what to wear in berlin

What to wear in Berlin?

One of my greatest struggles since moving to Berlin (other than like, not knowing the language and all that visa drama) has been wearing the same goddamn outfit everyday.

Despite packing two suitcases full of stuff, only half of it is wearable throughout the winter, and the other half I’ve grown so sick of looking at that I’ve shoved the remaining clothing items in the drawer so that when I can get back to Canada I can burn them in effigy.

Imagine me dancing around a bonfire swigging bottles of Black Horse and cackling like a maniac, if you will.

And I’m too poor to go shopping, so. There’s that.

I’ve put together this satirical-but-mostly-true guide to what to wear in Berlin.

Black, as black as Trump’s heart

A Facebook friend had warned me before moving to Berlin that unless you’re at a hipster dance party, most people wear exclusively black. Or at least various shades of black, like sorta-black and grey-black. Navy occasionally works too.

In fact, you can’t even get into some clubs if you’re dressed in bright hues of neons and hot pinks. Berghain (THE nightclub) basically forbids it.

This has been the greatest challenge for me. I own maybe five pieces of black clothing – the rest of my wardrobe incorporates insanely colourful leggings, rainbows, and pastels. I LOVE colour.

Especially because I’m a ginger and blackness does not do well to hide my paleness.

Dress down and don’t even think about heels

Wearing stilettos on the weekend? Bitch pleeeeease.

The click-clack of sharp heels on a sidewalk is so rare in Berlin you’re likely to turn everyone’s head and most likely be mistaken for a prostitute. Mothers will look at you in horror and shield their baby’s eyes.

Casual is the only way to go, unless you work in a proper organisation or  you’re seeking a fancy Michelin-starred restaurant. Or if you’re actually attending one of the clubs catered to tourists who want to emulate the Jersey Shore/Kardashian lifestyle. It’s not where most Berliners hang out.

Black boots, sexy leather pants, a casual shirt? Fack yeah.

Berliner style?

Also you can’t go wrong with the whole jean skirt/shorts + black tights combination. Bonus points for a dog purse.

On the other hand, casual can be classy

I live in Prenzlauer Berg, which is the baby making capital of Europe. All day and all night I hear babies wailing. Children teeter around in the street. Mothers leave their kids in strollers on the curb while they pop into shops. (Why? Because Europe is freaking awesome, that’s why. )

So despite what I’ve said before, it’s a bit of surprise to see so many incredibly well groomed moms and dads. (And, oh my god, the dads. There are so many beards. I’m such a home wrecker.) You’ll see new moms pushing prams or sitting outside cafes sipping coffee, wrapped in warm, posh jackets with a pop of colour from a scarf peeking out from the neck. They’ll have their hair done nicely, with some light make-up. They’ll have a pretty hat.

They basically look like me when I put hours into my look, but they’ve probably only taken five minutes.

It’s like the most downplayed form of classiness I’ve never encountered. And I love it.

But you can actually dress like a freak and no one will care

That’s the other extreme.

Assless chaps. Leather bodysuits. Tattoos covering your entire head. Literally no one even notices. But these people generally seek a different kind of lifestyle. So, if that’s you, let your freak flag fly.

Don’t brag about your sweatshop clothing

Every time I mention to a German about how cheap the prices are at Primark, I’m met with some form of disapproval for supporting an industry hell-bent on subjecting its workers to slave labour in order to generate tons of cheap clothing that ends up costing us in the end. And I get it. I respect that.

I don’t mean to paint all Germans with the same brush, but for the most part, my friends genuinely care about where their clothing comes from.

So perhaps opt for local labels instead

In such a hipster-alternative-punkish-weird city, you’d naturally expect heaps of second-hand and vintage clothing shops. Das ist wahr.

I haven’t done much shopping here, but this is what the Internet recommends for Berlin-based/designer labels:

Konk – with the biggest collection of Berlin-based designers / Kleine Hamburger Str.

Baerck – located in Mitte and surrounded by other good shops / Mulackstraße 12

Happy Shop – actually with an emphasis on colour! / Torstraße 67

Flagshipstore – With up and coming labels / multiple locations

Or if you’re trying to save your bucks to spend them on delicious doner kebabs instead, try some second-hand clothing shops: 

Pick n Weight Vintage Store – buy by the kilo! / Alte Schönhauser Str. 30

Soeur – this place is near my apartment and GORGEOUS but I can’t afford it / Marienburger Str. 24

Garments Vintage Clothing – lots of good things in Prenzlauer Berg / multiple locations

Trash-Schick – these guys also cooperate on a magasine with homeless people / Wühlischstraße 31

Let me know your favourites so I can check ’em out when I’m rich and famous. 

  • March 13 2016

    Haha, this is so spot on! I’ve only been here two weeks but I’ve noticed all of the above. And I have to say, after living in the land of OTT that is Dubai for seven years, I’m SO thankful to be in a place where I can be casual and no one gives a f*ck!

  • March 13 2016

    haha this is so accurate!

    • March 15 2016

      Glad you think so! Hahaha

  • March 13 2016

    Oh my, the dads. ..I would Have a baby if it meant it would come with one of them.

    Spot on. And not only IN Berlin, but my friends who come from there and live in Lisbon can not let go of the black…and always look super elegant no matter how casual.

    • March 15 2016

      Hahaha really?! That’s awesome. And yeah, the dads. UNGHH. Dreamy.

  • March 14 2016

    I LOVE Berlin’s aversion to heels. I always felt underdressed when I was living in New York City where most women somehow manage to rock heels while they traipse around the city all day. I can’t do it. Seeing comfy shoes embraced, especially in the night life of Berlin, was such a relief to my toes. :)

    • March 15 2016

      Seriously!! I’ve never been a heels wearer anyway, but at least here flats are the thing

  • March 14 2016

    Thanks for the tips! Will hardcore hit up those secondhand stores when am next in town. PS. LOVE THE DOG BAG!!
    LC recently posted…Travelling Through Cuba: Gather the Facts and Bust the Myths

    • March 15 2016

      Hahahah thank ya!

  • March 25 2016

    Man, I would fit in so perfectly in Berlin!
    I literally only wear black.
    Brooklyn Murtaugh recently posted…The Blogger Awards Tag

  • January 29 2018

    Ooof, I broke all the Berlin rules, including rocking color, color and more color, like my crazy 60s flower print mini-dress. (Hey, it travelled well!) The good news is that hipsters in Berlin are too cool to even notice me.

    • February 04 2018

      Hahaha, I did the same. I LOVE colour. But I also appreciated not having to dress up all the time for a night out or whatever. Ah, Berlin.

  • June 04 2020

    Thanks for this very informative post! As they say when in Rome do as Romans do, so Germany is no different. But then I suspect that this would be true of most of the European countries, they all may have their own favorite colors and styles that would be acceptable in a club or social function.

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