How the Nazi Party influenced the German fashion industryJuly 27, 2013
"Elegance will now dissapear from Berlin along with the jews" said Magda Goebbels, wife of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, upon observing many of her favorite Jewish designers dissapearing. And she was right. When, in 1933, the Nazi Party came to power, it was done with German fashion. Hitler saw Haute Couture as a manifestation of the "Jewish conspiracy". The fashionable hedonism of Hollywood had no place in the National Socialism. However, German fashion was already been a locus of contentious debate in Germany long before. The "Garçonne" style that became popular after the first World War was railed against. Conservative critics said it was 'Jewified', 'masculinized' and "French-dominated".
With vituperative commentaries the critics said that French fashions were unhealthy for German women. Morally and physically. And thus, when in 1933 the Nazi Party reigned, it was clear that from then on only by Aryan hands made fashion was good enough for women of the Third Reich. Racially appropriate clothing depended upon the elimination of the French and Jewish influences from the German fashion industry.
In may 1933 an Aryanization organization named Adefa (Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutsch-arischer Fabrikanten der Bekleidungsindustrie) was established. Their aim was to purge jews from the fashion industry on all area's. They reached their goal by January 1939; all Jewish fashion designers were gone. Also founded in 1933 was the Deutsches Mode-Institut and their mission was to attain fashion independance from French influence. They wanted to create a unique German fashion. But it never succeeded.
German women were discouraged to wear anything foreign and were warned that their engagement with foreign fashion would mean their downfall. The Nazi Party saw trousers, make up, perfume, hair dying, perming, dieting, eyebrow plucking and smoking as 'enemies'. Few of these things were forbidden by law. Instead of the above mentioned 'enemies', the National Socialism promoted natural beauty, service to the nation and the role of women as wives and mothers. The Nazi Party wanted to see their women with natural hair in buns or plaits and healthy skin free of makeup. According to the party, "real beauty should be internal, derived from good character and proud of motherhood, not appearance". The traditional German dress (Tracht) was promoted. However, Tracht was never taken up in great numbers but nevertheless, German fashion showed many traditional influences such as dirndl skirts, embroidery, and Bavarian style millinery. Converting women into stout Black forest maides was not such a great succes. Women continued to dye their hair, perm it and they kept painting their lips throughout the decade. Magazines continued to feature Parisian styles and the sale of makeup didn't decrease. The sale of peroxide even soared.