‘Krieg und Kleider’ – War and Clothing | Berlin, Germany

The Kunstbibliothek venue of the Staatliche Meuten zu Berlin is showcasing an exhibition from now until January 18th, 2015, titled Krieg und Klieder: Modegrafik zur Zeit des Ersten Weltriegswhich means War and Clothing: Fashion Illustrations at the time of World War I.  This November has been a month full of history and remembrance worldwide with Morts por la France/Veteran’s Day and the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin wall.  Krieg und Klieder shows the affect war had on fashion between 1914 and 1918 through illustrations, photographs, and fashion journals from the fashion capitals of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna.

Divided into three sections, the exhibition demonstrates the development of fashion from the time immediately before the outbreak of the first world war to the final years of the war. Fashion journals from Paris, Berlin, and Wien (now Vienna) are shown, including the extraordinary magazines Gazette du Bon Ton and Der Kleiderkasten, the Parisian albums Modes et Manières d’Aujourd’hui and La Mode par Fried. The rare prints from the Mode Wein 1914/15 album published by the Wiener Werkstätte represents the expressive style of the Danube metropolis. The elite designs from the short-lived Berlin fashion house Alfred-Marie can be discovered in unique works by Annie Offterdinger.

“Long before the war, Paris had developed into the international center for upscale fashion, supplying all European and American buyers as well as consumers around the world with a wide range of products and stylistic role models. Professional fashion photography and highly advanced art of illustration had already established itself early with sophisticated fashion prints published in journals such as Gazette du Bon Ton. The outbreak of the war represented a turning point: some fashion houses in Paris were closed, the designers were conscripted into the military, and most American customers no longer came to Paris on their buying trips. The occasions to which fashionable clothing was worn decreased sharply in Europe during the war, resulting in dramatic plunge in the sales revenue of the Parisian fashion branch. The couturiers tried to lure back the American market with the magazine Le Style Parisien and Modes et Manieres d’Aujourd’hui, which targeted a sophisticated art audience for whom fashion represented.”

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“In Berlin, when it became clear after the outbreak of war in August 1914 that Berlin’s fashion houses would no longer be able to orient themselves towards the exemplarily designs of the Parisian collections, they confidently sounded the slogan “Freedom from Paris!”. The local clothing industry and the reports in fashion journals were now dominated by patriotic and nationalistic initiatives. Consumers were specifically directed to German products and materials, the magazines only showed German models and the textile industry promoted the development of silk and jersey fabrics. In the fall of 1917, around 20 Berlin fashion houses presented their collections in conjunction with the Werkbund exhibition in Bern, and the much-noticed semi-annual Berlin Fashion Week took place in August 1918. In December 1914, the artist Otto Haas-Heye opened the exclusive Alfred-Marie fashion house that was quickly able to establish itself at the pinnacle of Berlin Couture. The young illustrator Annie Offterdinger captured models from his collections in top-quality limited edition prints. Her drawings and woodcuts are among the highlights of contemporary fashion illustrations.”

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“Wien (Vienna) had already been him ego eminent custom tailors, successful clothing companies, a flourishing cottage industry, as well as numerous apparel stores in every quality and price range since the 19th century. The widely read journal Wiener Mode was published in German, Hungarian, and Czech in addition to eight other languages. Like the Berlin initiatives, Vienna also clearly turned away from the dictates of Parisian fashion while a nationalistically colored consciousness of their own fashion production set in. The exclusive album Mode Wien 1914/15 featuring 144 hand colored prints and published in an edition of 50 copies is to be understood as an artistically autonomous positioning of the participating illustrators from the circle of the Wiener Werkstäte, a fashion department.”

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If you’re traveling to or live in Berlin, I highly suggest visiting this exhibit! Especially if you’re a fashion and history junky (like me). It’ll be showcased until January 18th, 2015 – check it out!

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