• 26. - 28. February 2021
  • Messezentrum Salzburg

The Tracht Phenomenon: The contrasts that shape alpine fashion

Alpine fashions are timeless evergreens - for hunters and businesswomen, mountaineers and aristocratic brides. On the occasion of the Tracht & Country show, Reed Exhibitions Austria has tried to find some explanations for this phenomenon. Here’s why exactly these contrasts and contradictions make Tracht clothing so successful.

By Sylvia Nachtmann, Freelance journalist

©Reed Exhibtions Austria / Marco Riebler
What’s the secret of Tracht evergreens? Opposites attract – across all classes, professions and denominations. So many materials and designs, occasions and wearers. How is it possible?

Tracht is an evergreen. Tracht fashions and the whole array of alpine styles always manage to remain fresh, new and sharp. Each evergreen has its own very special secret – but what could it be? Can the Tracht & Country offer an explanation? Or a few ideas? Maybe it’s the way opposites seem go so well together, throughout all aspects and applications, materials and designs, occasions and wearers – in all classes and professions? But how? Isn’t the harmony of opposites a contradiction in itself? Not when we’re talking about ‘Alpine Styles’. This is a Tracht & Tracht fashions phenomenon, as it’s the only category in which contrasts reconcile so immaculately. And this can be observed again and again at the Tracht & Country.


Opposites attract

Incredible but true. Tracht combines the contrasts of tradition and modernity. Here, Tracht is for everyone – from the hunter to the businesswoman, from mountaineers to aristocratic brides, all ages, all sizes, all occasions; from alpine pastures to yachts in harbours, rural and urban, country farmyard and palace courtyard. There are charming and hearty traditional styles blend with straight-faced authenticity. Coarse linens and silk brocades, lovingly hand-crafted details meet purism, subtlety, sophistication and tasteful kitsch. Plunging cleavages and buttoned-up closures, traditional Haferlschuhe and modern sneakers, ankle boots and calf socks, deer horn and frog’s mouth pleats...         Can there be a more varied and lively fashion than our ‘Alpine Style’? Hardly!

Deep roots, strong ideals, powerful emotions

The portfolio on show at the Tracht & Country is every bit as colourful and varied in regard of the exhibitors and visitors at the fair. One thing is certain, Tracht is a part of everyday life – which is why it’s so successful, so popular, so deeply connected to our ideals and emotions. Of course, the Tracht world loves to talk about ‘roots’. We adore displaying our origins. Indeed, the roots of Tracht grow deep! Like all mighty trees, even the greenest shoots and branches belong – and no storm can tear them down.

©Reed Exhibtions Austria / Marco Riebler
The Dirndl dress is a popular all-season item and unites all kinds of contrasts: slim and snug tops with sweeping dress bottoms.


From the farmhouse to the emperor’s palace

It all began in the mists of rural time, when Tracht and country clothing obeyed strict rules and demanded modesty and simplicity. Ultimately, around 200 years ago, white and black lace blouses were allowed, although silk stockings were still a punishable offence. The subtle, natural colours of wool, loden and linen slowly took on infusions of blue and vermillion. The silk cravat was added in the 18th century. The increased use of bright rococo colours, lace elements and flowers heralded a new age of dedication to all kinds of details.


Styrian hats as christening gifts

Then came Archduke Johann. He is said to have given a typical Styrian hat to his grandnephew, later crowned Emeror Franz Joseph, on the occasion of his christening; and to have invited him out to hunt 16 years later, on one condition – he was to ride out in a typical Styrian alpine Tracht suit. Franz Joseph obeyed, and for the whole of his life remained an avid wearer of Tracht. Franz Joseph was a role model for his subjects and fashionable courtiers, who proceeded to imitate him. Tracht, originally produced for agricultural workers, had now become an item for the nobility, woodsmen and citizens, the country and the city. A contradiction?


Shape and feel

The Dirndl dress is a popular all-season item and unites all kinds of contrasts: slim and snug tops with sweeping dress bottoms. Then there are contrasts in fabrics, colours and designs on a single item, plain or patterned, weaved or printed, contrasts or matches between the corpus, dress and apron. Bushy wool, fluffy loden and luxurious leather, soft and sturdy textures, all creating in harmonious contrast to unfussy linen, printed cottons, jacquard fabrics, fine silk weaves and brocades.

With details such as buttons made of horn, wood and metal as subtle eye-catchers the options are endless.

©Reed Exhibtions Austria / Marco Riebler
Vive la différence! Contrasts in fabrics, colours and designs on a single item, plain or patterned, weaved or printed, contrasts or matches between the corpus, dress and apron.


Purism and sophisticated kitsch

There are classic images like the Operettendirndl as in the ‘Weißes Rössl’ period film, the rather over-the-top Munich beer festival ‘Wies’n Dirndl’, folklore Dirndls heavily adorned with jewellery, sumptuous broaches, decorative charivari chains – and chamois hairs to adorn men’s hats. Is the contrast too large to purist designer Tracht items in the latest ultra-fashionable collections? There are lederhosen shorts alongside sophisticated leather and janker jackets, leather dresses and accessories all closely linked with the materials used back then. And they have remained stylish and valuable to the present day.


Quality from enduring tradition

It’s important to mention another key distinguishing feature of Tracht clothes and accessories. Quality! It’s an obligation that comes from long-standing traditions, now being respected and upheld by the younger generations. Quality can be handed down through the years. Regionality at its best ensures the use of locally sourced and produced materials, some now also with eco-label certification, manufactured in nearby workshops and factories, crafted by hand – right through to the decorative finishes like quill embroidery, contrasting yarn embroidering, quilting adorned with figures, hand-printed fabrics, knotted fringes... The list is long, and by no means complete.


The hunter and the businesswoman…

...the free climber, manager and manageress... What sort of people are they? They’re all people with zest, who wear the right Tracht to every occasion – wherever and whenever – at work, at leisure or at formal festivities. Challenging craft skills in a digital age, nostalgia and high-tech – none look out of place. Those nostalgic for the spirit of the old mountaineering films have their day. 50s-style dresses can be found with minimal Tracht symbolism, and valuable, eye-catching accessories. Sturdy, sporty weather-proof footwear stands alongside colourful ballerina shoes with chiselled buckles, elegant pumps with decorative quilting. There’s the ideal outfit for absolutely every situation – and from head to toe. After all, hats round off the look, whether made of loden to keep out the cold, or lightly weaved straw for protection from the sun. The most important aspect of all is the joy in so much detail, in the overall result, in creating a look, and in the pleasure of being seen. Maybe now you know the perennial secret of Tracht and alpine style – maybe?