Cover image for Nazi chic? : fashioning women in the Third Reich
Nazi chic? : fashioning women in the Third Reich
Guenther, Irene.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford : Berg, [2004]

Physical Description:
ix, 499 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1660 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT911 .G84 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This is the first book in English to deal comprehensively with German fashion from World War I through to the end of the Third Reich. It explores the failed attempt by the Nazi state to construct a female image that would mirror official gender policies, inculcate feelings of national pride, promote a German victory on the fashion runways of Europe and support a Nazi-controlled European fashion industry. Not only was fashion one of the countrys largest industries throughout the interwar period, but German women ranked among the most elegantly dressed in all of Europe. While exploding the cultural stereotype of the German woman as either a Brunhilde in uniform or a chubby farmers wife, the author reveals the often heated debates surrounding the issue of female image and clothing, as well as the ambiguous and contradictory relationship between official Nazi propaganda and the reality of womens daily lives during this crucial period in German history. Because Hitler never took a firm public stance on fashion, an investigation of fashion policy reveals ambivalent posturing, competing factions and conflicting laws in what was clearly not a monolithic National Socialist state. Drawing on previously neglected primary sources, Guenther unearths new material to detail the inner workings of a government-supported fashion institute and an organization established to help aryanize the German fashion world.How did the few with power maintain style and elegance? How did the majority experience the increased standardization of clothing characteristic of the Nazi years? How did women deal with the severe clothing restrictions brought about by Nazi policies and the exigencies of war? These questions and many others, including the role of anti-Semitism, aryanization and the hypocrisy of Nazi policies, are all thoroughly examined in this pathbreaking book.

Author Notes

Irene Guenther is Professor of History, Houston Community College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Despite numerous publications covering politics and women's roles in the Third Reich, this work by Guenther (Houston Community College-Northwest) covers new ground by focusing on government control through sartorial symbolism tied to cultural nationalism, anti-Semitic purification of the German clothing industry, and how these policies were carried out by the German Fashion Institute, a Nazi propaganda agency in Berlin. Early on, the traditional German folk costume (dirndl dress with bodice, embroidered collar, shawl, apron, and jacket) was the ideal for older women; a stylish uniform (white blouse, black neck kerchief, white socks, flat-heeled leather shoes, and "Alpine-look" jacket) for youthful females. But some sophisticated urban females refused to be co-opted in their fashion choices. Guenther recognizes that haute couture in France survived WW II German occupation via collaboration/defiance tactics (see Dominique Veillon's Fashion under the Occupation, CH, Sep'03). She opines that some elite women in Germany subtly resisted Nazi restrictions by unpatriotically insisting on wearing French designs, cosmetics, and perfumes. Finally, extreme wartime shortages, tight rationing, and loss of Jewish creative talents devastated the German clothing industry, ending all Nazi hopes of dominating European fashions. This fascinating case study of how male dictatorships cannot totally control female tastes is heavily documented (endnotes and bibliography--197 pages). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. B. Chico Regis University

Table of Contents

Part One Introduction
The Fashion Debate in World War One
The 'New' WomanPart Two
Fashioning Women in the Third Reich
'Purifying' the German Clothing Industry
The German Fashion Institute
The War Years: The Home Front, the Ghettos and the Concentration Camps of the Third Reich