Dress-down Friday: Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

Strange Flowers

At this reform-minded time of year, we take a look at the utilitarian slash messianic wardrobe reforms of German artist Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach.

Diefenbach was shaping up to be just an averagely bohemian scenester in 1880s Munich when he reached an epiphany about the course and form of his life. In 1882 he retreated, Moses-like, to the mountain of Hohenpeißenberg and descended, in similarly Mosaic fashion, with a new creed.

He was soon pronouncing the virtues of free love and the vice of cigarettes, preaching temperance and vegetarianism to a city sodden with beer and swollen with wurst. But it was Diefenbach’s approach to dress which most alarmed Wilhelmine Germany. All about him good Bavarian burghers attended to their business in frock coats and the kind of women’s dresses which would have satisfied most definitions of torture had they been imposed by an invading force rather than convention. Diefenbach…

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