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!