NEW BRAUNFELS — Finding the right dirndl or the perfect lederhosen to dress up for Wurstfest is not the easiest thing to do — especially in New Braunfels, where the supply of German clothes is surprisingly limited.
Since the festival begins Friday, time is running short to find a costume, but here’s a start:
• Friesenhaus — When searching for appropriate Wurstfest attire, the first place mentioned is usually Friesenhaus, the German restaurant and bakery at 148 S. Castell that also sells dirndls, lederhosen and T-shirts.
This year, said restaurant server Jessica Dibler last week, the dirndls and lederhosen are “selling crazily.”
Stuffed on racks near the hostess’ station were peasant blouses; classic dirndls in sturdy cotton fabrics; showy dirndls fashioned from rich, silky or gauzy fabrics and decorated with sequins and embroidered trim; long and short dirndl skirts.
“It’s the same basic design,” Dibler said. But the design is so popular that when there’s a new shipment, “all the employees fight over them.”
Friesenhaus also carries hats and lederhosen for every male size, from child up, and a bin of lederhosen shoes and socks.
Maegan Fretwell, another server who also sells the German costumes, said the first thing customers ask about is “the size — because American and European sizes are different.”
Friesenhaus always has a selection of clothes for sale, but the Wurstfest costume racks were put together two or three weeks ago, Fretwell said, by Cornelia Dirks, who owns Friesenhaus with her husband, Gunter, and son, Walter. The Dirks, originally from Germany, have operated Friesenhaus for about five years.
The dirndl display that Cornelia put together, Fretwell said, came “off the Internet from Germany.” The dirndls range in price from $160-$300.
“You have to get them off the rack here,” she said, “or (go to) Fredericksburg.”
• Internet — An online search for “dirndls and lederhosen” can bring 125,000 results in 0.24 seconds and is one quick way to buy a Wurstfest costume, not counting delivery time from overseas.
The southern German word “dirndl” once referred to a young woman or girl, and sales ad copy for the classic laced-up bodice plays on that connection.
“This silhouette is attractively sexy for almost every variation of the female form, from a slender size 4 to a bountiful size 18 or more,” according to the “Dirndl and Tracht” information on German-clothing.com.
Generally, the basic “dirndl” is a blouse, a skirt, a laced bodice and an apron. The ancestors of the dirndl were the handmade clothes sewn by Alpine peasants. Working women and servants also wore the sturdy outfit, often paired with a shawl and, as is often the case, the Austrian upper classes eventually adapted the simple dirndl and used fine fabrics to make a new fashion statement.
Of course, the dirndl is the standard costume for German, Austrian and Bavarian feasts such as Oktoberfest. The dirndl’s simplicity, and the rugged appeal of lederhosen, make both costumes popular items wherever German festivals are held.
When ordering, beware of the difference between U.S. and European sizes — the American size 14 is a German size 44.
• Sts. Peter & Paul Church Thrift Shop — Renee Kneuper, a volunteer at the thrift shop, frequently receives dirndls and lederhosen, but “they go very fast.”
As early as September, “people ask when we’re going to put them out (from storage).” Kneuper admitted that in New Braunfels “it’s very difficult to find (a dirndl),” adding, “I have no idea why — it’s something everyone is always looking for.”
Last year, the thrift shop offered four or five dirndls and lederhosen. “We had winter pants too.” The price, she said, “depends on the condition.”
• At Wurstfest — Across Landa Street from Wurstfest will be the Knights of Columbus Hall featuring arts and crafts. Inside is the place for last-minute costume seekers wanting authentic dirndls and lederhosen — the booth of German-born owner Paula Kager, owner of The Kuckucksnest of Fredericksburg.
“The standard (Wurstfest) people come to us, the Opas and Omas,” Kager said.
But they visit her shop in Fredericksburg long before Wurstfest, searching the store’s racks for new dirndls and lederhosen or items to freshen up favorite outfits
Kager carries the classic dirndl — think “Sound of Music” — a three-piece outfit with skirt, blouse and vest. A one-piece dirndl, a dress, comes with apron. She also carries modern mini versions and costumes adorned with spangles and elegant trim.
Mary Jane shoes or clogs to be worn with the dirndl also will be for sale, as well as little purses to hold some of those old German Deutschmarks.
In her shop, the demand for traditional German and Austrian clothing, or “trachten,” rises in the weeks before Wurstfest.
“This time of year, very much so,” she said.
Her business has been so good that she has expanded and offers a variety of clothing items in each category. That includes the complete lederhosen and necessary hats and socks for men and complete outfits for boys and girls.
Her shop, at 3140 N. Texas Hwy. 16, Fredericksburg, is “the only one in a 500-mile radius,” she said.