Dress-down Friday: Annemarie Schwarzenbach

AS5In his book Auf der Schwelle des Fremden, Swiss writer Alexis Schwarzenbach presents the most compelling portrait we have of his great-aunt, the writer, photographer and adventurer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who died on this day in 1942. The insights into Schwarzenbach’s early life are particularly valuable, showing us that the self-willed androgyne of legend had already asserted herself in childhood, emerging after the birth of her younger brother Freddy:

It must have been rapidly apparent to Annemarie that her parents favoured Freddy above all because he was a boy. This is presumably the reason that she transformed herself into a boy, assuming this new identity in 1917. In January the eight-year-old had her long hair cut off and she wore it short from that point on. Having always worn the same dresses as her sister, she now began dressing like her younger brothers. She even wore the same bathing costumes as Freddy and Hasi when she went swimming. Her favourite piece of clothing was a pair of lederhosen which her mother had brought back from Munich. Annemarie wore them everywhere, and when she visited her grandparents at Mariafeld she was even thrown out of the Meilen church for her unseemly appearance. A new name completed the transformation. In September 1917, the nine-year-old signed her earliest extant letter to her father with the words “Best wishes, Fritz”.

Here, the timeless, ageless, genderless, effortless, deathless, fearless chic of Annemarie Schwarzenbach (beware of imitations):


Further reading
Ravaged angel
Strange Flowers guide to Berlin, part 4
Annemarie Schwarzenbach | The South, 1937
Schwarzenbach in English
A life spent searching
Pearls: Annemarie Schwarzenbach
Death in Persia
Circles: Klaus and Erika Mann



  1. (Sorry, I wanted to comment right away but my laptop died and doing so on my phone was impractical until I got a stylus.)

    I did literal *clappyhands* when this post arrived in my inbox. Every time I reblog a post about the numptious Fräulein Schwarzenbach at Tumblr, it’s always with a tag like, “my future girlfriend once I get this whole time-travel business sorted out.” Though I tend to be more attracted to men overall, she is one woman I would happily give up on men for forever. (Okay, well, except for Conrad Veidt, but he was a liberal sort of fellow and I’m sure we could work out some kind of timeshare deal… 😉

  2. thombeau

    LOVE HER!!

  3. Pingback: Je suis Annemarie Schwarzenbach | Strange Flowers

  4. Pingback: Annemarie Schwarzenbach (*1908) | L-talk

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