It so happened that the parachute silk made for the perfect base material to stitch a wedding dress.
The dress a bride wears is a vital part of a wedding. Every bride dreams of her perfect dress and will leave no stone unturned to make that dream a reality, be it a handmade gown or an expensive designer gown. But during the war, they did not have the luxury of choice. What they did have, however, was something no amount of money could buy. Firstly, they had their sweetheart who had gone off to fight in the second world war and was finally back safe and sound. To celebrate this, brides in the 1940s often had their wedding dresses made from the parachute material that saved their beloved's life. Is there anything more romantic than that?
Having made it through the war alive was a feat worth celebrating. To add a touch of sentimentality, women started using the parachutes their fiancé had to carry with them to the war to make their wedding dresses. It so happened that the parachute silk made for the perfect base material to stitch a wedding dress. That, and the fact that there was a general shortage of fabric during the war. This made for a unique wedding dress trend in the 1940s. Dusty Old Thing reported that there were newspaper articles as early as 1943 with stories about the brave women who were not letting anything go to waste.
Really interesting trip to Raf Kirkby and to see these wartime wedding dresses made from parachute silk. pic.twitter.com/kfjQpehF5X— North Art (@NorthArt2) June 3, 2021
Parachutes were made from pure silk in delicate cream making them an excellent material for wedding dresses. There were also parachutes made with thinner nylon material which was suitable as well. They were brought back by the soldiers as souvenirs of serving in the war. They were deemed unfit for reuse especially if they were opened to land in seawater or if they had been otherwise damaged. One newspaper referred to the dress fashioned from a war parachute as a "GI gown." Lois Frommer from Saint Paul, Minnesota, was all set to marry Captain Lawrence A. Graebner in a GI gown.
The article explained how it was a gag taken way too seriously. Frommer had joked the parachute silk was "exquisite material" but it was no longer a joke as Captain Graebner's parachute, deemed unfit after being exposed to saltwater for too long was used to make the bodice, neck yoke, three-quarter length sleeves, panel skirt, and train. It also carried the US Army logo along with Captain Graebner's serial number. She was not the only one though. Ruth Hensinger used her lover's parachute for her wedding dress as well. This couple took it a step further and Major Claude Hensinger even proposed to her, not with a ring but the chute that saved his life.
“This is the parachute that saved my life. I want you to make a wedding gown out of it,” Claude had told Ruth. Ruth's dress was made with a pattern identical to Scarlet O’Hara’s in Gone With the Wind. “My husband didn’t see the gown until I walked down the aisle,” said Ruth. “He was happy with it.” This dress was so iconic that it is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Similarly, there is another 75-year-old wedding gown that is on display at the Cradle Of Aviation Museum’s collection on Long Island.
This gown was worn by Evelyn Braet, who married George Braet who just narrowly escaped death during WWII. “My father came home with this parachute filled with holes,” the couple's daughter, Kate told CBS Local. “If the parachute were not there, it would have killed him.” Evelyn was grateful for the parachute that brought her future husband back alive and decided to make her wedding gown from the material. “It’s just one story of millions, I’m sure, of what people went through during the war… and how difficult it was,” said Mike, the couple's son. “My parents are now going to live forever.” Kate added, “The story goes beyond us because it’s a story of love. It’s a story of bravery. It’s a story of hope. It’s a story of the future.”