Sunday, November 15

Make do and mend: The hardcore edition

Make do and mend:  
The hardcore edition
It was early one autumn morning. I was seven years old, standing on a chair brushing my teeth. Mom was doing her hair when she suddenly broke out in tears. The bathroom radio was to blame for her uncharacteristic outburst: The fall of the Berlin wall had just been broadcast.

My parents actually acquired visas to travel to the GDR in the early 80s, but I was too small to remember much of this visit to relalitves. Every Christmas the Dresdner's would send Stollen (yumm.. Dresdner Stollen just has to be the best) but when I was little parcels would also include cloths my great-cousine, one year my senior, no longer fitted. A pair of blue dungarees with red buttons used to be my favourite until I in turn grew out of them.

So this year, as another anniversary of that morning passed, I had a lazy little look around the web to see what I can find out about East German fashion.

"Sybille" a fashion magazine dubbed the "East-Vogue" really stuck out for me. I was particularly taken with the work of Sybylle Bergemann featured in the magazine (see some of her fashion photography here).

In print from 1956 to 1994 Sibylle was published two-monthly but due to limited availability of paper there were never quite enough copies printed to go around and the magazine was much sought after.

Editors had to take care to taylor content to the ideology of the regime. Blue jeans for instance were seen as an embodiment of capitalism. An issue was cancelled due to the inclusion of the devilish leg wear, but in 1978 the ministry for light industry finally gave in to popular demand and ordered one million Levis jeans from the USA. No where near enough to cover demand, long queues and even brawles over the coveted garment were feared. To avoid this, they were sold in the workplace during lunch breaks rather than in regular shops.

It wasn't only jeans though, the cloths pictured in magazines were not usually available in the shops, so women took to making their own. Even so, fabrics, buttons etc weren't easy to come by and there wasn't a lot to choose from. The GDR was actually a market leader in the building of textile machinery, but these were almost exclusively exported. Fashion inspiration, tips, patterns and instructions on how to re-use and dye fabrics, came from magazines such as Sibylle, but also "Praktische Mode" (Practical Fashion) and the quarterly magazine "Guter Rat" (Good Advice).

There is lots more info out there, but I thought I'd keep it short and sweet. For more Praktische Mode covers, pay the DDR Presseshop on a visit.

KunstMachen-das Blog (in German, but with lots of photographs)
Ostkreuz Photography Agency (in German & English)
Mode in der DDR (German)
Zwischen Weltstadt und Isolation (German)
Jeans sind eine Einstellung und keine Hose (German)
Sibylle, die Zeitschrift fuer Mode und Kultur (German)
DDR Presseshop on eBay (GDR Fashion Mags on


  1. The Sybille east-vogue magazine soo fabulous!
    I loove learning about history of the world, so looks like I'll be coming back for more!! love your blog!

  2. Fabulous! I love these!

    Thank you so much for your well wishes! And those crutch covers you sent me the link to....oh my goodness!! How did you know about those?! They are amazing!

  3. Thanks for your sweet comments! Glad you like the covers too.

    Kristin: My Mom uses crutches a lot, she has a considerable collection of solid colour ones in every shade of the rainbow. Knowing they existed I couldn't resist a quick google search :-)