The “Austerrock“ – the traditional women’s festival costume worn in the Salzburg mountain valleys

For several hundred years, the province of Salzburg has been divided into two parts: the Outer Mountains and the Inner Mou. As the names already reveal, this is how the regions in the mountains and outside the mountains are designated in the province. The Outer Mountains comprise the Flachgau, parts of the Tennengau and the city of Salzburg. The Inner Mountains, that’s us, people from the Tennengau Lammertal, Pinzgau, Pongau and Lungau. Just as every area has its special features, so do we – one of which is the Austerrock traditional costume, which has been a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage since November 2021.

At least in our family and region, the costume is called an Austerrock; depending on where you come from, the garment is also known as an “overskirt” or “Garnierspenzer“. In my following text, I, as an Ennspongauer, predominantly use the term Austerrock.

This costume has been worn in the Inner Mountains for about 200 years, its origins date back to the 17th century, when it was oriented towards courtly and bourgeois fashion. The Austerrock is not a single garment, but consists of several layers that are worn on top of each other. It starts with the petticoat, followed by the smock with the top (the actual, visible part of the Austerrock), the bodice cloth, the apron and finally the ribboned hat. This is accompanied by jewellery such as a wide choker necklace, earrings, a brooch and often ornate hairpins. The most important things are carried in a small bag, which often includes an umbrella to protect the valuable ribbon hat made of wool and fur from getting wet. Some women also wear black gloves with their Austerrock or a small bouquet of flowers, which is tucked into the bodice. Although the skirt and top are nowadays fastened with press studs, older Austerrock are still held together with pins. A special eye-catcher are the ribbons of the banded hat, which are held together at the neck and reach down to the hem of the smock. The hat itself is securely fastened with a lot of practice and a few hat pins. In the past, when women mainly wore Gretl hairstyles (a hairstyle in which the hair is braided into plaits that are pinned up into a wreath), attaching the hat to the head was even easier, but with a few tricks and a few hatpins it works for almost any hairstyle.

My great-grandmother herself married in 1941 in an Austerrock, which she had specially made for her wedding. She inherited the matching ribbon hat, the brooch and the matching choker necklace from her mother, who herself married in 1899 in an Austerrock. In the past, the costume was made for precisely these occasions and then worn throughout life, whether for happy or sad occasions. It is similar today, many women still marry in an Austerrock and then wear it to the various (mostly church) festivities throughout the year. Traditionally, the Austerrock is black, colour accents can be set by the silk bodice cloth and the apron, which are usually in the same colour and pattern. For funerals, this is dispensed with; the women in traditional costume then wear a black bodice cloth with a matching black apron.

Then as now, making an Austerrock requires a lot of time, experience and craftsmanship. Only a few seamstresses have mastered this high art, as every single blossom, ruffle and decoration is sewn by hand onto the brocade or silk fabric and even embellished with pearls or small stones. More than 100 hours of work have to be invested in making an Austerrock, because every woman has her own ideas about the so-called “finery”, which are realised together with the seamstress and make the costume unique. Every seamstress has her own signature, which tells you who made the costume. In the meantime, women of all social classes wear the Austerrock; in the past, it was only intended for peasants and bourgeois women who could afford it. In many cases, the Austerrock is passed down from mothers and grandmothers to their daughters and granddaughters, who have it renewed by their trusted seamstress and then continue to wear it with joy. This is an enduring tradition that will hopefully continue for a long time to come.


The Austerrock will be worn again at the various pillory days next spring at the latest. You want to see it live?

Bildnachweis: TVB Radstadt, Krause & Johansen, Christian Hochwimmer