Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Victorian Element

One of the things that really attracted me to the 40s was the 19th century elements that were clearly evident. As a Civil War reenactor who wore these certain characteristics, I saw these things right away from the high collars, fitted bodices, and other subtle design elements. In German women's fashion I saw these things immediately and thought it was rather interesting especially since the Nazi regime had implemented rather Victorian standards such as their racial family policy which reinforced the notion of women in the home and men out in the public sphere. Racial purity, and eugenics were other 19th century elements evident in the Nazi regime too. Another component to the Nazi policies that had rather Victorian elements was their encouragement of women to have a many children as possible while still maintaining a household. Evidence of this Victorian culture in American society can be found in Godey's Lady's Book - a popular ladies magazine in the 19th century. Besides American culture, other societies and cultures also shared this ideal in the 19th century.

It may be odd that a century known for opulent and excessive clothes would have inspired a decade stricken with war, rationing, and shortages, but really it is not - I promise. Throughout history, fashion has been inspired by previous decades and trends for political, social, cultural, and personal reasons. For the 40s, I believe that the 19th century inspired German fashion for cultural and political reasons because many Nazi elements have rather Victorian roots. As users of the visual, the Nazi regime relied heavily on propaganda in various forms from film, posters, banners, uniforms, and yes, women's clothing. Reflecting these Victorian trends then is an attempted political statements that was subtle. One could argue on the fact that using these elements was an attempt to be fashionable and on trend with the rest of the world too because many American and French fashions had these Victorian elements too. So, is German fashion a statement on its own or a mirror to the fashions around it? That is a question scholars still debate today.

Before continuing, take a look at some of these dresses from the Lutterloh books from 1942. What is interesting about these books as a whole is that it is now possible to see the final progression of fashion in Nazi Germany between 1940 -1942. Although I don't have access to the books from 1943 - 1945, I have to reserve speculation simply due to a lack of evidence. What is evident though is that so far from what I can tell, as the war progressed, the Victorian elements increased significantly. The reason for this trend could be due to a variety of factors such as increased pressure to adhere and support their ideology to pressure to create their own fashion industry to compete with the French fashion houses, or German fashion was simply trying to remain fashionable by adhering to larger fashion trends which included a Victorian element.
Der Goldene Schnitt, 1942

Der Goldene Schnitt, 1942

Der Goldene Schnitt, 1942

Der Goldene Schnitt, 1942
In these 1942 examples, the Victorian elements are more connected to early Victorian dressmaking techniques rather than late. What is interesting to note, and what I mentioned in a paper I did, was that German fashion connected more with the early Victorian fashion trends while French and American fashion more to the late Victorian period. Some Victorian elements included high necklines, smocking, pointed bodices, and fitted bodices with skirts gathered or pleated.

For 1940 and 1941, there is still this Victorian element  but it is mostly in the folk wear or dirndls which is not too surprising since this traditional wear or clothing is drawing heavy  from the past at times. What is more remarkable for me is that these Victorian elements are found in clothes beyond the traditional costumes. For the clothes that are not too peasant but are aiming for fashionable, there is, again, this Victorian element that can be seen. From 1940 -1941:
Der Goldene Schnitt, 1940

A rather traditional style of dress from Der Goldene Schnitt, 1941.
This dress was definitely inspired by traditional costume with the overall styling
Besides the overall design of 40s women's wear and many Civil War era dresses, construction is another element they have in common. In both eras, dresses were constructed simply and the interior seams were not always finished. During the 40s seams were finished in an assortment of way from whipped stitched edges to pinked ones . . other finishes were nothing at all . . . On my original German dress, the interior seams are not finished and never were. The fabric frays only slightly but not enough to be a major concern. One difference would be lining, many 40s dresses were not lined (slips worn underneath easily served as such) while Civil War dresses were flat lined (lining and dress fabric sewn and treated as one)

Do you see the Victorian elements in 40s fashion? Why do you think the 40s drew from the 19th century?

Sources and Further Reading:
Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich by Irene Guenther
Fashion by the Kyoto Fashion Institute
Fashions and Costumes from Godey’s Lady’s Book edited by Stella Blum
60 Civil War –Era Fashion Patterns edited by Krinstina Seleshanko
Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques Edited by Kristina Harris
Assorted Der Goldene Schnitt books in my own collection dating from 1940 - 1942 and 1949

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Double Collar

This is a collar that you have seen before here but this time I offer to you the pattern to make it. To make it, you will need the ruler and instructions. Both of which you can find here.
This collar is very easy to make and it is all in one piece. Once it is scaled out, place the line "H.M." on the fold - that will make it your center back of the collar. 
Once it is cut out, you can hem it or simple apply trim right on it (like I did for mine). For mine, I trimmed mine out to make it look like the collar was in two parts by trimming the lower half first and then the upper half.
I added a little ribbon bow on mine but a little hook and eye would work as well.
For trims, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. I prefer to use lace or fine white cotton eyelet. Self fabric ruffles and even embroidery works as well and is very period too. Check out the collars and cuffs here for more inspiration.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blue Skirt in Wool

The fall colors here in Michigan are really starting to show here and I thought what a perfect opportunity to show off one of the projects I made over the summer.  From 1941, a simple wool skirt in a rather colorful print. As a whole this was a super easy project and I think perfect for fall because of the bold colors.  Below, the original illustration (the striped skirt):
I received this material from a friend who wanted to unload some of her stash and when I got it, it was originally meant to be a pair of pants. Since I loved the color and the print of the wool as a whole, I knew I wanted to do something with it but was rather stumped, particularly because I did not want to do pants with it. Paging through my book, this skirt really jumped out at me because it was simple enough that the skirt would not be too overpowering as a whole. One element I did add to the skirt to play with the stripe was that I added some faux pockets to the front. Like the original illustration, I added a yellow pearl buckle.  
To go with this skirt, I wore my blouse, which you have seen before, my yellow sweater, a reddish turban, and although you can't see them well here my red delft screw back earrings and matching brooch. very fun look, yes?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cosmetics and Beauty in Nazi Germany

I think when it comes to fashion and beauty in Nazi Germany this is the hottest topic of them all. Why is that though? Didn't all German women have that blonde hair and tanned skin while staying clear of cosmetics? Didn't German women follow Nazi policies in beauty and health? Well the truth of it is that when it comes to cosmetics and beauty in the Third Reich it is rich with contradiction! Which for a reenactor makes things really complicated especially if one is trying to achieve an authentic look and be accurate. Before we dive in, lets have a look at the desired look and what Nazi Germany called the goal for women to achieve.

The ideal German women did not use cosmetics as it was considered unhealthy, deceptive, and masking her natural beauty according to  1940s Fashion: The Definitive Source Book (see pages 10 and 11). For a regime wanting to promote the earthy peasant woman who embraced natural beauty, cosmetics went against Nazi ideology in a nut shell. One of the main aims of natural beauty was that it promoted German health  and  anti Semitism because healthy German women could produce German children and thus a healthy Germany eventually  free of Jews (See 1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook, page 10 and 11). A great deal about German health, beauty and cosmetics usage revolves around anti Semitism, promoting a healthy image that was a fertile woman and promoting the ideal German woman at its base . . . and now that we have the ideology out of the way we can look at the reality.

 In reality, cosmetics were used and for a variety of purposes too. In fact, According to 1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook, make up sales did not even decrease (check out page 11). If make up sales did not decrease, what does that say about a regime that promoted natural beauty and the women in it? To me that says the regime was falling on some rather deaf ears and women still desired to look rather fashionable according to typical 40s beauty standards. Even in magazines and some of my pattern magazines there are some make up ads. Even the illustrated models are depicted with rouged lips and cheeks. Check out the cover below from 1941. See her made up face? A question of course is how available were these products and to what and how many women.

According to scholar Irene Guenther, it was not natural beauty that was a goal, but artificial natural beauty and many German women made use of beauty products until the very end if they could (see pages 113 - 116 in "Fashioning Women in the Third Reich" in Lisa Pines edited work Life and Times in Nazi Germany. Some of the cosmetics used in Nazi Germany included hair dye, lipstick, mascara, bronzer, etc. Much of the use of cosmetics was used for the goal of achieving the ideal look which included blonde hair and tanned skin. Although the war did make acquiring make up rather difficult and many hair and beauty salons closed . . some remained open until he bitter end for the wealthy (see page 115 in Guenther's article in Lisa Pine's larger work). I find it really interesting that scholar Irene Guenther mentions this immense effort of German women to maintain such standards and it would be really interesting to know how many women did this aside from the obviously well to do. For the average woman how often did she use lipstick and mascara? In magazines there are lots of ads and images promoting the use of such goods. Of course, we have to wonder how available were these goods?  . . .. Below, some Ads from the Frauen Warte:
Cream from Nivea

ad concerning freckles

Vasenol for the face and body

Cosmetic use was even advertised in the Frauen Warte, a leading magazine for Nazi women. In the pages of this magazine, there were ads for face creams, bronzers, and many other goods meant to give the look of perfect beauty. It may seen highly unusual for a leading magazine geared towards women in this regime to advertise cosmetics and beauty aids, but really it is not considering the fact that women wanted to look good and maintain a look of perfect beauty that was supported by the regime. Also lets not forget that we are talking about women. . . Real life women who wanted to maintain their image just like any other women. Honestly, sometimes I think we forget that women even in Nazi Germany wanted to look good by typical 40s standards . ..

hair ad for securing a modern hair style

The pressures of war threatened to remove any unnecessary production of goods that were deemed unessential such as cosmetics. When Hitler almost shut down a cosmetic factory, his girlfriend, Eva Braun, persuaded him to keep it open, and he did for as long as he could (See Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich by Irene Guenther pg. 106-107). The use of cosmetics then, although not encouraged by ideology, was accepted but in the pursuit to achieve the look of natural beauty (see page 115 in Guenther's article in Lisa Pine's larger work once again).  
Beauty salons were considered unessential and even a burden but some remained open for the duration of the war (see page 115 in Guenther's article in Lisa Pine's larger work) . This keeping open of some beauty salons was an effort to maintain a sense of normalcy and to give the illusion that Nazi Germany was still prospering. Of course, we all the know the reality. Another reason why these salons remained opened was possibly for morale reasons. Keeping a salon open does boost the spirits does it not? . The next question to be asked was how functional were these salons? I would argue that these salons clinging to life operated on minimal means given the rationing, shortages, and the war.

foot powder ad.
So did the average woman living in Nazi Germany use and wear cosmetics? To answer this question we can look at photographs and read diary entries but that would only give us access to a small amount of women. But that brings in another interesting debate about the survival rate of some primary sources . . . . For now, I do have in my personal collection two German photo albums filled with many great images of real life women. Looking closely at these women its really hard to tell if they are actually wearing lipstick or mascara but for sure I can see some well dressed and curled hair. So with that said, referring to photo graphic references is a little tricky so then we have to fall back on the written word about make up usage and that is assuming if a subject like this was deemed important enough to write about.

Sources and Further Reading

Dirix, Emmanuelle and Charlotte Fiell. 1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook. London: Goodman Fiell, 2013.

Guenther, Irene. Nazi Chic?: Fashioning Women in the Third Reich. New York: Berg, 2004.

Guenther, Irene. “Fashioning Women in the Third Reich”, in Life and Times in Nazi Germany edited by Lisa Pine. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

This post was edited on 5/29/2019

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Masculine Women’s Wear in Nazi Germany

Image, possibly British, depicting masculine women's wear

In a regime that emphasized women’s roles as highly feminized, why did many pieces of women’s wear in Nazi Germany feature rather masculine elements such as angled shoulders, tailored suits  waist coats, and even masculine hats? Was it a reflection of the larger world fashion trends or was there another reason? Why did this regime allow both very feminine wear and masculine wear to exist side by side and offer contradictions, visual contradictions, within their ideology and policies towards women?
Frauen-Warte Cover depicting a Woman in her ideal role as Mother

Women’s wear in Nazi Germany embraced feminine qualities for obvious reasons in that it emphasized their roles as mothers and care takers. Women’s wear was also distinctly masculine for reasons that are less clear. Having women sport masculine wear in Nazi Germany bolstered the image that the Nazi regime wanted to have for their women which was to be both racially superior, fashionable, and capable in the modern world like other women living in the 40s.

40s fashion in terms of women’s wear was quite masculine as a whole with angular lines and sporty pieces. To remain competitive in the world (or at least look it), it only made sense that German women, or specifically Aryan women, living under the Nazi regime remain fashionable as well following larger trends. By following the larger world fashion trends, Aryan women in the Nazi regime appeared to be just as trendy as any American, British, or French woman. This appearance of being fashionable and up to date on the latest trends gave the impression that women in the Nazi regime were not only racially superior but also superior on a larger world playing field.

Allowing their women to wear masculine looks reinforced the image that their women were also actively and productively contributing to the German war economy. To actively contribute to the economy in their proper roles as prescribed by the Nazi regime, Aryan women were visually not only productive but also fashionable. This importance of imagery was of great importance in the regime and used widely.  

Masculine women’s wear in Germany is not a new phenomenon. In the 1920s, the “new woman” image provided women with a new sort of independence with them earning their own income and desiring to dress in new fashions to fully embody their new roles in the world around them. Women working in the public sphere in the 20s and taking on rather masculine roles was revitalized in the 40s after a return to the feminine fashion in the 30s. Working in factories, fields, managing the home, women in early Nazi Germany were taking on more masculine roles once again with many men on the front line leaving their previous employment behind. To mirror their roles, their fashion followed suit using masculine tailoring and design elements. Like in the 20s, women in the 40s were entering the masculine world and their fashions followed suit.
German Woman in Late 30s, Early 40s  Working as a Secretary

Sources and Further Reading
Dirix, Emmanuelle and Charlotte Fiell. 1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook. London: Goodman Fiell, 2013.
Guenther, Irene. Nazi Chic?: Fashioning Women in the Third Reich. New York: Berg, 2004.
Guenther, Irene. “Fashioning Women in the Third Reich”, in Life and Times in Nazi Germany edited by Lisa Pine. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Suit in Red

For my Grandpa's 80th birthday party, I decided to dress up a little bit in my cherry red suit.
I found this late 40s, early 50s suit in an antique mall in northern Michigan, fitting considering the northern Michigan area is known for cherries and this is a cherry red suit.  When I first saw it, I actually passed on it and then purchased it almost four months later. I have to say, I am very thrilled that I have it, I think every girl ought to have a red suit anyway. The overall lines of this particular suit are pretty simple and straight forward. to really add a unique touch to this suit, the shawl collar adds some detail to it and so do the little bits of sparkle on the collar and faux pockets. The material is a fine wool.

Paired with this look, I choose my original 40s pumps in brown leather, simple pearl jewelry, and a hair flower to spunk up my new hair style. Oh, and of course some seamed stockings.

I have admired this look for I don't know how long and have struggled with trying to achieve it for almost a year. It was so frustrating! Then, I found the answer through experimentation one day. To achieve this style is so deceptively easy! All I did was put my hair in pin curls, focusing them on the front and top of my head. Next, I pulled the pins out in the morning, pushed the curls upward, and secured with pins. Viola! I did not pull the curls out too much although I did tease them a touch. For a little extra I added a pink and white flower.  So easy to do!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Frauen - Warte 1944-1945

The final instalment of the Frauen- Warte pages! Oh my! Well, to round off the fashion spreads from the war years here is 1944 and 1945 from  the Frauen - Warte. By this time, the Frauen -Warte and the Nazi regime was in its twilight years and the pages of this magazine dwindled significantly particularly in fashion spreads. Below are the fashion images from the Frauen Warte from the years 1944 -1945. Here, there are not many pages featuring original fashion but instead ideas on how to make  do with what was available. For the most part, the mages advised on knitting small winter items and simple accessories instead of full dresses or looks. There are only a couple of pages concerning redoing full dresses.
Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII

Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII

Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII

Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII

Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII

Frauen Warte German Fashion WWII
That's all from the pages of the Frauen Warte!
Did you miss all of my previous installments? Don't worry, here they all are:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Glad to be in Plaid

This is another fantastic suit that I picked up in Chicago and I love this one. In fact, this one might be my favorite. From the 40s, and possibly the 50s, the original owner of this suit was a model for Sears in the 1940s and well into the 1950s. She was also an avid clothes collector who did not wear all of her collection.

Personally, I think the most fantastic thing about this suit is that all the plaids match up perfectly. On the skirt, the jacket, the sleeves, the collar, everywhere - a true piece of evidence depicting talent and craftsmanship. If you look closely, the details in this suit and never ending. The little loops mimicking pockets, the dainty cuffs on the sleeves, and the buttons. You will note that not all the buttons are the same - some are darker and some lighter to correspond to their location on the jacket. The skirt is a narrow pencil skirt, no back vent.

To accessorize this suit, I chose my brown felt hat, matching suede gloves, and original 40s cobra skin pumps. I chose simple brown accessories this time simply because it is fall. I could even wear red with this suit too if I wanted too due to the subtle red in the plaid. You can't see them in the pictures of the garment itself but I wore my silver acorn and leave screw back earrings - perfect for fall, yes? Below, you can see them much better. To me, they look like they were meant to be worn with this suit.

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Most Lovely Suit in Grey

While in Chicago, I picked up three incredible vintage suits and a hat to wear with them. This is one of them and I am so thrilled about it. From the  40s/ 50s, based on the styling and length of the skirt (which I am in love with). According to the lady I purchased these suits from, these garments had a very interesting history. Apparently, their original owner was a model for Sears and after a shoot was given the option to buy the suits at a discount. This lady had so many suits that many were never worn and still had their tags. This suit was one of them, and yes, it still has all of its original tags. Best part is that all of my suits, this one included, was made in Chicago (so was the hat)

I love the skirt on this suit the most, it is all pleated! Is that not incredible! The craftsmanship of this garment is lovely and it fits like a glove (almost like it was made for me). Paired with this suit are my original 40s pumps in snake skin, brown suede gloves, and my new hat .  .which just so happens to match my gloves perfectly. For jewelry, I kept it simple with a pair of pearl drops.

How could I forget the tags? Below are the original tags depicting the fiber content and the size of the suit.