BONUS Episode Got a Haute Minute? Weekend Reads: In Grenzen Frei — Mode Fotografie Underground 1979–1989

East German Fashion History Blog
5 min readJul 18, 2020

Thanks for tuning in to this weekend’s episode reviewing the exhibition catalogue In Grenzen Frei — Mode Fotografie Underground DDR 1979–1989/Free within Borders — Fashion Photography & the Underground GDR 1979–1989 edited by Michael Boehlke, Henryk Gericke, Grit Seymour & Frieda von Wild.

See below for a selection of images from the catalogue as well as notes & key figures from the movement.

Robert Zayd Paris

Roger Melis

Helga Paris

Michael Biedowicz

Harald Hausmann — CCD Show

Jürgen Hohmuth

Sibylle Bergemann

Tina Bara

Sven Marquardt


Tina Bara

Harmtmut Beil

Sibylle Bergemann

Michael Biedowicz

Harald Hauswald

Juegen Hohmuth

Ute Mahler

Werner Mahler

Sven Marquardt

Roger Melis

Helga Pais

Robert Zayd Paris

Frieda von Wild

Creative Collectives & Movements

Chic, Charmant und Dauerhaft / Chic, Charming/ Lasting

Stattgespraech /City Gossip

Omlette Surpise

Allerleirauh /“All-Kinds-of-Fur” also translated as “Thousandfurs which was the name of a a fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm

Haute Takes— Henryck Gericke & Michael Boehlke

Michael Boehlke highlights that many of the photographs and creative collaborations of these social groups addressed issues such as sexuality and vulnerability, motifs such as empty street canyons and gray houses portrayed with an otherworldly vibe. They explored themes relevant to their generation: the desire of the human body, color & play and performing a feeling of freedom.

Taboos were broken, coming outs were celebrated. This underground movement and the art was a space where everyone wished to be seen instead of hiding, conforming and complying to social norms.

Henryck Gericke goes on to remark “if one follows the rumor that every action that is committed and every word that is spoken is political, then this affected life in the gdr in a very particular way. If this notion is to be fact then one has to disregard the majority of those who no longer acted because they worked, no longer spoke because they were silent.”

The underground and creative collectives like Chic, Charmant & Dauerhaft and Omlette Surpise existed in a ideological miniuniverse where redflags were always blowing towards the east.

Gericke goes on to reflect that politically, they were those who stood up in word and deed against the “state-mandated tides of coma and vegetative coma”

But much of this resistance proved ineffective in the end.

And the west however was not necessarily a cardinal direction for the underground movement, rather it was a dystopic. For those that grew up in this early aged country the West was always a dream of music, dance and beautiful clothes. But an easy dream can rarely thrive in a difficult state like East Germany.

To understand this counterculture, you need to be acquaintanced with trends and tendencies of East German youth culture which often gravitated towards this alternative.

While the beat generation celebrated a light-heartedness that was self-sufficient, it displeased those who were never enough. For the freaks and hippies that felt fenced in and vagabonds within four walls. They eventually lost their flowery self-understanding and with it sometimes long hair.

Punks won their lost battles, they organized a tumult and raged through the broken backdrops of a faltering state. Punks were often imprisoned SIDE NOTE for more reading on East German punk culture, check out the book Burning Down the Haus — a link to that is in the blog.

If the opposition movement, which believed in reform, was still looking for a supposed dialogue in the gdr, which was designed as ONE unparalleled monologue, then the punks started a direct confrontation at the beginning of the eighties.

The style, fashions and dress were purposefully worn and tattered or theatrical & often sartorial satire. Celebrated designs and silhouettes didn’t really have any ideological purpose or intent but were simply over-the-top.

After a while this subculture became high culture and the clownish irony exhausted itself. Ingenuity became overly staged.

Gericke goes on to reflect that the greatest of all repressions, however, was “grazing boredom”. In each of the four long decades of the German Democratic Republic’s short existence, generation-specific defense reactions developed and eventually suppressed.

To surrender oneself to these countercultural movements was also a liberation of the individual.