Wiener Werkstatte girl’s ensemble


20055170ab WW childWiener Werkstatte
c. 1930
Museum Purchase

Founded in 1903 by architect Josef Hoffman and artist Kolomon Moser, the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop) was a group of artists, designers and craftsman dedicated to combining artistry and function in the design and manufacture of everyday objects. Like the 19th century reformers William Morris and Charles Ashbee, the founders of the Wiener Werkstatte believed that mass-production had diminished, if not entirely eliminated, the aesthetic appeal of everyday objects. The overarching goal of the Wiener Werkstatte was to create a gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art that united architecture, furniture, graphic design, clothing and all other material elements of daily life into a unified and harmonious whole. To this end, Wiener Werkstatte designers reimagined everything from architecture, to furniture, even place settings for the dinner table. By 1928, the Wiener Werkstatte and affiliated designers were producing ceramics, metalwork, bound books, textile patterns, jewelry, lace and other objects. Wiener Werkstatte designs were realized by skilled craftspeople who worked under relatively progressive conditions.

The Wiener Werkstatte consisted of multiple departments: a design school, studios for established designers, production workshops and retail outlets. Because so many designers were involved with the Wiener Werkstatte, it is difficult to pinpoint a collective aesthetic. In general, Wiener Werkstatte designers shunned extraneous decoration, relying instead on the integrity of materials and craftsmanship to speak for itself. Each designer had his or her own style, and these styles evolved over the life of the Wiener Werkstatte. This selection of postcards highlights the varied styles of artists associated with the Wiener Werkstatte. Co-founder Josef Hoffman relied on geometric forms in his work; his bentwood chair incorporates a variety of simple geometric forms. Dagobert Peche, another leading Wiener Werkstatte designer, created twining, intricate designs based on stylized flowers and foliage. 

A fashion division was founded in 1911. One of the most successful and long-lasting branches of the Wiener Werkstatte, the fashion department produced garments, shoes, handbags, umbrellas and other accessories. Extant examples of garments indicate that they were often made from the vibrant silk textiles created by the Wiener Werkstatte textile designers. For that reason, this blue wool felt children's ensemble is a bit of a puzzle. Comprised of a princess seamed jacket and matching skirt, both decorated with dimensional felt flowers, this ensemble has a Wiener Werkstatte label inside the jacket. The styling is different from all the Wiener Werkstatte garments that we've encountered. How does it fit into the artistic output of the Wiener Werkstatte?

20055170ab-2 WW 22005.5.170AB jacket back

With its folklore flavor, this ensemble suggests our 1940s Lanz jacket, which was also made in Austria. We've dated this girl's ensemble to c. 1930, which coincides with the last years of the Wiener Werkstatte. According to Wiener Werkstatte scholars, by the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Wiener Werkstatte aesthetic was largely informed by folk traditions rather than the contemporary artistic movements that had influenced the workshop in its early years. The Wiener Werkstatte was also financially unstable, which might have resulted in attempts to create more commercially viable products. Is this girl's ensemble an example of the Wiener Werkstatte attempting to reinvigorate its finances with accessible design?

By 1930, numerous factors had affected the financial stability of the Wiener Werkstatte. The privations of the World War I years (1914-1918) and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of World War I resulted in a shrinking pool of wealthy customers and patrons. The economic crash of 1929 and the subsequent worldwide depression coupled with the rise of the Nazi party were the final blows to the Wiener Werkstatte. In 1932, the textile and fashion workshops were the last remaining departments; these remnants of the Wiener Werkstatte were liquidated in the fall of 1932.

Is this girl's ensemble one of the final products of the Wiener Werkstatte? Have you seen any similar garments with a Wiener Werkstatte label? If you have any information or insight on this girl's ensemble, please let us know. Your input could help us crack this case!


7 responses to “Wiener Werkstatte girl’s ensemble

  1. Donata Orsborn says:

    My grandmother worked in post-WWII Germany and Austria. On her visit to the U.S. in 1955, she brought me a wool suit almost identical to the one shown.

    Label with the red heart says:
    Wiener Werkstatte
    Ges. Gesch.

    Size is 50 – about Child size 4.

    Floral design on the back of the jacket is more compact-shorter vines. Your jacket must be a child size 8 or 10.

    My grandmother also brought a lovely pair of lederhosen, with similar detail, for my younger brother. We assumed these were items sold to tourists, but, knowing my grandmother, they may have been purchased secondhand from a neighbor or friend.

    My suit has been kept in a shadowbox and displayed on the wall of my sewing room for more than 20 years.
    I’ll take some good pix for you.

  2. Rachel says:


    Thanks for your comment! It makes me wonder if there was a revival of the Wiener Werkstatte during or after World War II. Your label sounds similar to the one inside this jacket. So interesting! We would love to see images of your suit…you can email them to us via the contact link at the upper left. Or you could post them on our Facebook page. Looking forward to seeing your suit!

  3. Sharon Breshears says:

    What an amazing outfit. The workmanship and detailing are beautiful.

    p.s. Will we be seeing a post about museum curator Kevin Jones’ trips to the UK and Italy?

  4. Rachel says:

    I will do my best! I’m going to try and get Kevin to recap his experiences at the recent The Making of a Monarchy for the Modern World conference. Stay tuned…

  5. janet moore says:

    I have a girl’s skirt and jacket (same style as your photo) that my parents bought for me when I was very young…so probably in the early 50’s. They traveled to Europe often so it was likely purchased in Austria? The label is ” Weiner Moden”. The suit is red wool felt with green edging, embroidery on the jacket and skirt and the same buttons as on your example. It is in perfect condition and I would like to know its value.

  6. Rachel says:

    Hi Janet,

    For a variety of reasons, we cannot provide valuations of objects. I’d suggest checking auction results and looking around online to for other examples.

    Good luck in your search!

  7. Grant Roesler says:

    I’m curious if the museum would be interested in more Wiener Werkstatte children’s clothing, similar to this?

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