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How Fashion Survived WWII: Redesigning an Industry in Paris, London, and New York

Studio Arts Workshop

Morning Studio Arts Course

Saturday, November 14, 2020 - 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1V00FT
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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By Lauren Kingsland


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

In the years leading up to WWII, fashion and goods from its supporting textile industries were among France’s most important exports, contributing to the country’s standing as the tastemaker for the world. With the onset of the war that position was threatened, and there were also significant concerns in London and New York about the loss of commerce that fashion provided.

Rationing was introduced in all three countries, but the impact of the war was different in each fashion center. Germany wanted to move the fashion capital to Vienna or Berlin, away from occupied Paris. London actively sustained bombing raids that required the longest and most restrictive rationing policy. Meanwhile, New York saw an opportunity to throw off the dominance of Paris fashion and bring American designers to the forefront.

A 1-hour presentation by textile curator Elizabeth Lay illustrates how each country’s fashion industry developed plans to survive the war, and the extraordinary efforts made following the conflict to rebuild with limited materials.

On the home front, rationing and repurposing became part of daily life, with slogans like “Use it up, wear it out, make it do” encouraging thrift and ingenuity. Textile artist Lauren Kingsland leads a hands-on project inspired by the wartime spirit in which participants learn how to make a kitchen apron from a recycled shirt. She also displays samples of period aprons passed down in her family that were made from materials found at hand.

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Other Information

  • The instructors are Elizabeth Lay and Lauren Kingsland.
  • One 3-hour session
  • This studio arts program is a Zoom Meeting to allow for patron and instructor interaction.

Patron Information

  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.