Episode 6 — Seventies Dreams of Denim & DIY — PT 1


Hello and thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode which you can also find here.

As promised, you can find my bibliographic references, terms/translations and images to accompany this week’s episode below.

Sibylle Bergemann Images from “Katharina Thalbach”. Sibylle. 6/1974


Key Figures & Timeline Summaries

Erich Honecker — 1971 new head of party and General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The era of “we work for today, we live for tomorrow” was now over. The GDR wanted to refocus their efforts on the needs of the population by a housing construction program, being able to supply to the demands of consumers (adopting a new program of “consumer socialism) and increase purchasing power. Borders on the East towards other Soviet Bloc countries are more open than ever. One could travel to Bulgaria and Hungary without a passport.

Malimo — synthetic fiber created in 1964 known for hats, slippers, swimsuits and bathrobes.

Praesent 20 —synthetic fiber in commemoration of East Germany’s 20-year anniversary and promoted as a great outerwear fabric.


Eric Honecker’s new policies of standardization really start to effect fashion culture, especially business like Heinz Bormann. While also increasing the amount of imports to meet consumer demands.


Private businesses like Heinz Bormanns (renamed VEB Magdeburger Damen Mode) are eliminated and standardized, the mail order catalog business of “Konsumen” continues to thrive and paper dresses becomes a hot micro trend promoted for youth fashion.


The SED enforces an aggressive approach to tackling surpluses while Exquisit stores reached their capacity in goods with recommendations to open more stores. All the while, GDR finally legalized the possession of West German currency and allowed its citizens to finally shop at Intershop.


The global energy crisis of 1973 begins to become a financial burden on East Germany that the state would never recover from. Regardless, consumers compare GDR goods with West German ones while not taking into consideration their subsidized economy like children’s clothes. At Sibylle, Sibylle Bergemann’s photography becomes a romantic respite alongside the publications propagandistic tendencies.


DIY thrives in the homes of East German citizens and on the streets of the state with citezens dying their own fabrics, creating patterns (potatoes were a popular source) and so on. Denim is another popular trend through the first half of the 70s. If you couldn’t buy original Lees or Levis from Jumo (Jugend Mode/Youth Fashion), one would have a pair copied. Guest workers from Vietnam specialized in denim pattern making and design.