Every once in awhile I get an email from a reader about help getting a kit together for making a wardrobe for a German civilian impression. . .The reasons are all different but the questions are all the same: What kind of dresses should I look for? What hair styles? Looks? Trends? Where can I find accessories and clothes to improve my look and make it more authentic? How do I start to build this impression? For this post I want to take some time to really devote to answering these questions because I have learned that aside from this blog, some scholarly texts, and some images on Pinterest, there is not too much out there on German civilian women's fashion from the war years as a whole (or any years really) like there are for American or British fashions.
Funny enough, when I started researching women's fashion in Nazi Germany, there was not too much out there and I had to rely on a couple of main scholarly texts one by Irene Guenther and then those by Lisa Pine and my collection of German patterns that had taken me years and strikes of good luck to acquire. After I had completed my research project, I figured that I could not be the only person wanting this information so I started this blog to fill in the gaps and give German women and their fashions some sort of representation. But, anyway, back to the purpose of this particular posting: to give some advice on building up a super simple wardrobe for a German civilian impression for a woman. Now, before going on, this is not an all exhaustive post about dressing for a civilian German but I hope that it will serve as a foundation to help you get going. Consider this a kind of starting block to be built on later. . .
When building a wardrobe, always consider first who are you representing? A maid? A socialite? A nurse? A mother with many children? A secretary or factory worker? Who are you and what do you want to represent?? Before shopping and collecting your wardrobe pieces, do your homework first and find out the items that you will need. No matter who you choose, each impression will be different and require different things . . . For example, a maid will need an apron and sensible foot wear while a socialite may not. . . . . .
Consider too the needs or requirements of your unit . . Always consult them for the basic standards and kit requirements. . . I would say they ought to be your place to at least start where they can give you some guidance. . .But, don't let their advice be your only research, do your own as well. But, no matter anything, we all have to start somewhere and that is normally at the bottom and with utmost simplicity too. For now, I want to look at a super simple kit and outfit starting with underthings and then ending with some outerwear (because lets face it, weather sucks sometimes), accessories, and then putting it all together.
These recommendations to follow are my own opinions based on my research using both scholarly and primary sources. My primary sources being my own collection of original patterns, magazines, as well as photographs from my own collection and a little bit I was able to find in the public domain (aka Google). Keep in mind that these are general guild lines and for every "rule" there are some exceptions. . . Before choosing an exception to the rule in your wardrobe, I highly recommend choosing the rule first as your foundation. Wardrobe building is like making a big building, you need a solid foundation to build upon first. . . . Ready? Good. Let's Start with a brief intro. for a basic look and then get into the details. . .
Looking through photographs of women from the time, and images of women in the NS Frauen Warte (a leading women's publication in Nazi Germany), and other magazine and book publications women wore outfits which included frocks, suits, and blouses as well as clean simple traditionally inspired pieces . . and then clothes from everything in between! . . . One theme that Harald Kleinschmidt points out in his work Nazi Germany is that girls were taught to dress simply, be clean, maintain their clothes, and appear healthy, clean, and polished. I think that this is important to remember when making your own impression for a German civilian.
UnderpinningsThe proper underpinnings can really take a good look and make it spectacular. I know because as a Civil War reenactor, I learned that having the right stuff underneath makes a huge difference on what you wear for the public. For some 1940s German underthings, I recommend:
|Sample of underthings from |
Der Goldene Schnitt
- high necklines, square necklines, or shallow V necklines. Nothing plunging or too revealing.
- short puff sleeves or long tight sleeves. Those are the two most common sleeve styles and although there are some variations, stick with the basics for now.
- A line skirts with hems that extend to just below the knee or else mid calf.
- fitted or more "tailored" styles are more common with German fashions, especially dresses, when compared with American or French styles. . . I think this has to do with some of the Victorian influence that German fashion has but it could also be due to many other reasons too. Another could be simple: The War. War time shortages meant carful cutting of fabric so to not waste a scrap. Blouses could be casual and relaxed fitting. I reccomend taking a close look at photographs for fit and keeping in mind possibly construction of the garment for achieving this look.
- For trim, stay clear of it, that is the safest bet. Great clothes can be ruined with poor trimmings. If you do choose trimming, try to stick to self fabric trimmings (trimming made from the dress fabric itself), ribbon, or even some appliqued pockets or do your research! German fashion was very creative but always research first and then do (or buy). Documenting whatever it is will ensure accuracy and give you some confidence in what you have as well.