Furor over Oktoberfest fashions

We always thought Oktoberfest was about the beer, the malty Marzen that goes down easily and finishes with toasted, nutty flavors.

But recently word comes out of Munich, where the annual 17-day festival is in full swig, so to speak, that there is a furor over fest fashions.

Traditional German apparel such as dirndls and lederhosen has become an international fashion trend , and according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, the newer, sexier versions of the outfits worked up by designers have purists fuming.

Customarily, dirndls are knee- to floor-length dresses with a tight bodice. Think Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music." But recently the dirndls have gotten shorter, the bodices tighter, the cleavage more apparent. Even Paris Hilton has donned a dolled up version, which as you might guess, did not exactly look like something favored by a village elder.

This along with the trend of women wearing the leather shorts and suspenders once regarded to be the outfit of choice for lederhosen-loving men, has not gone over well with the diehards. A Munich tailor told The Journal that the festival had become a spectacle, like Mardi Gras and filled her with "fremdschamen," or embarrassment at the crude behavior of others.

Baltimore is a city with strong German roots. The notes of the city council meetings were printed in German and English until World War I. German brewers named Rost, Wiessner and Bauernschmidt once filled the mugs of the city's beer-drinking legions. A fellow from Wertnesburg named Yuengling got off the boat in Baltimore in 1828 and meandered up to Pottsville, Pa., where his descendants still brew beer today.

Like many other American cities, Baltimore celebrates Oktoberfest this month. In addition to backyard gatherings fueled with home-brews, area restaurants open their taps and bring on the oompah bands. Next Saturday a crowd will squeeze into the Timonium Fairgrounds for brats and beer at the ninth annual Maryland Brewers' Oktoberfest. If form holds, there will be some daring dirndls and some women wearing lederhosen at the fairgrounds. This being America, as long as the beer is cold and the brats are hot, we will not be offended.

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