September 25, 2015 – May 29, 2016 – extended until June 19, 2016
Gretchen wants to be chic too – Women’s fashion in the 1930s

Internationally, women’s fashion in the 1930s mixed glamorous chic with a sporty, casual look.
Clichéd images of strapping young blondes in uniform and stolid mothers of soldiers should not fool us into thinking that women in the Third Reich were any less interested than their sisters abroad in make-up, fashion or cigarettes. Any modern woman who had, even fleetingly, come into contact with New Objectivity was hardly prepared to conform to the Germanic ideal preached by the propagandists – she coveted fashionable elegance and international flair. Indeed Hitler himself appreciated a stylish woman, and his admiration for Magda Goebbels, the epitome of modern German womankind, is a case in point.

Even after the outbreak of war, the regime maintained a largely tolerant attitude towards elegant French fashion styles, seeing them as a weakness of the fairer sex. The Nazis, it should also be said, were anxious to portray themselves as cosmopolitan in the eyes of the wider world. Besides, the fashion industry was vital to the German economy. Hence, Germany as a whole, and Berlin in particular, continued to source international fashion from Paris and Vienna and bring it to German women – they may have been prepared to don ladylike attire in the afternoon but insisted on being seen wearing the very latest elegant fashion in the evening.

Women’s fashion pants from the magazine “Das Magazin”, 1931, © Münchner Stadtmuseum
Elegant daywear (by Maggy Rouff), from French magazine “Vogue”, 1939, © Münchner Stadtmuseum
Evening dress from the magazine „Wiener Mode“, 1935, © Münchner Stadtmuseum
Designs from the German Master School of Fashion in Munich, circa 1938, Silk crêpe de chine, artificial silk tulle, artificial flowers, © Münchner Stadtmuseum

A yawning gulf had opened up between what fashion was supposed to be in principle and what people actually wore in real life. Nazi Party slogans called, on the one hand, for a return to traditional German values, and yet, at the same time, encouraged people to increase their consumption and aspire to cosmopolitan style to boost the economic recovery. As a result, the German fashion industry and its female customers often suffered from a degree of schizophrenia. The exhibition examines the German Master School of Fashion (Deutsche Meisterschule für Mode), founded in 1931, as a prime example of this particular conflict.

The Münchner Stadtmuseum has appraised, researched and restored its 1930s fashion collection especially for this exhibition and, as a result, many items can now be displayed for the first time. Different themed sections offer visitors a varied experience – everyday apparel, evening gowns, wedding dresses, morning dress, negligees, sportswear and traditional costumes all bear witness to the huge range of fashion styles worn in the Thirties.

The exhibition features approximately 150 dresses and suits, displayed on handmade mannequins, together with an extensive range of accessories including furs, shoes, purses, hats, scarves, shawls, gloves, jewelry and make-up accessories.

Added variety is provided by illustrations, fashion magazines, fashion photography and posters that further depict the range of clothing worn in this era.

Hirmer Verlag will publish a catalog with a number of color plates to accompany the exhibition.

The Museum has worked in cooperation with the German Master School of Fashion in Munich to exhibit this period fashion in a new and modern light.

Video to the exhibition


The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Hirmer Verlag, Munich, available for € 39.90 at the museum’s ticket desk and its online shop.