short or long) are also common. The neckline may be high, V-shaped, balconette, or heart-shaped.
  3. The bodice (in German – Mieder or Leiberl) is sewn onto the skirt, although before the 1930s the two were separate. Both are made from colored or printed material, usually cotton, linen, velvet, or silk. The bodice is typically made in a single piece, with the join in the front center, secured by lacing, buttons, or a hook-and-eye closure or a zip.
  4. The dirndl skirt is wide and folds in to accentuate at the waist, making any woman look beautiful in a dirndl. It was originally ankle-length but in more modern designs, is mid-length accented with an apron.
  5. Stockings are worn and typically white in color and knee-length.
  6. Traditional German-style shoes and comfortable ones, we might suggest to wear during Fest if you plan to be on your feet all day!

In the late 1800s, around 1870, the dirndl became widely popular among the upper echelons of society.  Suddenly, the simple dresses made of practical fabrics were transformed into very stylish, colorful dresses often made of silk, satin, and other expensive fabrics.

Germans, Austrian, Swiss, and Scandinavian people migrated to North America in the 19th century. Across the US then and today, people celebrate their folklore heritage at community events and festivals wearing the dirndl as we do at Oktoberfest in La Crosse. See more traditional Oktoberfest fashions here.

The History of Oktoberfest in La Crosse

The first Oktoberfest, USA, was held on October 13, 14, and 15, 1961…but the planning began many months before. In early 1960, civic leaders had agreed that La Crosse needed a community-wide activity of some sort. The city had been without such an event since 1921. Because that earlier celebration had been a winter carnival, many of the leaders were in favor of renewing this idea as a La Crosse tradition.

However, there were problems involved with holding a winter event on the same dates each year. First, as we all know, it is virtually impossible to predict the winter weather in Wisconsin from day to day, much less a year in advance. Second, assuming the worst, the costs of providing artificial ice and snow were prohibitive. Finally, there were several winter carnivals in the area, including the internationally known St. Paul Carnival. The proximity of Minneapolis and its highly successful summer festival, Aquatennial, tended to rule out a similar event. Although neither festival was completely dismissed, it was agreed upon that a fall celebration was the best answer.

During the fall of 1960, several officials of the La Crosse based G. Heileman Brewing Company, Roy Kumm, Don Rice, John Coleman, and Ray Ping were also discussing an annual promotion. News of these discussions spread through the firm, eventually reaching the malt house, where two of the employees suggested having an Oktoberfest. One was John Dickow, who while in the army was stationed in Germany and attended Munich’s fall festival. The idea was quickly accepted, for two primary reasons:

  1. October is the time of color, as the leaves change from summer green to the brilliant fall colors.
  2. Early October usually marks the end of the harvest and the preparation for winter. It was believed that a festival at this time would provide an ideal “relief valve” and a way to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.

As the idea for an Oktoberfest grew, it quickly became apparent that there would be much more to do than could be handled by a single firm. It was agreed that the Oktoberfest should be a completely civic enterprise. Early in 1961, brewery officials contacted the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce and proposed the idea to chamber members. Oktoberfest in La Crosse was accepted, and both agreed that the chamber would act as the sponsoring organization.

An Oktoberfest Committee was established to oversee the proposed annual celebration. This committee set forth five primary objectives for the fall festival:

  1. to promote local pride in La Crosse
  2. to obtain national publicity for La Crosse
  3. to promote “tourism” to La Crosse and the Coulee Region
  4. to involve a large number of people
  5. to break even financially, while remaining a non-profit organization

The almost unbelievable growth of Oktoberfest, USA, since that first year has made reality of all the objectives. It was conceived as a holiday for the community and accepted by the community on those terms. In 1962, the name “Oktoberfest” was registered with the State of Wisconsin. In 1963, “Oktoberfest, USA” was registered and listed as a trademark with the federal government. In 1965, the newly-formed La Crosse Festivals, Inc., purchased the assets of Oktoberfest from the Chamber of Commerce and became the sponsoring organization.

Fun Facts: The first Oktoberfest in La Crosse was called a “farm show” by many people. A cow chip throwing contest and catching a greased pig were attractions. Old-fashioned steam engines also participated in a demo of early log cutting during the lumber era of La Crosse. Art exhibits, train rides, and a rodeo were also favorite early events in 1962 that took place.