I write a lot about how to dress for Oktoberfest, and yet one of the most-asked questions I still get is: “Do I have to dress up for Oktoberfest?” The answer to that is both simple and not-so-simple, depending on your follow-up questions. And there are always follow-up questions.
This post will address both the simple and not-so-simple answers to the question of whether or not you have to dress for Oktoberfest. You can search for your specific question below in the Table of Contents and get your answers, or read them all! Maybe you’ll learn something new.
If you have a question of your own that I haven’t addressed, leave it in the comments at the bottom and I’ll get right on it!
Do you have to dress up for Oktoberfest?
Plain and simple, no, you do not have to dress up for Oktoberfest. Strictly speaking, there are no rules that say you must wear the proper Oktoberfest attire in order to attend. There is no official Oktoberfest dress code you must follow. There will be no repercussions if you do not dress up for Oktoberfest.
If that’s all you wanted to know, then there you go. If you were concerned about finding yourself in Oktoberfest jail come September, then that’s all you need to know. (At least, where outfits are concerned. There are plenty more ways to get yourself arrested at Oktoberfest – don’t forget to pack extra bail money.)
However, the question of “Do you have to dress up for Oktoberfest?” always always always comes with follow-up questions. And that’s where the simplicity of this answer gets a little murky. There’s always a reason someone asks this, and it’s usually personal to them.
BUT, there are still common threads. So let’s pull at some! Here are some of the most common follow-up questions / reasons for asking this that make this question not-so-straightforward.
If you’re ready to start choosing outfits, scroll to the bottom of this post for the list of all my Oktoberfest outfit posts in one place. And see my full How to Dress for Oktoberfest post for a list of all the dirndls and blouses you see me wearing in these pictures.
Is it frowned upon to not dress in German attire?
Even though you don’t have to dress up for Oktoberfest, is it frowned upon not to?
First of all, haters gonna hate. Let’s just get that out of the way. And I really hope you are doing you and you alone and not putting too much stock into what perfect strangers might think about you for the 0.5 seconds that they do. The only opinion you need to worry about is your own. The End.
Having said that, it does still come down to how you want to feel at Oktoberfest. By that I mean, will you still have a great time in regular clothes? Or will you frown upon yourself for not going all in?
There are too many people at Oktoberfest (millions) and therefore no collective opinion on dressing up. BUT, what I will say is that there’s a good chance you’ll be upset with yourself for not dressing up.
Should you dress up for Oktoberfest?
It’s true that some locals might turn their noses up at the obvious tourists in jeans and t-shirts. That’s their own problem. More importantly though is the fact that dressing up for Oktoberfest is a HUGE part of the whole experience, and one you might regret missing out on. Personally, I will always say YES you should dress up for Oktoberfest.
Yes, you can absolutely attend Oktoberfest, hang out in the beer tents, drink huge beers and eat huge pretzels, sing at the top of your lungs, etc. all in your regular clothes. But the whole time you’ll feel like an outsider, like you’re not actually part of the crowd. I don’t want to say you’ll feel like a tag-along, but yeah, ya might.
I’ll say it again: dressing up at Oktoberfest is a major part of the experience. So while you won’t get eggs thrown at you or booed out of the tents (at least, not for what you’re wearing), there’s a good chance you will regret not dressing up. And if you have more than one day at Oktoberfest planned, after the first day, you’ll definitely be aching to get some outfits ASAP for the next day!
And when that happens, check out this post which covers where to buy Oktoberfest outfits in Munich.
Do most people dress up for Oktoberfest?
Well, do most people at Oktoberfest dress up? Do most women wear dirndls? Do many people wear lederhosen? Unfortunately, I don’t have any legit statistics for you on this front, but the short answer is YES.
Some people estimate that about half the people at Oktoberfest wear some sort of Oktoberfest attire, but I personally put that estimate a little higher and call those who dress up for Oktoberfest “the majority.” And I’ve even just gone through all my Oktoberfest photos to verify this.
I know people ask this because no one wants to be the dork who shows up to the party in a “costume” when no one else is dressed up. I wholeheartedly understand this; I am super awkward all the time; I have embarrassed myself at so many parties. Showing up to a festival in a foreign country where there are literally millions of people to potentially judge your outfit is intimidating.
But listen to me – your resident Oktoberfest expert – you will not be the only one wearing a dirndl or lederhosen to Oktoberfest. If you want more proof, look at any photo from Oktoberfest on this website. Or just do a Google search for Oktoberfest photos. Dirndls and lederhosen a-plenty! In short, wearing traditional Bavarian attire to Oktoberfest is the norm, not the exception.
Will we look like silly tourists if we dress up?
If you do decide to dress up for Oktoberfest, will you look like a silly tourist? Well, that all depends.
If you take dressing up for Oktoberfest seriously, then no, you won’t. You’ll look—and feel—like you belong there and you’ll have the best time ever.
If you treat dressing up for Oktoberfest like a joke, then yes, you will absolutely look like a silly, clueless, ridiculous tourist. You will stand out (in a bad way) and you’ll likely be treated like a silly, clueless, ridiculous tourist as well.
Dressing up in general does not make you look like a silly tourist. Everyone at Oktoberfest dresses up – locals and tourists alike. All genders, all ages, all budgets, all shapes/sizes/colors. It’s not the fact that you’ve dressed up that will make you stand out; it’s how you have dressed.
Please, also read this post: 19 Truly Embarrassing Things to Never Do at Oktoberfest
The right way to dress for Oktoberfest
If you want to blend in, show respect, and have a great time, you’ll want to stick to traditional, tasteful attire. You don’t need a boatload of money to do this; you just need to follow a few simple guidelines. See my post on How to Dress for Oktoberfest to see what you should wear and how to wear it.
The wrong way to dress for Oktoberfest
On the other hand, if you wear an “Oktoberfest costume” of any kind, a corny dirndl or lederhosen T-shirt, or any other cheaply made and obviously mocking outfit, you will stick out like a clueless tourist. Stay away from:
- Anything called “Beer Garden Babe,” “Flirty Fraulein,” (when even is this!?) or “Lederhosen Honey”
- An item where the dirndl and blouse are all one piece
- Anything with a skirt so short you’ll need a bikini wax
- Just about anything with the word “costume” in the description (not always applicable, but still a red flag)
- Anything from the party supply store
- Shirts that have dirndls and lederhosen printed on them
- The outfits where your boobs are the main focus
- Lederhosen (AKA “leather pants”) that are actually polyester or cotton (Yes, you can tell)
- Anything that makes you look like a leprechaun or Peter Pan (you’d be surprised)
- Any outfit shown with a fake beer prop instead of an actual beer
- All outfits that have clearly been photoshopped
- And any outfit that is both lederhosen and a dirndl in one
To see examples of every one of those, watch my Reel here.
Your Oktoberfest costume is probably offensive
It will be obvious that you aren’t taking your outfit seriously and that you think Bavarian culture is a joke. Your mocking “costume” may very well offend the locals, of which there are many. Remember – this festival takes place in Germany, not at your local fairgrounds. It is never appropriate to visit another country and wear an outfit to their cultural festival that makes fun of their culture.
Beyond that, many people think it’s hilarious to wear a legit costume to Oktoberfest. The one I see the most is the “Carry Me to Oktoberfest” costume. (Let’s be real, this looks more like a leprechaun than anything else.)
Not only will no one think this is funny, you also won’t be allowed into the beer tents. You read that right: the Oktoberfest bouncers don’t take kindly to people wearing costumes to Oktoberfest. And those guys are HUGE with lots of neck tattoos.
Will I look silly in an Oktoberfest outfit from Amazon?
The answer to this question echoes a lot of what I just said. It all depends.
Most of those ridiculous “Oktoberfest costumes” (I’m rolling my eyes so hard here) do come from Amazon. But you can also find totally respectable, beautiful, and perfectly acceptable dirndls and lederhosen on Amazon too. And all for pretty great prices!
The fact that you bought your outfit for Oktoberfest on Amazon is not automatically a deal-breaker. As before, it’s what you buy that matters. Instead of the shameful examples I listed above, check out the more tasteful Oktoberfest options like these:
- This beautiful blue/gold dirndl or this gold/silver dirndl, for example
- Pretty much anything from the Alte Liebe and Edelnice Trachtenmode Amazon brands is great
- Lederhosen from the Bavaria Trachten Amazon store are perfect and reasonably priced. This is actually where my women’s lederhosen came from and they are great quality for the price.
I trust that now you can spot the difference between traditional lederhosen from Amazon and “lederhosen” from Amazon. And the difference between a real dirndl and an “Octoberfest costume dress.” Right?
Practice what I preach
I have lots of dirndls, LOTS. I have dirndls that cost upwards of $500 and some I bought for just $50. Price does make some difference, but it doesn’t make all the difference. Because of how seriously I feel about this, I regularly wear dirndls from Amazon just to show you that you don’t have to spend a fortune on Oktoberfest outfits to still look and feel good. (And not offend other cultures as a bonus.)
I hope this has proven to you that you don’t need to spend loads of money on a dirndl or lederhosen you may only wear once, and that you can still find good-looking, traditional-style Oktoberfest attire on a budget.
This post might help: 12 Ways to Upgrade a Cheap Dirndl. Check out my simple Oktoberfest outfit hacks here for improving an Amazon purchase.
Will I appear distasteful if I dress up?
A lot of the times when people ask if they have to dress up for Oktoberfest, what they’re really asking is: “Is it OK to dress up for Oktoberfest?” Often times, the person honestly just doesn’t want to appear distasteful or offensive. And I applaud those people! You are good people!
There’s a lot involved here but, again, much of it you’ve already heard. Most of this has to do with what you wear and how you wear it. You should be able tell by now what makes an Oktoberfest outfit distasteful or offensive. Use that instinct when shopping.
Beyond the understanding to stay away from shameful costumes and such, this question often comes from simply feeling apprehensive about wearing another culture’s attire, when you don’t belong to that culture. From here, we enter the realm of cultural appropriation.
Is it cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is a complex topic to say the least, but at its core it is “when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.”[source]
Is it cultural appropriation when a non-Bavarian person wears a satirical Oktoberfest costume? Well, that certainly satisfies the criteria of “adoption of cultural elements” in a “disrespectful or stereotypical way.” However, I don’t know anyone who would refer to white Europeans as a minority group. (Anyone with at least two brain cells, that is.)
There have been a few opinion pieces written about dirndls/lederhosen at Oktoberfest as cultural appropriation (here, here, and here), but the argument is always the same: no, it’s not cultural appropriation as long as you do it respectfully.
So, whether or not you feel this falls into the category is up to your own comfort levels. But, if you do refrain from dressing up on these grounds, you also have to give up wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, drinking margaritas on May 5th, and, in fact, you probably shouldn’t be celebrating Oktoberfest at all.
Can non-Bavarians dress up for Oktoberfest?
If you’re wondering, in a general sense, if it’s OK for non-Bavarians to dress up for Oktoberfest, the answer is yes. Everyone at Oktoberfest is welcome and encouraged to wear the traditional attire, regardless of your background or country of origin, as long as you do so respectfully.
It’s really simple—wearing a cheap costume that mocks another culture will likely offend the people of that culture. Bavarians (the ones I’ve spoken to at least) do not mind non-Bavarians dressing up at Oktoberfest; it’s the inappropriate costumes they despise.
Is it shameful to wear outfits from Amazon?
I’m only repeating this because it gets asked so often, but buying your Oktoberfest outfit from Amazon does not inherently make it offensive or shameful. It’s what you buy and how you wear it.
I think the issue here is that the name “Amazon” has become synonymous with “cheap garbage.” And while that’s not completely off the mark, it’s still not entirely the case either.
There are Oktoberfest outfits from Amazon that scream “CHEAP GARBAGE HERE! I’M WEARING CHEAP GARBAGE EVERYONE!” There are also Oktoberfest outfits from Amazon that many local Bavarians would probably never know came from Amazon. For what it’s worth, I’ve also seen plenty of crap costume-quality outfits at reputable, German retailers as well.
So if you were one of the ones wondering if it is shameful/distasteful/offensive to wear an Oktoberfest outfit from Amazon, remember that where you get your outfit is not as important as what you get. (See my perfectly acceptable options from Amazon above.)
Is it OK to wear cheaper outfits?
In the same vein, many people don’t want to spend a lot on Oktoberfest outfits if they are only going to wear them one time. I totally get this. Those same people fear that buying a “cheaper” outfit is going to appear tacky, so why even bother?
Again, there are still ways to attend Oktoberfest on the cheap without looking cheap. However, you’re still probably going to need to spend more than $50 to do so.
If I’ve already lost you, know this: Oktoberfest ain’t cheap, period. Plane tickets to Munich are through the roof right now and getting a hotel anywhere near Oktoberfest is going to cost more than most places you’ve stayed. Liters of beer will run you about €15 each and food is up there too. If you are operating on a super strict budget, Oktoberfest is going to obliterate you, plain and simple.
That being said, there’s a big difference between a $50 Oktoberfest outfit and a $100 one. (Some of those acceptable Amazon dirndls I pointed out are only $79!) You’re going to blow thousands on this trip, so if you want to dress up, go ahead and spring for the decent-looking $100 Oktoberfest outfit over the $50 costume.
Would I be better off just wearing “normal” clothes?
When a person can’t decide whether or not they should dress up for Oktoberfest, they often ask:
- Would I better off just wearing “normal” clothes?
- Will we be out of place in regular American clothes?
- Should we/can we just wear jeans and a t-shirt?
Whether or not you would be “better off” just wearing your regular clothes has everything to do with your own comfort levels. If you would feel uncomfortable dressing up for Oktoberfest (for whatever reason), then you probably will be “better off” wearing your normal clothes, since that’s what you feel the most comfortable in. This way, you will probably have a much better experience.
If you would feel more comfortable in an outfit that would help you blend in (like some Oktoberfest attire), or in an outfit that wouldn’t make you stick out as a foreigner or first-timer, then you would be “better off” dressing up for Oktoberfest.
Only you can define what “better off” means in this case. The answer is: whatever is best for you.
Should you/can you just wear jeans and a tee shirt?
Absolutely, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt to Oktoberfest. You don’t have to dress up. You can wear whatever you want. Lots of people wear jeans and t-shirts to Oktoberfest. Even I do it on the rare occasion.
Unless you wear something incredibly attention-grabbing or inappropriate, you will blend in just fine wearing. When it comes down to it, wearing jeans and a t-shirt is far better than wearing a mocking Oktoberfest costume any day. Jeans > jokes, all the way.
In fact, I sell a bunch of popular Oktoberfest tees in my Wanderlusty Shop. Check them out in that link. (The best sellers are the Prost! and Ein Prosit tees.) And I’ve seen lots of people wearing these at Oktoberfest!
This also goes for whatever you define as “regular American clothes.” I’ll tell you right now, everyone already knows you’re American for about 50 other reasons besides what you’re wearing. There’s no hiding this fact, unfortunately. So don’t let that be a factor—just wear whatever you would be most comfortable wearing.
What if you don’t feel comfortable dressing up for Oktoberfest?
If you don’t think you’ll be comfortable dressing up for Oktoberfest, then don’t. It’s as simple as that! There are no rules that say you have to, and you’ll have a much better time if you’re comfortable in your own clothing.
If you’re worried about blending in and/or wanting to get the whole experience, well then that is just a choice you are going to have to make. Either way, the key to enjoying Oktoberfest is being present and not stressing about your outfit (or anything else) the whole time.
I’m a woman but I hate wearing dresses, what do I do?
I get asked this question so much: What should I wear if I don’t want to wear a dress? And my answer is always: Whatever you feel most comfortable in! But since I know you want more advice than that, hear this…
You can be a woman and not get excited about wearing a dirndl. In my everyday life, I almost never ever wear dresses. Most years, a dirndl is the only dress I wear all year. So I get it.
One option is always just to wear whatever you would normally wear to such an event, were it held in your home city. Just keep in mind you’ll be wearing it all day, sitting and dancing on benches in it, probably spilling beer and sauerkraut on it, in the chilly September air and inside the warm beer tents. Whatever you wear, make it functional and comfortable.
Lederhosen for women
Another option, if you’d still like to dress up for Oktoberfest, is female lederhosen. You can call them ladyhosen if you want; I do. While these are not exactly “traditional,” they are an acceptable alternative that won’t get you booed out of Bavaria.
You can usually choose from a couple of colors and about one style. They’re almost always on the shorter side of “shorts.” You can pair them with a few different shirts for multiple looks, and they actually are pretty comfortable. (Going to the bathroom is going to be about 10x more work than usual though, just FYI.) Here are some affordable options from Amazon:
- Women’s lederhosen, available in 3 colors. (I have dark brown.)
- Pair with a top like this blue and white gingham top (also comes in black and white), this ruffly white top, or this feminine gingham top (available in 4 colors).
And don’t forget, you can always purchase a pair of men’s lederhosen too, which come in more lengths, colors, and options.
I’m an old lady, will I look dumb in a dirndl?
This is literally a question I get asked so I’ll say it again: Oktoberfest is for everyone! There’s no reason an “old lady” shouldn’t be able to dress up.
What I think is the problem here is that Oktoberfest is, once again, being associated with the short, slutty (yeah I said it) beer maid costumes, not the beautiful and traditional dirndls of appropriate length and cleavage coverage.
I don’t care how old you are, you will not look dumb wearing a traditional dirndl to Oktoberfest. However, you will look dumb in a too-short beer maid costume. Everyone does.
Dirndl dresses come in various lengths from short to floor-length. The most common length is somewhere between the knees and ankles. The women you’ll see wearing the all-the-way-to-the-floor dirndls tend to be the “older” ones.
So if you consider yourself an “old lady” but still want to wear a dirndl, know that you have options! And if you want to wear something more common among women of “your age,” maybe go long.
All my Oktoberfest outfits posts
I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions about dressing up for Oktoberfest. If not, please leave your question in the comments below so we can help the most people! In the meantime, check out these other posts that address many Oktoberfest outfit questions:
- Where to Buy Lederhosen and Dirndls for Oktoberfest: In Munich and Online
- What to Wear to Oktoberfest: Complete & Honest Oktoberfest Clothing Guide
- Oktoberfest Shoes & Socks: Complete Guide for Men and Women + Where to Buy Now
- Bringing a Purse to Oktoberfest: Everything You Need to Know!
- The 7 Important Oktoberfest Scams You Need to Know About NOW
- 12 Easy Ways to Upgrade a Cheap Dirndl: Simple Oktoberfest Outfit Hacks
- Buying a Dirndl Online: 9 Crucial Things to Know First
Are you planning to dress up for Oktoberfest?
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