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Free Within Limits: Fashion, Photography, Underground in the GDR 1979-89

Start Date 04 July 2009
End Date 13 September 2009
Venue Decorative Arts Museum (Kunstgewerbemuseum)
Location Berlin, Germany

Fashion in the GDR was never free from having a political dimension. While some moved freely within certain bounds with their collections, others used what they produced to test the limits of the system. The alternative fashion scene in the GDR made a performance out of its need for individuality and sensuality and ignored the fashions otherwise on offer to the young by the two state-run chains of stores ‘HO’ and ‘Konsum’.

Although it must be said that these two stores often also displayed their own fair share of creativity and sensuality, as in both these cases there were also attempts to counter – albeit within certain limits – the look of uniformity with a sense of the individual. A well-known platform for such attempts was the fashion magazine ‘Sibylle’.

The ‘Free Within Limits’ exhibition by the Museum of Decorative Arts is the first major retrospective of fashion subculture as seen in the context of the official fashion styles of the German Democratic Republic. Around 150 photographs and film footage by significant photographers such as Tina Bara, Sibylle Bergemann, Ute and Werner Mahler, Sven Marquardt, Roger Melis, Helga Paris, Robert Paris and Frieda von Wild, together with original model dresses from ‘Allerleirauh’ and ‘Exquisit’, videos, slide projections and publications provide an illuminating insight into this topic.