Photo: Lorraine Seal
Newcomers to Salzburg may be surprised by the prevalence of traditional dress in everyday life. Known as Tracht, traditional dress is regularly worn not just by those who work in tourist-related fields but also by ordinary people simply going about their lives.
Tracht – or in its plural form, Trachten – is seen for sale in the shop windows of Getreidegasse and Linzergasse, of Altermarkt and Waagplatz, all of which are popular with tourists. But it’s also sold in the shops of Europark, a large American-style enclosed mall on the western edge of the city, not an ordinary tourist destination. It can be purchased through specialised workshops scattered about the city. It is not inexpensive; Trachten is considered an investment in life.
Trachten comprises a variety of types. Most commonly for men it means Lederhose – leather trousers – reaching to the knee, to just below the knee or to the ankle. Lederhosen are generally worn with elaborate braces (or suspenders). Shirts may be checked in bright colours or loose white linen.
Typically Lederhosen are worn with knee-length heavy knit socks and thick soled leather shoes that fasten with a leather thong at the side. On the other hand, men may simply wear ordinary shoes or sandals.
Men’s traditional hats are felt, with or without feathers. Men may wear a traditionally styled jacket: high collared, lacking labels, trimmed with a contrasting colour, light-weight linen or thicker wool or knit.
Tracht for women generally means dirndls: full skirts and aprons of contrasting colours worn with tight-fitted bodices over a white blouse. Colours may be pastel or dark, bright or rich, even black. Patterns include flowers and stripes. Sometimes the apron or dress will be of brilliant satin or moiré so it shimmers in different shades as the light catches it.
Sometimes, however, women’s Tracht is more suit-like, a tightly fitted jacket over the pleated or flaring skirt. Or, like the men, they wear the collared, label-less jackets with contrasting trim with ordinary slacks or skirts.
While the idea of Lederhose and Dirndls may seem charmingly old fashioned and even quaint, Trachten is worn in Salzburg with panache and attitude enough to make it seem positively sophisticated. During Festival time, the lanes near the festival halls are filled with evening dress, and its here where dirndls may be seen at their most elegant, shining like jewels in the evening light.
You’ll see it at wedding parties at one of the beautiful Baroque churches, worn by both guests and bridal party. People wear it on Catholic fest days or even to ordinary Sunday mass. In many schools, youngsters wear it on the first day of classes. Once we saw a young woman whizzing along the street on a Vespa, head swallowed up in her helmet, her pink-patterned dirndl apron fluttering behind her in the wind.
Most of all, it’s extremely popular at festivals like September’s Rupertikirtag, where it’s seen in all its variations, expressing all sorts of individual style: Women in dirndls worn with expensive and fashionable high heels; Goth style, with black fishnet tights and Doc Marten boots; with flip-flops, sandals or tennis shoes. Men in lederhosen with checked shirts, with torn T-shirts, with no shirts. Children in miniature lederhosen and jackets or dirndls follow parents in similar dress. And I wish I’d got a snapshot of one little little girl in a pink dirndl, her copper-red hair framing her pretty face, on which she wore big bright pink sunglasses.
So enjoy the Tracht. It’s all part of the beauty that is Salzburg!