I have been trying out different ways to naturally dye fabric, since I would love for my garments not to be wasteful and to be good for the environment. I use quite a bit of unbleached muslin, so I wanted to try out some new colours for it. I have already done lots of tea staining (it just makes the perfect cream colour!), so the other day I tried a method that I have seen in books. This involved steaming fabric with rose petals folded in it. The final product wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it is very pretty! I think next time I will try with deep red rose petals in the hopes that it will make a pink or lavender colour.
To try it, I just used a small section of unbleached muslin, which I dampened. I then arranged rose petals on it in a random pattern. Once I was happy with where the petals were, I folded and rolled the piece together and tied the ends with strings. That was steamed for a few hours, and then left to cool. After it was cool enough, I unrolled it, took out all of the petals, and left it out to dry.
Have you ever tried natural dyeing? How did it turn out?
Well, not quite at the Stampede... but at a Stampede breakfast:)
I finished this corset cover a month or so ago, and it has been sitting on my dress form since. The side seams are sewn by machine, and the rest is completely done by hand. The lace is vintage and given to me by a family friend, as well as the buttons.
Calgary Stampede is always a fun time of year around here, so we thought it would be fun to get pictures of this at the pancake breakfast! Unfortunately they normally have hay bales, but they didn't have them this year. But I think the pictures turned out well anyway!
I have loved the look of corset covers for years, I love the shape and detail of them. While mine is relatively plain compared to some historical examples, I am so glad that I was able to use the beautiful lace that I was given.
Corset covers were usually made of thin fabric to fit under a bodice, and weren't fitted for much of the 19th century. They were lavishly decorated with lace, ribbons, pin tucks, and embroidery. They were normally light colours as well, to make sure that they didn't show through under sheer bodices. They were made to help smooth the lines from boning in corsets, or were used in the summer like undershirts to go underneath sheer muslin dresses.
The hardest part about sewing is that I can get lots of things done, but it doesn't look like it until I have photos of them! In the past few weeks I have been working on tons of different projects, but I don't have any of them finished yet (although two are almost done!). I have also had a few very neat opportunities to do something a little different, so my sewing room has been pretty crazy.
I do have a few very exciting things that I have been working on behind the scenes: the first is that I have been making prototypes for a Calgary activewear company called Intuitive. It has been an absolute joy so far working with the company, and I am more than excited about this collaboration.
The second thing that I have been working on is my second time working with MakeFashion! Last year I was a part of the runway show in Calgary as a seamstress. This year I am lucky enough to be a team lead. My dress is called Breathe, and has to do with helping with anxiety and mental illnesses. MakeFashion will be at Beakerhead this year in September. I can't wait to tell and show you more!
On the side, I have also been working on dirndls (I made one from a Gertie pattern, liked it so much that I immediately started a second one!), a tiered 1950's summer dress, wool cigarette pants with a matching sheath dress and blazer, a 1960's colour blocked dress, and lots of repairs. My mending pile has gotten out of hand!
If you follow me on instagram (here), then you will know that I have also been working on setting up an Etsy account. So far I have hit pretty much every obstacle possible (why are computers so confusing??), so it still isn't up....
But I have made progress, so it should be here soon! I will be selling some of my costumes, as well as embroidery to start.
Thank you so much for your patience with everything, I can't wait to show you all of the things that I have been working on!
Most of my vintage-styled outfits are me-made. While I love wearing clothing that I have made, and I enjoy trying out true vintage and repro patterns, I know that many people don't have the time, materials, or the interest to make their own clothing.
I love the idea of wearing true vintage, but I feel like I am too clumsy of a person to regularly wear vintage clothing. It would break my heart to stain and tear a vintage dress, so I stay mostly away from them. At the same time, I don't want to make every piece (especially knits and t-shirts). I know there are tons of fabulous repro brands in the world, such as What Katie Did, Stop Staring, Emmy Design, Mod Cloth, and many others. I haven't tried any repro brands, since many of them are from either the States or Britain, and with shipping costs I can't afford the pieces. I have discovered that you can find some really great things from stores in outlet malls, as long as you look hard enough.
Sometimes it can take a bit of searching, but so far I have found tons of vintage-inspired pieces that I have been able to add into my wardrobe. For the outfit that I am wearing in these photos, the dress is from Hot Topic (every once in a while, they get very cute 1950's styled clothes. This one is cotton, which I would recommend over poly satins and other fabrics that can look tacky instead of vintage. However, in the end it just depends on what you like the best!). The shoes are from Rockport. They have tons of vintage styled heels and sandals, and they are some of my most comfortable pairs! My purse is from Calvin Klein, and it is one of my favourite ones for summer. The cordigan is from the Gap. If you would prefer a shorter sweater, Aritzia and Lands End have some beautiful ones, or you can easily shorten a cardigan like this one using a serger or a zig zag stitch. Here is a great tutorial if you are interested.
The biggest thing about finding vintage styles in every day stores is patience! Sometimes I don't find anything for months, and other times there is vintage inspiration everywhere.
This is the first post that I have not worn anything that I have made- what do you think of a different type of post like this?
I would love to show some of my other vintage inspired on a budget finds, let me know if you want to see them in the comments!
These photos were taken in The Core in downtown Calgary.
When it comes to the books in my collection, I have been extremely lucky. I have been given so many books by family friends and other people who have already gone through a costuming or fashion program.
Out of all of my books (I have quite a few...), these are some of my favourites. There are so many more that I would like to eventually collect (Norah Waugh and Janet Arnold being some of the authors that I have seen are necessary in a costuming library), but I am so pleased with what I have so far.
The books that I use for inspiration and help fall into a few categories. First are the books that are specifically for sewing. Of those, my favourites have to be the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, Corsets, as well as The Art of Needle Craft. The Art of Needle Craft was published in the 1930s, and a beautiful little textbook! It shows different stitch types, and has helped me with my embroidery products. The American Duchess book has been so popular among historical costumers, and it has so much invaluable information! I wish it would have been out when I made my first costume, since it was an 18th century era dress. Corsets is a book about historical corsets, and how they were made. I haven't so far used any of the patterns, but I am definitely planning to use them, and I love looking through the book for inspiration.
The second category would be the books about history. I have tons and tons of history books, since that is something that I am fascinated by and love to learn about. I narrowed down my favourites to the ones that are more about clothing through the eras. One of my first books about this, and still one of my favourites is The Survey of Historic Costume. This books is massive, and has at least a few pages for pretty much every era. It also shows modern designs that are inspired by history. Another favourite of mine, which is much newer, is my Charles James book. I have many, many favourite designers (Coco Chanel, Dior, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, and so many more), but right at the top of the list is Charles James. He had very sculptural designs, and the best thing about the book is that it gives a glimpse into what goes underneath the dress. I also have a great little book about the Regency era. Unfortunately it only has a few pages about the clothing, but the book does talk a little about everything. The next few books could belong in a few categories, but I decided to put it into this one because they do have great bits of information in them. I love the books by Megan Hess, especially Coco Chanel. Along with the information, it has beautiful pictures throughout.
Another category is all of the inspiration books that are just pretty coffee table books. Some of these do have costume photos in (I have tons of movie books because I love movies so much), and others have nothing to do with clothing. Out of all of them pictured, I have a few that I look through a little more often than others. One favourite is the Grand Budapest Hotel coffee table book.It has costume sketches from Milena Canonero, one of my favourite costume designers. I also love Amber Butchart's book on how movie costumes have influenced the fashion world. It includes Marie Antoinette, In the Mood for Love, Moonrise Kingdom, and many other favourite movies of mine. I also am often inspired by interior design books, such as Sibella Court books (Nomad is my personal favourite to look through). Her books are fantastic to look through since her designs are inspired by different countries. I have always been fascinated with places like India and Mexico City, and I love seeing little objects from these places. The last movie book that I look through constantly is the one for Crimson Peak.
The last category is magazines. I love sewing magazines (the ones that come with free patterns are the best), but I also read Porter and Vogue obsessively.
Where you do you get your inspiration?
I made a second dress inspired by In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai quite a while ago. The first dress that I made (more photos here) was made using a pattern from Patterns by Gertie out of a quilting cotton for more of an everyday look, and I decided that I wanted another, fancier version. I love how this pattern fits me, and I think it looks so similar to the beautiful dresses that the main character, Su Li-zhen, wears in the movie.
The first In the Mood for Love styled dress that I made I just realized recently that I had only posted a video of the making of the dress, as well as a few posts on my instagram (here). I later realized that I didn't even get any photos of this dress once I finished it! Which is funny because I wear both of these in my everyday life quite regularly.
This dress is shaped with 12 darts with a slit in the side, and I used a silk dupioni for this version.
Thanks for reading!
I filmed a large portion of the process of making the Berlin Collection. To see more photos, you can see them here
I was so inspired by Germany while I was there, by what people wore, the beautiful countryside, and by the stunning architecture and history everywhere. Out of the whole trip, Berlin inspired me the most. Maybe it's because of the difficult near history that the city has gone through (if you know my blog well, you will know that difficult histories are something I try to teach about often), and maybe it's the gritty mixed with elegant that you see so often- Belle Epoque architecture layered with graffiti, a delicate skirt paired with a grunge-styled wool jacket.
Something that I immediately think of when it comes to Berlin is the military. I think of tough, strong women (it is a fact that Germany was pretty much rebuilt by women and immigrants after WW2, since they were all that was left), and resilience. I started to come up with the collection on the U-Bahn, and it grew in my head every time I had empty time to think (mostly on trains). I decided to make a military inspired collection, with feminine touches. After taking into account what I could reasonable pattern on my own or what I already had patterns for, as well as what materials would be easy to find or that I already had, I came up with a pretty solid collection. It includes: a pair of jodphurs, a 1930's styled skirt, a peplum blouse, my 1940's dress (that I blogged about here), and a matching suit jacket.
Most of these pieces are 1930s and 1940s styled, with a touch of 50's flair. These are the eras that interest me the most for the country- in the beginning of the 1930's, Berlin was far ahead of many other countries in terms of acceptance. But I will start before that, after the first world war, to explain the country a little bit better.
After Germany's loss of World War One, their economy and pride was crippled. Because of the Versailles Treaty, which entailed that Germany's borders would be reassigned (losing certain towns to Belgium, France, Poland, etc), they would practically lose their military, completely lose their colonies, and were prohibited access from certain weapons. What crippled Germany the worst was their responsibility to pay for the war, as well as other financial obligations. The country was struggling enough with their debt from the war, so when the Depression hit the US (who was helping them pay off their debts), the ripple was incapacitating. This is how Hitler managed to get in to power- the weak country was desperate to have jobs and pride. However, before Hitler wormed his way in, Berlin was a very open place. This is the city that held the first successful sex reassignment surgery (if you have seen The Danish Girl, that is who I am talking about). This was a very liberal place before the Nazi's- if you are interested in this era, Robert Beachy has a book called Gay Berlin that I have heard very good reviews about.
With my collection, I wanted to talk about all of the strong women in this time. I wanted it to be about the women who rebuilt the country, and the ones who made their way across the Wall even though it was incredibly dangerous, and the ones who rebelled against the Nazi's during the second world war (you may be surprised at how many female spies and resistance members there were).
Because the Nazi's wanted women to be at home having kids and cooking, they didn't quite expect women to be fighting in the resistance. This gave them lots of opportunities that some of the men didn't have. They could smuggle things around the country (such as letters and funds- often hidden in skirt hems and heels), as well as go undercover to find out information. Because it wasn't expected, they weren't caught as easily for a long time.
There is a story of a French resistance member that I always think of when I think of the women during the war (this is from A Train in Winter, just in case you want to hear more about this woman). She had a letter that she needed to carry from one resistance member to another, and she had to go out into the country to bring it to the next member. On the train, she was sitting beside a Nazi officer, and he took a bit of a shine to her. When other officers boarded the train to search the people on board, he told them that they did not need to search her, probably saving her and the letter in the process, without even realizing it.
There are so many amazing stories like this of peoples bravery during the war. Stories of women walking for miles in high heels and nice dresses to smuggle things around Nazi Occupied territory, and people who helped so many Jewish, Roma, and other people who were being persecuted to get out. Many designers and seamstresses were found to have been housing people to help them on their way out, or sewing in money, photos, and other valuables into hems for them.
If you want to read about some of these incredible stories, or if you are just interested in this time in history, here are some of my favourites: The Librarian of Auschwitz ( a true story that I actually read in Germany), A Train in Winter by Caronline Moorehead (a collection of stories of women resistance members- these stories are amazing), The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne, every single one of Elizabeth Wein, but especially Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire (and also Black Dove, White Raven), Violins of Autumn by Amy Mcauley, Salt to Sea and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, and of course The Book Thief. When it comes to movies, I would recommend Generation War (a German mini series, which is beautifully done), X Company (this is Canadian, which I am very proud of!), and The Danish Girl (the movie that is about the first successful sex reassignment surgery). I have spent most of my life reading about Germany, and specifically this era, so if you would like to hear about more books and movies, just ask! I would love to share, and also hear about any of your favourites!
The pictures were taken by a 1948 plane. A family friend owns it and was so kind to let us use it for photos, and we even got to fly in it! Thank you so much Travis and Brenda!
And the shoes are from DSign Step, as always:)
Stay tuned for my making of video!
Get ready with me: 1950's style!
Hair: I used hot rollers to get the style (although I have so far not had very good luck with curls from hot rollers lasting- any tips?), as well as Kenra hair spray.
Makeup: Foundation - Pixi Gel Tint
Concealer - Lancome Maquicomplet Complete Cover Concealer in Ivory
Powder - Lise Watier Teint Velours Hydrating Loose Powder in Transluscent
Bronzer - Lise Watier Havana Bronzing Powder
Blush - Bourjois Blush Eyes - Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette, Pur On Point black eyeliner, Smashbox Full Exposure mascara
Lipstick - Smashbox lipstick in Primrose
Music: I Ain't Got Nobody, by John Lunn and Gloria Dee and her Quartet
Earlier this year, I made a wool dress or my sisters formal. This dress is made from the same pattern that I made my moth dress, just with the neck yoke.
I am extremely close to being finished a new collection that I have been working on since I got home from Germany- The Berlin Collection. My trip gave me so much inspiration, and as soon as I got home I started with a military, menswear, 1940's styled collection. I thought that while I finish off the last piece, I would share some of my inspiration. I will talk about it more in my post with the photos, but I based the collection mostly off of the resistance and rebels of World War Two, and the women who rebuilt Germany. I wanted to focus on the strong women that I learned so much about while I was there.
I was also inspired by the Candian tv show X Company, which is based on a true story. All of the characters have a fantastic mix of military and menswear styled outfits as well as beautiful evening and day dresses. Aurora (a Jewish Candian spy) and Sabine (a German woman turned resistance) are my personal favourites. My jodphurs are inspired the most by Aurora.
I hope you enjoyed a little look into the inspiration for the collection! I can't wait to show you what I have been working on over the past weeks.
The more that I have been working on my sewing, and the more opportunities that I have had meant that I needed a little more help in the studio. After lots of research (mostly done by my mom), we decided on a Janome. My sewing machine is also a Janome, and I love it- I find it very easy to thread and work, and it can sew through almost anything. The sewing machine I have has also last for years- it was my moms before I started sewing. When we went into the shop, I was looking for a smaller machine (I don't want all of the extra details, or a computer panel, just the basics). There was another machine that was a little smaller, and cheaper, but it was a manual threader which is much more difficult and takes more time. This machine (which is the Pro 4DX), is a model that they have been making for years, is very easy to thread, and has fantastic reviews. I am so excited to have this extra piece in my sewing room, I know that it will help me so much!
Because I got this extra piece, I needed a place to put it. My sewing machine sits on top of a beautiful old sewing machine given to me by a family friend. It is an old Singer machine that I am hoping to get it to work so I can sew some things on this machine (which is from the early 1900s). Unfortunately, I didn't have the table space on it to fit another machine. Luckily enough, we just happen to have another old Singer machine in the house. Ours is a slightly different make, but just as beautiful, and I am so excited to have it in my sewing room (I used to pretend to be sewing on it all the time when I was a little girl, so dreams are coming true here).
While we were in the city, I also picked up a few patterns. I am so excited about these, as I will be using all of them to build up my wardrobe (I have the hope that my whole wardrobe will be made by me except for sweaters, shoes, and such). I even have the fabric for pretty much all of the projects that I have planned, so hopefully they will be quick to finish!
I have been planning a Mexico dress for a long time, and I finally have a set plan for it! I originally was going to do a tiered skirt with a white blouse (similar to an outfit that my grandmother has a picture in when she lived in South America). When I found this pattern from Vintage Vogue, I thought it was perfect. It has the tiered skirt look that I wanted, but with a twist. I am planning on printing my own cotton to make this with, with the skull (like a sugar skull), and a rose in bright colours.
The next pattern that I got I have been admiring for years. I actually had planned to make this for graduation last year, but I ended up buying something and altering it instead. When I saw the Vogue sale at the fabric store (which is why all of these patterns pictured are Vogue), I thought that it was the perfect time to get this one. I haven't decided what fabric to use for it yet (silk to make it fancier? Or wool suiting for more of a winter style? Or perhaps muslin for a summer suit?), but I am very excited to make it, and I am hoping to make a few different versions of it.
This is another one that I have been planning for a long time, however I had not chosen out a specific pattern for it yet. When I saw this, I thought that it would be perfect! I have been wanting a nice pair of cigarette style trousers for years, and when I picked out this wool suiting from Bhatia, I thought it would make an adorable pair. I had originally planned to use the wool for a cocoon coat, but I decided that I would use these more often. I also would like to make a linen version of the shorts for this summer.
This pattern was a little bit of an impulse buy. 1940's patterns are a bit of a soft spot for me (I love the interested details, and how they managed to use as little fabric as possible while still using interested seam lines and such), plus the dress with the full sleeves reminded me of the Fendi ad that I think is stunning.
The last pattern that I got a few days ago came free with a sewing magazine. This one comes in a few lengths and sleeve lengths, and I thought that it would be perfect for a Wes Anderson styled dress. I chose a coral cotton to make it out of, and was inspired by Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom.
I also have a few patterns coming in the mail- the dirndl dress from Patterns by Gertie, as well as a few Vintage Simplicity patterns. Two of those are 1960's mod styled dresses, one is a 1940's skirt suit, and the last is a pattern for 1930's tap pants and bralette.
Other than shopping, I have been getting lots done. I won't share the majority of what I have been doing yet until I get photos, but I will give you a sneak peak. I also altered my 1930's wool skirt, since it was large at the waist. It was a quick fix, but I have been putting it off for months since alterations aren't my favourite. There are a few more things I need to alter, so I am hoping to do that soon.
After seeing Angela Claytons hilarious video that she posted a while ago about cooking recipes from the early 1900s while wearing clothes from that era, I decided to do something inspired by that. Unfortunately I am not as brave as she is, so I decided to use only one recipe, and it is one that I knew would work from Julia Child. I love reading through her cook book, and I love all the tips that are for women in the 1950's, so I decided to wear my newest 1950's styled dress and make a dinner using her cook book.
I made the Vanilla Sponge Butter Cake with the Butter Cream Recipe from Julia Childs Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe is very simple, and nice and light!
The recipe asks for a 10 inch pan to be buttered and floured (if you want to make cupcakes it makes 12), and for a 350 degree oven.
First melt 4 tablespoons of butter and set aside to cool.
Then gradually beat in 2/3 cups of sugar into 4 egg yolks, and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. I also added some lemon zest and juice at this point to make it a lemon cake, but that is not necessary.
In a separate bowl, whip up 4 egg whites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks are formed. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix until stiff peaks are formed.
Scoop a third of the egg whites and 1/3 cup of flour into the egg yolk mixture and fold together gently. Continue with another third of the egg white, 1/3 cup of flour, and half of the melted butter. Finish with the last of the melted butter, the last of the egg whites, and another 1/3 cup of flour.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or 20 minutes for cupcakes.
For the Butter Cream Icing, start by rinsing a bowl in hot water.
Then place 2 egg yolks, 2/3 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of flavouring (I did strong lavender tea with some lemon, but you could do vanilla, melted chocolate, strong coffee, or pretty much anything else instead), and 6 ounces of unsalted butter. Mix these together until creamy, and place in the fridge until it is firm but still easy to spread.
I don't have very much footage of me making the icing in the video because I was only doing half the recipe and math is really not my strong suit... it took a lot of confusion and vague measurements for a butter cream to come out at the end!
Let me know how you enjoyed this type of video!
I also filmed a Get Ready With Me before I filmed this video, so I will put that up next week. It shows how I did my hair and makeup for the video.
Thanks for watching,
I am completely fascinated with moths, and after seeing Crimson Peak, I got the idea to use a print on one of my dresses. In Crimson Peak, one of the running themes is the black moth versus the butterfly.
Since watching that movie, I was very interested in moths. I love how hearty they are, and also how beautiful they can be. While butterflies are the well known pretty insect, moths can also have beautiful, colourful wings.
My fascination is a little bit darker than them just being pretty and tough. The theme in the movie (if you are not familiar with it) is that the main character is a butterfly, while her husbands sister is the moth- she is the villian in the movie.
I loved the theme, and also the visuals of the giant black moths on the walls of the mansion.
I also love the scientific illustrations of insects, and specifically of moths and bees. This is where I got my idea to stamp the fabric with moths, and I got the pattern from the wallpaper in Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro wanted the main theme to be throughout the whole movie, even where you don't notice it. So the moth is on some of the wallpaper, engraved on chairs and furniture, and in many other places, such as embroidered on clothing. I liked how it was there but not completely obvious, so I took the pattern from the movie to stamp onto my dress.
We went into Calgary to get the pictures, so while we were there I picked up another pair of DSign Step shoes (since I love my other pairs so much). We went into Inglewood to get the pictures for this dress, which is the oldest area in Calgary.
The dress is made from a Vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s, and the fabric is a cotton blend.
Stamps and photos by Veronica Funk
Berlin has a huge, and very dark, history that I learnt more about while I was there. We spent a week in Berlin, and I could have stayed so much longer- there is so much to see in this beautiful city. I was lucky enough to be staying right by Kufurstendamm Strasse, the well known high-end shopping street of Berlin. That meant that I was a 10 minute walk from KaDeWe (the massive department store), as well as all of the high end shops, such as Dior, Chanel, Burberry, and almost every other brand that has a show at Fashion Week. I had an incredible time checking out these shops, and ended up getting a Dior silk scarf for myself (which was possibly the most exciting moment of my life). Getting to see garments that I have seen in ads and on the runway was completely surreal, and I spent tons of time inspecting them and seeing how it was all made. The stunning part of such high end, expensive pieces are not just how they look, but how they are made.
Chanel is one of the best examples of well made fashion, since Coco Chanel was very exacting about how each thing should be made. They continue in her legacy, and all of the finishing details are the same as they were in the 20s. The tweed that Chanel uses is from very specific weavers in France, and is extremely difficult to work with. Since it is so loosely woven, it frays very easily. This makes every moment of the process of making a typical Chanel jacket, for example, much harder. And then there are little details that make a Chanel jacket a Chanel jacket. Those details include a chain sewn across the bottom of the jacket to get it to sit right, a quilted lining (quilted to the outside fabric, but not seen from the outside), and bold metal buttons. All of the high end brands use unique methods and include beautiful extra details. If you take care of your purchase, it could last you for generations.
I loved the more classic styles that many of these brands carry. I have so many ideas that I have brought home with me, and a bit of determination to finish the inside of my garments better (if you have followed me for a while, you might know that I give up when it comes to finishing...).
We also went to a ton of tourist attractions, such as the Victory Column and Bradenburg Gate. Seeing these don't take up much time, since you basically just take a picture with it and leave, but it was very neat to see something in real life that you can see in pictures and movies all the time! We also went to Checkpoint Charlie, which has an amazingly well done Mauer (Wall) Museum beside it. The Mauer Museum looks much smaller than it is, but I would recommend putting aside at least a few hours to go through it if you plan on visiting. Seeing Checkpoint Charlie was amazing, and it is so strange to think that the wall did not come down very long ago. Another interesting thing was that many of the visitors that we went through the museum with were German, and not all tourists.
Not far away from Checkpoint Charlie is the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, and just beside that is the Topography of Terror. The Memorial takes up a block, and is surrounded by busy streets. Once you get inside the blocks, it is very quiet. It is a place of reflection, and of mourning. The day we went was very windy and cold, but once you walk in a bit, everything stops.
The Topography of Terror, which is very close to the memorial, has a less calm feeling to it. The museum is in the spot where the SS Headquarters were during World War Two. You can still see the outer wall of the basement, and just above that is a piece of the Wall still standing. The Topography of Terror reminded me a bit of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Manitoba, not just in information but also in the feeling that you get from going through. The Museum goes through from 1933 to now, and talks mostly about the SS and the gestapo. It also talks about the aftermath of the war, and what happened to some of the top officers.
On our last day in Berlin, we went down to Sachsenhausen, one of the first concentration camps built. It is about an hour train ride from Berlin, and is a whole day trip, if you are planning on going. It was very cold on the day that we went, but the weather suited the feeling that I had going through the memorial and museum. Sachsenhausen has a long and terrible history. It was originally built as a test for camps, built in a triangle shape so that the guards in each tour could see the whole camp (the shape was not used for other camps because they could not add buildings easily without wrecking the sight lines). It went on to hold up to 70 000 prisoners in 1945, and was the site of many atrocious experiments. After it was liberated by the Soviets, they used it as a camp for political prisoners, until they decided to turn it into a memorial to the people they liberated. The memorial was heavily biased (it has just red triangles on the massive monument in the middle of the camp, which means political prisoners, so the Soviets who were caught wore that triangle), and made the Soviets out to be the heros. Ironic, since they used the camp as well.
The camp was massive. It is impossible to convey how huge and empty it was inside the walls. Many of the barracks that the prisoners were held in have been taken down, but gravel marked out where they used to be. There are a few buildings left, such as the morgue, the hospital, the camp prison, a barrack or two, and the house of the head of the camp, just a few feet outside of the camp. There is also the burnt remains of 'Station Z', the building that had held the gas chambers and the crematory. The camp is free to the public, just like the Topography of Terrors, so that no one has an excuse to ignore the atrocities of the war. As someone who had learnt about the Holocaust since elementary school, nothing that I read was a shock. But that did not stop it from being an emotional journey. I had at least three moments of understanding how awful the memories were that that ground held. One was in the morgue- the upstairs held am autopsy room, and each person who died was given reasons like 'heart failure' for their reason of death (even of they had been worked to death, or shot, or beaten), and then sent into the basement. They would stack the bodies, and there is a ramp from their for wheelbarrows to take the bodies to the crematory, or to be buried. The building was quite crowded when we had gotten in, since there was a tour group going through, but once I saw how huge the basement was, I wanted out. Unfortunately, there was a rude tourist blocking the door so he could take pictures (and there were a few people taking selfies in the basement... who does that?). Going outside doesn't give you much relief, since every part of the camp oozes a terrible feeling, but it is better than being inside those buildings. By the end of the day, I was emotionally exhausted, but so glad that I went. I think it is so important for everyone to learn and understand what happened during the Holocaust. What are your thoughts about taking photos in places like that?
I ended up really loving Berlin. It is a gritty city, with a twisted past, but it really has grown past that. Many of the people that I talked to said that one thing that they loved about Berlin was the fact that it was so open and accepting, and that it is multi-cultural.
Have you been to Berlin? Did you love it as much as me, even with the dark past?
You can see more of my photos from Germany on my instagram account here, my account is @funk_katherine