Leave your heels at home: is Berlin’s dress code as “casual” as it may appear?

By Jessica Philbrick

Catsuit, batsuit, jumpsuit: Berlin will accept almost anything. Berlin is the place where you’re not supposed to care about what you wear. But with a ‘no-rules-but-there-are-still-some-rules’ attitude, Berlin undoubtedly has a “look” when it comes to clubbing. One which implies that wearing a floral dress and high heels is a no-go. One that strays from  traditionally “feminine” attire.

Pressures of a ‘dress-code’ for many women is still a hot topic, and in a city with seemingly no pressure on what to wear, there remains an expectation to maintain a particular aesthetic, even if that isn’t the “feminine” attire popularised by Western media outlets: dresses, skirts, heels and makeup.

Berlin’s style guides might break some of the mystery of how to get into the German capital’s most exclusive clubs, most of which avoid enforcing aspects of a feminine attire. There are even Pinterest boards, for example, dedicated to how to get into Berghain.

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However helpful these may be to clubbers, they fail to address how individual women may feel when faced with simply choosing what to wear to Berlin clubs and the exclusive entry process.

So how are women navigating their relationship with femininity and maintaining their Berlin clubbing fashion? Instead of trying to offer a set rule guide like numerous other articles about Berlin’s clubbing style, I thought to seek out some opinions from women living in Berlin to gather their lived experiences of what it’s like to dress for Berlin’s clubs in comparison to other cities.

How would you describe the current dress-code for Berlin’s clubbing scene?

Annon, Germany 23: Casual, black or dark colors.

Renee, Australia, 28: Not pretty. Very hipster, grungy. It looks like not much thought has gone into outfits, but it has.

Anya, New Zealand, 27: Alternative/hipster.

Amy, New Zealand, 30: Sporty, black, clean-cut, late ’90s-early 2000s throwback.

Serita, Maryland, 32: Flats, dress or shorts, comfortable, usually dark colors or red.

 

How do your clubbing clothes make you feel?

Annon: Confident, sexy.

Anya: Like I want to party.

Do you feel any pressure to look at certain way when going to Berlin clubs?

Annon: I feel the pressure to look a certain way so that the security guards will let me in. So for most of the clubs it’s that black clothes techno look.

Renee: I don’t feel pressured but I know some women don’t like not being able to wear a pretty dress or heels as it’s not “Berlin Style.”

Serita: No, unless it’s called for like fetish clubs or themed nights.

Do you dress differently for different clubs in Berlin?

Annon: If I go to Kitkat I wear a bit more revealing clothes, but it’s basically the same as to other clubs, but I also only go to techno clubs.

Renee: Yes. I don’t put as much effort in and dress more casually. More pants and a lot more black.

Amy: No.

Do you consider yourself feminine?

Renee: Yes. Even though I wear pants and Doc martens I still always keep a feminine part of me by wearing a low cut top perhaps or showing my midriff with crop tops. Also, feminine makeup and hair.

Anya: Yes. Wearing dresses and shirts and girly clothing colours.

Serita: Yes, I like doing feminine things and feeling feminine, there’s power in being a woman that I wish more people appreciated.

Would you describe elements of your clubbing outfits to be feminine?

Annon: I definitely always wear a necklace or two, I put on eyeliner and lipstick, and I also wear tight clothes, accentuating my curves, not necessarily super revealing though.

Renee: My makeup I always keep feminine with cat eyeliner and mascara. Low cut booby tops or I even wear lace body suits with pants to keep a feminine look.

 

Would you feel judged if you were to wear more feminine attire to a club in Berlin?

Renee: Yes. Definitely.

Anya: Yes for sure.

Amy: Maybe.

Serita: No, people generally don’t care what others are wearing here. Each to their own.

Has your clubbing fashion changed as you’ve aged?

Renee: I dress more for comfort as I get older and wear more pants as opposed to dresses like I used to.

Amy: More comfortable clothing.

Serita: I wear more of what I’m comfortable going out in than feeling pressured to look a certain way (sexy, etc).

Where do you often shop for clubbing clothes?

Annon: H&m, Mango, Zara.

Renee: Monki, the weekday, brandy melville.

Amy: I buy festival clothing from my friend who has an online store called Sea Dragon Studios, and I’ve worn those clothes clubbing, even though they’re a lot sparklier than what other people tend to wear! I haven’t specifically shopped for clubbing clothes.

***

It seems that Berlin may be one of the few cities where dressing with a more feminine will likely get you turned away at the door. Though Berlin’s branded style seems effortless, like you’ve just rolled out of bed, that casual look still demands some effort.

From what I’ve gathered, anyway, greasy hair is cool, bras are optional, sneakers are for dancing in, your outfit should be 50 shades of black and make sure to leave your heels at home. It’s safe to say Serena Williams is one step ahead on the Berlin clubbing aesthetic. If you really need some practical advice, check out Refinery29’s shoot of those who got into Berghain for some inspo, and I’ll catch you in the queue.

Jessica Philbrick is an artist who has recently moved to Berlin from New Zealand. Her art practice is based around research relationships to femininity through clothing and appearances. Often interviewing and photographing women, her work aims to embrace and explore femininity. You can view her work here.

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