Lederhosen, Dirndl and a Sense of Belonging: Jews and Trachten in pre-1938 Austria

In June 1938, only four months after the so-called Anschluss, the Nazi administration in Salzburg region announced a ban on Jews and other non-Aryans dressing in local Volkstrachten—both authentic and popularised styles. This Trachtenverbot highlighted specific forbidden garments—Lederhosen, traditional fulled-wool jackets, white Wadenstutzen, alpine hats and Dirndl—and anyone in breach of the rules was subject to a fine of 133 marks or a period of 2 weeks in prison. Although at the time of the Anschluss the majority of Austrian Jews lived in Vienna and did not wear Trachten on a regular basis, the donning of these symbolically ‘German’ garments played a central role in the lives of many. Countless surviving photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries depict Austrian Jews attired in Volkstrachten and their popularised form of Trachtenmoden while relaxing on holiday or else taken in urban photographic studios. With their multilayered, symbolic meanings, such forms of attire were an important material factor of self-fashioning and identification among Austrian Jews—especially in the wider context of the question of ‘Austrian nationality’ during the time of the multiethnic Dual Monarchy and post-1918 First Austrian Republic. Using visual and written sources, this paper explores the function of folk styles in the process of self-fashioning and Jewish identification in the early twentieth century.