This was one way for women to express their love for their partners while also getting a beautiful dress because silk was not easily available back then.
Women express their love for their partners in several ways, and during World War II, they came up with a rather unique way to show just how much their partners meant to them. In the 1940s, several brides-to-be decided to honor their men in the military by creating wedding dresses made out of parachutes for their big day. Who would have thought of that? According to Mental Floss, the unusual trend garnered attention in 1943, when St. Paul, Minnesota, native Lois Frommer wed Captain Lawrence Graebner.
Frommer donned Graebner's parachute, which came with a “U.S. Army” stencil and serial number on the fabric. Frommer believed the creamy silk material of the parachute was luxurious enough for the special occasion, and so, she turned it into her wedding gown! Honestly, this is like two birds with one stone - you get to honor your valiant husband's services to the country and also save some money on fabric.
In fact, the trend became so popular that one soldier even asked his future bride to marry him using his parachute instead of a ring. Major Claude Hensinger, an American B-29 pilot during World War II, was trying to return home in 1944.
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
Unfortunately, his engine caught fire from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, according to Ripley's. Hensinger and his team were left with no choice, but to evacuate from the plane using their parachutes; causing them to escape with minor injuries as they landed on some rocks in China.
That same night, he used his parachute to keep himself warm; it even served as a pillow. The following day, he and his crew were brought to safety and were able to return home to the United States.
The same year, he began dating Ruth, and after a year of courtship, he decided to ask her to marry him, but instead of a ring, he went down on one knee with the parachute that saved his life. “This is the parachute that saved my life. I want you to make a wedding gown out of it,” said Hensinger to Ruth.
WWII PARACHUTE WEDDING DRESSES ❤️— Weddings by Fuze Ceremonies (@FuzeCeremonies) September 19, 2019
The postwar marriage boom meant that 1000s of brides needed a wedding gown, but with fabric rationed until 1949, they had to think outside the box! Many used their groom's silk parachute (often the one that saved his life) to make their gown 😍 pic.twitter.com/zoPK7Ls10X
Back then, Ruth was inspired by Scarlet O' Hara from Gone With The Wind, who made a dress from curtains. The bride-to-be sought help from Hilda Buck, a local seamstress, to come up with the perfect wedding gown. “My husband didn’t see the gown until I walked down the aisle,” said Ruth. “He was happy with it.”
Per The Smithsonian, the young couple got married on July 19, 1947. The wedding dress was worn by their daughter and by their son’s bride before it was gifted to the museum.
The trend caught on, and Betty, a young bride who wore Edwin Morgan's parachute when they got married on February 16, 1946, in Girard, didn't realize that her gown, made from a German soldier's parachute, would make a statement years later, as cited by WFMJ. The gown is now part of the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection at Ohio State after a relative suggested donating it.
Now, it's become a rather popular teaching tool!
"There's just so much we can use to teach with it. You can really see that it's a parachute and you can talk about why that is important and why they would be rationing and what this would have meant to have a dress like this," said Marlise Schoeny with the Ohio State University Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.
In yet another instance, George Braet—a young army pilot who flew in dangerous missions to defeat Hitler in Europe—came back home with a parachute full of holes as a result of the broken metal of his aircraft after taking enemy fire. At the time, silk wasn't easily available, so Evelyn Braet chose to make a dress out of her fiance's parachute for her wedding, reports CBS New York.
Kate and Mike Braet’s mother wore the dress in 1945. With time, the dress has turned yellow, but it still remains a strong symbol of love, service, and hope. “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. “My parents are now going to live forever.”
While some of these unique dresses are in museums, others are still cherished as a family heirloom.
Cover Image Source (representative): (L) & (R) Getty Images| Photo by Keystone Features