Making cultural heritage accessible and giving it a frame of reference. 

In terms of range, size and quality, the collection of the Centre for Traditional Costume of the Administrative District of Upper Bavaria is globally unique. Whereas most comparable collections contain mainly clothing and accessories owned by the upper classes, the holdings of the Centre for Traditional Costume originate from the middle-classes and the rural farming population.

From the 1980s until the founding of the institution in 2000, the strategy pursued in establishing and expanding the holdings as well as their content was determined by Alexander Karl Wandinger, costume counsellor of the District of Upper Bavaria, on the basis of his field research. His passionate study of frequency statistics over many years revealed a significant, highly diverse and constantly changing historical clothing culture in Upper Bavaria. Preserving this cultural heritage as a “vestimentary gene pool” and making it available to the public are central principles underlying the collecting activities of the Centre for Traditional Costume.

Tracht is fashion

One important result of this commitment to collection, research and consultation is a changed perception of the social value of traditional dress. With its slogan “Tracht is fashion”, the Centre for Traditional Costume launched a scholarly based change of paradigm. This was initially vehemently contested, especially in conservative circles, but in the meantime it has been recognised and generally accepted.

Linking Tracht with fashion makes it more difficult for the collectors to demarcate a selection of objects. One reason for this is that the idea or construct of traditional dress (Tracht) emerged in the course of the discovery of rural life by the Romantics and the founding of the Bavarian state around 1800; today it is used as an umbrella term to denote both historical folk costumes and the party clothing worn at Munich’s Oktoberfest, a practice that has become the subject of much debate.
Thus, the collection of the Centre for Traditional Costume ranges from the Joppe – the heavy farmer’s jacket dating from around 1830, which anyone would recognise as a quintessential element of Bavarian traditional costume – to the white first communion dress from the 1950s or the country-style fashion line that emerged around 1985. This highly diverse and lively frame of reference has continually given rise to new and appealing – albeit not always high-quality – clothing. 

The holdings of the Centre for Traditional Costume are divided into five main sections:

A collection of clothing and accessories
from three centuries comprising around 20,000 objects

A reference library containing around 3,000 works on
• cultural history and customs
• fashion / costumes
• monographs
• folk costumes from different countries 
• the club and society culture
• textiles
• accessories
• paraments (liturgical dress)
• craft technologies

Graphic art from four centuries encompassing around 500 sheets of
• etchings
• lithographs
• steel engravings
• watercolours, gouaches, drawings

Archive holdings
Pattern books, documents, manuscripts

Around 40,000 images, mainly from field research

Original articles of clothing as gifts and loans

Since our Trachten advisory service became institutionalised, an increasing number of people have gifted, loaned or sold original articles of clothing to the Centre for Traditional Costume, leading to a steady expansion of the collection.
To restrict a cultural heritage that is in an ongoing process of development to particular collections is not possible per se. Our principle is: We don’t need to have everything, but anything that belongs here will find its way to us.
Each month we present an outstanding piece from our collection in the section «Kabinettstück» (in German language).

Detail of a leather belt showing a pomegranate motif in quill embroidery, Rottal, c. 1810
Leather, quill embroidery, pomegranate motif
Rottal, c. 1810
Collection District of Upper Bavaria, Centre for Traditional Costume
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