Thursday, May 13, 2021

Women of the Berlin Wall : Twelve Dresses - Twelve Stories - HERE THEY ARE!




Dress # 1 Summer Dress of white cotton, Flower pattern

Dress #2 Summer Dress with short sleeves and red-green Flower Pattern

Dress #3 Gray silk skirt black top with rose

Dress #4 Green Taffeta, embroidered evening gown

Dress #5 Blue skirt, white lace top attached, blue jacket

Dress #6 Green Taffeta pencil skirt dress with heart collar

Dress #7 Tweed suit

Dress #8 Blue skirt, white lace top attached ( see #5)

Dress #9 red roses/black Georgette sleeveless dress

Dress #10 Gray Organza dress with roses and shawl

Dress #11 Black silk Taffeta long ball gown

Dress #12 The House dress – modeled for a catalog


Dress # 1: Summer Dress of white cotton with Flower pattern

I light summer dress, thin straps and an elongated waistline with a gathered skirt, worn over a petticoat by all women and girls, the fabric was chinsed to create a silky surface of flower patterned white cotton.

This basic pattern would be used in this day dress as much as in her long green ball gown.

Later reincarnations of this dress (or perhaps extra material, whose pattern stayed with her and her daughter) were a small pillow cover for her favorite down pillow, or the covers of her family silver, forks, knives and spoons kept safe from tarnishing over the years, all reminding her of the pattern of flowers that stayed with her into old age.   

Dress # 2: Summer Dress with short sleeves and red-green Flower Pattern

Most possibly it was made from one of the bales of curtain or upholstery fabric her father had traded for other wares like cigarettes or ceramic dish sets, she sewed a dress with many variations in wear:

The dress as summer dress, or with a black organza blouse, or with a light blue green coat with black trim, she could dress it up or down to fit an elegant evening out or a casual stroll through a park and visit to a café, or she could wear it with hat and coat to a city visit, wearing high heels and a pair of nylon stockings. 

Dress # 3: Gray silk skirt black top with rose

An elegant two-piece strapless evening dress, the black taffeta top with its pink rose in the middle and an organza gray skirt that reached her ankles. 

Black gloves were necessary as in winters her once frozen hands and heels would swell and redden, and her long gloves saved her from embarrassment.

Her first pair of nylon stockings had been a gift from the boyfriend she had met at the dance school on her first day in the city, She and her family lived above the dance school.

Dress # 4: Green Taffeta, embroidered evening gown

This dress shows a strapless, ruffled top with elongated waistline, and a green taffeta skirt, and hand embroidered curved decorative pattern arching over the front middle of the floor length skirt.

For the happy nights filled with dance with her fiancée, she dressed up in this green ball gown.

The dress then became a “witness” as she loaned it to a cousin of her groom at her small wedding. Her future parents-in-law came to inspect the straps they had required her to add to the (too) alluring evening gown.

Her wedding dress was borrowed from her older sister, the church and dinner paid for by a marriage insurance policy. The wedding party of ten guests dined with the married couple for a lunch at a finely set round table in a private room in the restaurant at the city hall. 

Dress # 5: Blue skirt /jacket, white lace top,    

This is a dress, with a white lace-top and a bright blue silky skirt, not as wide as a full, but a ¾ circle pattern for the skirt.

Sitting on her parents-in-law’s sunny veranda, chatting over coffee and enjoying a cigarette, she wears short tailored short sleeved jacket of the same bright blue to match the skirt and create an ensemble that gives it a day-time look.

Windows around the entire room allow even the spring sun to warm this private porch-like space with an elegant golden colored sofa, little tables with green plants, and a number of wicker pieces of furniture.

The wicker Armchair did not return home from its repair, it had been the place of a crime, and after the investigation, the family did not want it back.

Dress #6: Green Taffeta pencil skirt dress A green Taffeta Dress in the pencil skirt style of the post-war era 1950s, the hems much longer than in the 1940s – more materials available.

This fabric was used to line dresses, but it made for a nice shiny look, and with its bright green color, she stood out, appearances were everything.

Color was the most important factor as patterned fabrics were rarely found, only as furniture upholstery/ curtain fabrics, those thicker and heavier and longer lasting.

She is a candidate from the audience at an evening of games to amuse young couples who could afford evenings out.

Dress #7: Tweed suit

“Pepper and salt”, light colored tweed suit with the typically wide long sleeves, loose jacket and pencil skirt was made of lined wool and ideal for cool (even early summer) weather.

She wore it for outings that included outdoor café visits with her daughter in a stroller, stopping to have a cup of coffee in the Spring weather, sunny but still not very warm. Children were welcome if they were “seen but not heard” – outdoors, not in inside restaurants where they could disturb others.

In 1950s Germany, families with children were welcome in the first Italian, Portuguese or Greek restaurants – the “guest worker’s” eateries welcomed families with many children.

Dress #8: Blue skirt, white lace top attached (#5)

This is a dress with a white lace-top and a bright blue silky skirt, not as wide as a full, but a ¾ circle pattern for the skirt.

Standing again in one of the pageants she wears her favorite earrings, she calls them her peppermint earrings as the little round Bakelite elements resemble small white peppermint candies. 

The skirt would twirl only modestly, as she waltzed or cha-cha’ed on the dance-floor with her new husband – in this resort – a luxury in the post-war era, she so appreciates.

Travel there by car was another adventure,

Tourists/travelers were still quite a rarity in countries like Italy, Switzerland or Greece.

The rooms in homes rented to travelers, once even sharing it with a closet filled with ripening cheese wheels.

Dress #9: red roses/black Georgette sleeveless dress

She designed and sewed this summer dress in black georgette fabric with a pattern of red roses for elegant evenings out.

Like other patterned fabrics, this dress was sewn from curtain or furniture fabric that her father, a self-made traveling salesman who used all his connections to find resources (a friend’s ceramic studio for dishes, hats in exchange for pretty feathers his daughter brought from her work on a chicken farm) had given his her. These fabrics gave her dresses the vibrancy to stand out among the other candidates who could only distinguish  themselves as excellent dancers or talented singers. The weight and fine rose pattern of this garment signaled its better quality. 

Dress # 10: Gray Organza dress with roses, shawl

She designed this dress and sold the design to the Publisher of a Pattern Magazine. Similarly to pattern magazines today, Women in the Post-War era longed to look elegant and to sew a wardrobe they had lost in the war or now admired in others. 

Made of silvery organza and gray lining and pink silk roses, the dress with its matching organza shawl took her to evenings at the casino with friends. She also wore it to compete and win the title of the prettiest young woman, “Rose of the Woerther Lake” – a pageant held at the Schloss Hotel, in an Austrian resort.

Dress # 11: Black silk Taffeta long ball gown

This ball gown – black silk taffeta – her mother gave this gift to her daughters as part of the suitcase full of “survival” clothing that she wished her two young Teens to have – just as she shared her make-up with them. This ball gown had been made for the always elegant mother by one of her two tailors in downtown Berlin before the war.

She copied it and made a new version for herself from lining taffeta material when the first one was worn out.

Her mother had a suitcase of fine materials for dresses that she had left during the war with her Berlin tailor. When this woman’s shop was destroyed in a bombing of the city, she was not sure she would find the suitcase with her mother’s the precious fabrics again.

But when she did, she returned it, and her thankful client invited her to her home to tea and gave the tailor a gift of the silver tea set as “thank you” for her loyalty and honesty to guard and return such precious resources in times of war.

Dress # 12 : The House dress – modeled for a catalog

Many post-war women wore a house dress or apron over their dresses. She modeled this one for a catalog that sold them. She also modeled fashion jewelry.  

The “Kittel-Schuerze”(House Dress) was worn to keep clothes nice, but because it also signaled the socio-economic circumstance of women ( need to protect the little fine clothing a woman owned), it was a clothing item only worn in the home.

An apron is part of the traditional Tracht worn by women and girls in the farming communities. The richer they became, the more elaborate these aprons became. Its origins remained in the hard working population. 

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