We are still in Dirndl-mood, the Oktoberfest is going on in Munich and all we see is people in their Tracht. But the traditional garments of the German-speaking regions is not limited to festivals like the Oktoberfest or to other isolated regional or traditional events. The Dirndl is fashion, and by its nature, also a reflection of the fashion trends. It also has served as a source of inspiration for many designers. Today, I would like to share how the dirndl made it onto the couture runway of one of the biggest luxury brands in the world. Let me take you to the Chanel Métiers d’Art runway show in Salzburg in 2014.
You can also watch my video here:
The Chanel Video
You may remember the video for the collection where Cara Delevingne and Pharrell Williams turn into Empress Sisi and her husband Emperor Francis Joseph I. at night. When I first watched the video, it looked a bit like out of a marketing book for holidays in Austria – people wearing Dirndl and the famous royal couple. But there is more to this video directed by Karl Lagerfeld himself.
Let’s start with the obvious – Cara Delevingne plays the Empress and there is a series of movies about her life from the 1950s, the “Sissy-movies”. Romy Schneider who played Sissy (her name is actually spelled Sisi but the movie turned it into Sissy) became world famous because of these movies. Why is this important for a Chanel campaign? Schneider was a frequent client of Chanel and wore the brand in movies in the 1970s directed by Luchino Visconti – a classic Karl that he incorporated such a detail in his own movie.
Romy Schneider as Sissy in the 1950s.
But let’s not get carried away with this – what else does Sisi stand for? The Dirndl and the Tracht of Austria and Bavaria. If you want to learn more about this – I have just done a Youtube video about it which I linked here. The Austrian Empress originally came from Bavaria and frequently wore the Dirndl – which was very fashionable at the time when the upper class and aristocracy spent their summer holidays in the countryside. The Viennese Court frequently went to the Salzkammergut, which is not too far from Salzburg, and Sisi is said to have enjoyed being there more than in Vienna.
The Setting of the Runway Show
And this brings me to the setting of the runways show: The location was the famous Leopoldskron Palace in Salzburg – yes, the one where they filmed The Sound of Music. (Do you see why I was a bit apprehensive about the collection at first?) But also this location choice is not a coincidence. Firstly, Salzburg until today has a very close tradition of the Tracht, the traditional costume. The people of the region “live” the Tracht, it is not uncommon to see them doing their shopping in a Dirndl or enjoying a coffee in a Trachten suit. The Salzburger Festspiele, the annual classical music festival, was a major driver for the development of the Tracht and the Dirndl as the well-to-do visitors, musicians, actors and celebrities liked to attend in the traditional costumes.
It would not be Lagerfeld, if there was not any reference to the 18th century and Rococo. As I mentioned in my article Exploring Karl Lagerfeld, the designer had a big passion for this period and was an avid collector of 18th century furniture. Furthermore, many of his garments were inspired by the 18th century. And for the runway show, Lagerfeld chose Leopoldskron Palace – probably not because it was the “Sound of Music Palace” but because it was built in Rococo-style and also the interior reflects the period.
Tracht as a Source of Inspiration for Lagerfeld
It was not the first time that Lagerfeld was inspired by Tracht. Already in the 1970s, he created a dress for Chloé which was inspired by the Dirndl. But where did this passion for Tracht come from?
Why did Lagerfeld chose Tracht as a source of inspiration? The designer was German but in his hometown Hamburg in Northern Germany it was not really common to wear Tracht. However, there are pictures of Lagerfeld as a young boy and teenager in Lederhosen. Bear in mind, Lagerfeld was born in 1933, the year when the National-Socialists came into power in Germany. As I mentioned in my article about the history of the Dirndl, the Nazis used the Dirndl and the Tracht to create a “uniform” for the German race and people across the Reich were encouraged to were the traditional costume. Alternatively, Lagerfeld was born into a well-to-do family who may have spent their holidays in Bavaria or Austria. He may have been exposed to the Tracht there as well.
Hudson Kroenig walking down the runway in Lederhosen.
Whatever the reason, Lagerfeld said in an interview, that he really liked the Tracht. When the young boy Hudson Kroenig walked down the runway in Lederhosen, fashion journalist Tim Blanks wrote in Vogue that he then saw Karl as a young boy walking down the runway.
Analysis of the Chanel Métiers-D’Art 2014/15 Collection
Let’s start with the obvious, there were Dirndls – some more obvious than others.
This version is the most obvious interpretation of the Dirndl. It could be spotted at the Oktoberfest in Munich. Especially the sheer blouse adds to the modern interpretation. From afar, the accessoires and buttons on the corsage look like the ones from traditional Dirndls, but at a closer look, we can see that they are made from pearls – Chanel meets Tracht.
I personally liked this interpretation of the Dirndl – it is very “Lagerfeld” – the silhouette and neckline reference the Dirndl and also the floral embroidery references traditional Trachten pattern. Also the chocker necklace looks rather traditional. But Lagerfeld turned it into a modern version – which could even be worn to a rock concert or festival – with the overall styling and make-up.
The dress above reminded me of the “Leibkittel” from the Austrian Salzkammergut-region which I have mentioned in my Dirndl-article. This was a narrower-cut and lighter dress which was used for work in the late 19th century. Lagerfeld added a leather corsage, reminiscent of the top part of the dirndl. The dress features a tiny floral patter with borders which also points to the Tracht.
There were also references to the blouse of the Dirndl which sometimes features laces. At the same time, these laces could be interpreted as a nod to 18th century fashion.
If there are Dirndls, there are Lederhosen as well, of course. Many outfits incorporated more traditional-looking Lederhosen. Sometimes with a twist as they are very short. Furthermore, he dressed women in this garment which is traditionally worn by men. (But more and more women (like me) have discovered the benefits of the Lederhosen, as the Dirndl is cut extremely tight.) They were then also paired with knit-jackets reminiscent of the traditional Trachten-jackets. I liked it when Lagerfeld paired them with contemporary items such as the big knit-cardigan above. The colour-scheme and style of this cardigan are still a nod to the Tracht.
Again, it would not be Lagerfeld if he did not merge diametrically-opposed styles. There are motorcycle jackets paired with Lederhosen. Long trousers featuring the pattern of the signature embroidery of the Lederhosen.
Incorporating brown suede leather, the material of the traditional Lederhosen, is yet another reference of the Tracht.
My favourite interpretation of the Lederhosen was a sheer top with floral embroidery which was reminiscent of the suspenders of the traditional trousers.
Lagerfeld with Pharrell Williams and Geraldine Chaplin who play the scene when Chanel got inspired by the jacket of a lift boy at a hotel in Mittersill.
It wouldn’t be Chanel without the jackets and coats. There is actually a special connection between Gabrielle Chanel and Austria and especially the Salzburg region. The location choice which I discussed above was most likely not a coincidence. At a hotel in Mittersill, which is not too far from the city of Salzburg, Chanel spotted the jacket of a lift boy which served as the source of inspiration for her signature jacket for women. In Lagerfeld’s Chanel-Video, Pharrell Williams is that very lift boy. Coco Chanel (Geraldine Chaplin) asks him where he got the jacket from. The lift boy arrogantly answers “They only made it for me.” Chanel turns to the audience, “Well, I’m going to make it … for me.”
The jacket above also reflects the 18th century again – Lagerfeld repeatedly took inspiration from French military uniforms of the time.
Designs for the men directly referenced, the “Trachten-Janker”, a typical men’s jacket made from tumbled lambswool.
There were also jackets with contemporary cut – again they picked up Trachten-elements, e.g. some the signature colours or they featured floral patterns which are a nod to Trachten-embroideries.
Overall, the collection featured many of the signature Trachten-colours, such as dark green.
Red paired with black or a dark blue or black is popular Trachten-colour combination as well.
White on blue paired with embroidery in red and green is typical of Trachtenoutfits and this leads me to the materials.
Knit is one of “the” signature techniques of Trachten-outfits and it often features embroidery – often florals.
This brings me to the Edelweiss – the Alpine flower which is one of the symbols used for Trachten-outfits.
It was no surprise that the flower was incorporated. I just did not really click with the designs – to me it was sometimes a bit too blunt. I preferred it when they were a tiny detail on a more contemporary design.
Patterns featuring landscapes or nature scenes are very common for Trachten. The dress above does not look like Tracht at first sight – the scene on the sheer top, however, shows ducks at a pond which is yet another clear Trachten-reference.
There were many references to Trachten-accessoires, such as white stockings (often as tihgts in this collection) or hats. The latter reference the hats for men and women in Bavaria and Western Austria.
The Charivari is a chunky chain or necklace made from silver or silver-plated. Similar to charm bracelets, gemstones, coins, horn discs or even animal paws or teeth are used as charms. It can be seen as featuring hunting trophees. When visiting events such as the Oktoberfest, you will see the Charivari hanging on the Lederhosen.
Lagerfeld paired the Charivari with a slim cut sheath dress – which could also be a nod to the linen Trachten-shirts for men when taking a closer look at the neckline and button bar.
The Kropfband is a signature Trachten-accessory. This chocker necklace is often worn with the Dirndl. Originally it was worn to cover up a goiter. Lagerfeld used this choker in its original form as a necklaces but he also created belts referencing the Kropfband.
I personally liked the outfits most which were subtle references to the Tracht which were using the topic without being too literal. For example, there was a top-skirt combination where the top featured butterflies and the skirt was made of some type of feathers which picked up on the butterflies.
Another nice interpretation was a blue dress with feathers – a subtle nod to the above-mentioned nature scenes in the Tracht and again, referencing the 18th century with the signature layered silhouette.
Lagerfeld went even further and also created a chocolate brown leather skirt and jacket in a contemporary silhouette with floral embroidery. Unfortunately, the white tights (also a reference to the Tracht) and overall styling distract from the beauty of the items.
Similar to what Lagerfeld did for Paris-Bombay in 2012, there are some obvious Chanel pieces in the collection as well. I liked one item in particular which came with a surprise factor. The red long coat looked like the signature Chanel-coat at first sight.
The Bollenhut, a Trachten-hat from the Schwarzwald-region.
After looking closely, I spotted small red pompons. Clearly, Lagerfeld referenced the Bollenhut, a Trachten-hat in the Schwarzwald-region.
Similar to what I mentioned in my article about Karl Lagerfeld’s “Orientalism”, Lagerfeld’s goal was not to create a Trachten-collection in the narrower sense of the traditional costume. Neither did he aim at a literal translation of Trachten-elements into his designs. Lagerfeld said about India that he created a “fantasy-version” of it in his head for Paris-Bombay. According to him, travelling in his mind may be more beautiful than going in real life. Judging from this collection, I would say that he created a “fantasy-Trachten-world”.
Some of these garments were more obvious but I appreciated the “fantasy-approach”: Edelweiss on a contemporary jacket, 18th century blouses paired with Tyrolian/Bavarian hats. When Lagerfeld travelled in his mind, he did come up with something very beautiful.
What are your thoughts about this collection? Do you think Lagerfeld’s “fantasy-approach” to the Tracht was successful? Let me know in the comments below or on my social channels (Instagram and YouTube).
 Tostmann 2008, p. 20+25.
Gexi Tostmann, Das Dirndl : alpenländische Tradition und Mode, Wien/München 2008.
Picture sources Title Image