In my last post I laid out a brief introduction of the fashion experience in Germany. Dating a German-Spaniard who is fond of reds and greens and blues but can also rock black successfully, I have to admit I got the better end of the deal; a German with all the German merits who pays attention to style. While having a conversation about the very topic of fashion in Germany, he blurted out what he thought was a confession.
“If I weren’t dating you, I wouldn’t be dressing this way.”
The fact that he wasn’t taking any credit for his style made me smile. “Oh honey, if you weren’t dressed well you wouldn’t be dating me.”
Where to Shop
Although I am fully supportive of a good retail trip with some girlfriends downtown, steaming lidded cups of tea or ice cream in hand, depending on the season, I prefer online shopping any day of the week. Especially if that day is Saturday. Being a working student, I find it difficult to manage a shopping trip during weekdays and Saturdays are just too busy if you are a claustrophobic easily enraged by fellow shoppers bumping into you. There is nothing street shopping offers you that online shopping doesn’t. And if you have your favourite brand, you can just as easily find the items on their websites. Unless you are into rampaging through the items on sale.
A sentence I heard from a wise Brit has stayed with me for years, although it’s easy to diverge from the philosophy behind it. “We are still not rich enough to shop for cheap items.” And though it’s not very practical for students, there are branches of that attitude that I stick to. I would mention Primark as an example, but the British chain retailer offering its low quality items for a price still too expensive for the quality they are offered in needs no introduction.
Let’s take H&M as an example. Although the Swedish retailer offers a variety of designs for affordable prices, I rarely find myself in their shops. I find the articles lacking quality and diversity. Another turn off is its universality. Although that word is generally saved for a more positive use, there is something that does not tickle my fancy about seeing several other women wearing the exact outfit I have purchased at H&M.
Zalando and Asos are among my favourite online shopping platforms. There have also been times where I found shoes on Amazon. Be sure to check the shipping and return policies. And always be on the lookout for sales. I’ve recently learned that by merely Googling a Gutschein or Rabatt-Code for each online shop you can save quite a sum of money.
Where to Sell/Swap/Recycle
I am against throwing any piece of clothing in the rubbish bin. Not only because you can always find an appropriate event not too long in the future to recycle the item for, but also because there are numerous environment-friendly options that reward you with money, other clothing articles or the feeling of good-doing.
The Flea Markets (or a Flohmarkt as they are known in Germany)
Universities usually offer opportunities for students to rent a stand and sell their items on campus. In a university town like Heidelberg where there’s a constant flow of incoming and outgoing exchange students, your items will always have interested customers.
And then there are the virtual flea markets that make sorting and offering your unwanted clothes easier. Yet there is the hassle of dropping off the articles at the post office or packet station for pick up. Kleiderkreisel andMädchenflohmarkt are more commonly used in Germany. Both platforms are offered as apps too.
Return to Shops
The likes of H&M (have to be fair and mention their positive attributes too) offer you a certain percentage of discount on an item of choice in exchange for a bag filled with your old clothes. You will need to pop in to ask for a bag and return with the said bag full to its brim in order to get your discount. Although this may not be as economically beneficial as other options, it has less hassle.
One thing I was introduced to in Germany was “Kleidertauschen”. A gathering of girls with bags of clothes they no longer enjoy wearing. It is in these gatherings that clothes are swapped or given away. Although I never attended such event (I have a sister to swap clothes with), I have heard friends going on about how much of a treat it is to go in with a bunch of items you don’t want and go home with items that you will be able to rock, giving you the impression of getting them for free.
Walking around any German city you will come across large metal boxes, containers if you will, that have the word “Altkleidersammlung” plastered on them, literally translated to “old clothes collection”. These containers promise to take your very old clothing, shred or rip them apart and recycle them into material for items such as the interior of car seats, sofas and mattresses. This would be the last resort, for those articles you just can’t bear to keep and are ashamed of owning or swapping.
Wear What You Want…
I think you got the idea. There aren’t that many events to get dressed up for in Germany. And even if there is, no one would notice if you show up in a pair of Levi's and some old Chucks. Yet I never gave into the temptation of comfort, for I never feel comfortable in plain jeans and sneakers to be frank. I spend my spring and summer days in dresses. And the other two seasons rarely see me in trousers. A thick pair of tights or leggings under a warm dress protect my legs pretty well. On those brutal February nights, I stretch up a pair of knee length socks, hidden by my knee length boots. What can I say? I live my life in dresses.
Being more of a homebody, I rarely go out partying. I enjoy my nights in with a cuppa and some biscuits during a reading session, or a glass of wine while pouring words out on a page. My idea of a fun evening is having friends over for dinner, drinks and conversation. Yet I do find joy in going out for a drink or meal with friends to a cosy bar or restaurant where the food is good and the music is even better. And where conversation can happen. Upon my arrival I befriended girls from Serbia, Turkey and Spain. These girls loved to go out but loved to dress up even more. Shopping trips with each of them was a learning experience (as was observing their taste in men). With them I never felt overdressed with too much red lipstick on. We roamed the streets feeling confident and beautiful...
And I never lost that. Although I don’t show up to class in a mini dress and platform heels, I refrain from looking too comfortable and enjoy putting some effort into looking presentable even when attending colloquiums. For my mother, whenever we would walk around the house in our pyjamas the whole day, would teasingly remark: “you should take the audience into consideration."
I would suggest you wear what you like, where you like. Yet beware of a few stares here and there, yet not many judgements are passed. May it be a Jack Wolfskin windbreaker or a fur coat (actually you will get some nasty looks when walking around in fur, and not only from animal activists). It’s a free country. You can’t get more liberal than Germany.