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What to Wear: Oktoberfest

One of the upsides of living in the US is the number of holidays we’ve imported that help break up the year. In the spring, we have Cinco de Mayo, and come fall we have Oktoberfest, which is all about salty, rich foods and good brews. In fact, the 16-day Bavarian festival has spread far and wide from its Bavarian roots. Here, we have the perfect style picks (no lederhosen, we promise) whether you’re celebrating in a pub, restaurant, or beer garden.



Unless you’re prepared to slip on a dirndl, a traditional dress for Alpine peasants in the Bavarian region (think the German version of Swiss Miss), we’ve opted for inspired-by picks for more modern wardrobes. This blousy peasant top with sweet crochet trim ($34.99 by Billabong) nods to the festival’s country roots. Rather than the typical apron dress, go for an embroidered floral skirt instead—patterns with a dark background give a nod to Bavarian prints. This mini-skirt style by Haute Hippie ($565) is lushly detailed and can go from day to night. (If you’re beer garden-bound, head to Topshop for more affordable floral skirts that will hold up to a spill or two.) For chillier nights, throw on a heavyweight wool cardigan, like this one in cream by APC ($265). And accessorize with more floral, which in this case, equals more fun. Try this floral wristlet, which will hold your keys, cards, lipstick and phone, while adding a charming crafty feel ($17.80). Or opt for this seasonal iPhone case with a whimsical and nouveau print by Marc by Marc Jacobs ($25).

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Last festive touches: dirndls usually come styled with a jaunty “trachten” hat. Lucky for you, several online purveyors like Bavaria-Lederhosen ship internationally to the States. (Get this one for $38.56). Classic brown lace-up country boots are also for sale, but we prefer these heeled versions from Aldo ($160), which will get more everyday wears paired with, say, your favorite jeans.



It’s not just the ladies who don headgear. Men can snag a rustic-looking trachten hat of their own, such as this charcoal felt design with twine detailing ($32.20). Clothing is a bit trickier; traditional Oktoberfest gear usually requires lederhosen (leather breeches) accompanied by a leather harness and knee-high socks. If that sounds like Halloween attire, or perhaps a Bavarian interpretation of "Animal House," then go for the updated version—suspenders ($15 by camel corduroys ($181 by J Brand). The coloring of the pants references leather without overdoing it. To complete the Alpine country vibe, button on a gingham check shirt ($145) and step into a pair of waxed lace-up logger boots in richly saturated brown leather ($450). For nippy fall days, bring along this gray cardigan by Abercrombie with discreet buck logo ($150). 

What to Do

Most major US cities will have some sort of Oktoberfest special at pubs and restaurants. But if you’re in the San Francisco area, you’ll find several special events spread over the next few weeks. Oktoberfest by the Bay is one of the main attractions (it was Sept. 28-30 this year) with many showing up in classic dirndls and lederhosen. You have some time to plan your traditional outfit for the next go-around, but with thousands attending each year, it’s something of a zoo.

The culinary reveler should head to Schmidt’s on Folsom Street for its extensive sausage selection, including the Berliner currywurst and blood sausage served with stewed apples and onions. Wash it down with several of the Marzens on tap, like a three-variety flight served with a pretzel and mustard ($14), through the end of the month.

Less traditional restaurants are also getting in on the fun. Hot spot Presidio Social Club, which usually focuses on North Californian fare, is hosting Sunday night supper specials all month, featuring roast pig and braised red cabbage, naturally. Plus the restaurant boasts a killer view of the waterfront with a patio for sipping beer on balmy evenings. Prost!

Photo credits: Women: Top Far Left: Eastbay, Inc.; Left:; Top Center:; Top Right: Polyvore; Bottom Right: Haute Hippie; Bottom Center: A.P.C. STORE; Bottom Far Left: The Aldo Group Inc. Men – Top Left: MRPORTER; Top Center: ORIGINAL STOCKERPOINT; Right: jcp Media Inc; Far Right: Onestop Internet, Inc. ; Bottom Center: Abercrombie & Fitch; Bottom Left: Barneys New York

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