A volume of photographs called "Off the Wall - Fashion from the GDR" is a surprise hit in Britain. With not a Mao jacket nor a red scarf in sight, it showcases vintage chic straight of 'Barbarella.' Realistic it isn't.
"We thought everyone in the GDR walked around in drab, dismal clothes, but suddenly we found this incredible stuff which showed there was a thriving fashion industry," said Caz Hildebrand, the British art director who put the collection together.
But was there really? The photos were taken by Günter Rubitzsch, a Leipzig-based photographer who worked regularly for women's weeklies such as Pramo (abbreviated from "Praktische Mode" or "Practical Fashion") and Für Dich ("For You"), magazines which featured sewing or knitting patterns for women who liked to make their own clothes. And most of them had to.
"Everyone looked the same, so if you wanted something special you had to make it yourself," explained Antje Lond Benn, who studied at the Technical College for Clothing Design in East Berlin in the 1980s. "Fabrics and patterns were really cheap, and everyone would improvize with them. And if you were lucky, you could fit into the kids' clothes, which were heavily subsidized."