Parachute wedding dresses also became a way to honor the service of these men.
In the 1940s, many brides-to-be found a way to honor their men in the military by creating parachute wedding dresses for their big day. According to Mental Floss, the bridal trend gained traction as early as 1943, when St. Paul, Minnesota, native Lois Frommer wed Captain Lawrence Graebner. Frommer donned his unused parachute, complete with a “U.S. Army” stencil and serial number in the fabric. Frommer felt that the creamy silk of the parachute was luxurious enough for the special occasion.
The romantic gesture was a tribute to the heroism of their husbands-to-be who served in World War II.https://t.co/9YrqWFtm33— Mental Floss (@mental_floss) July 7, 2021
Another bride ended up wearing a nylon parachute that saved her husband's life during World War II. In August 1944, Maj. Claude Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, and his crew were returning from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when their engine caught fire. Hensinger and the crew were forced to bail out. Hensinger used the parachute as a pillow and blanket while awaiting rescue. Later, he proposed to his girlfriend Ruth using the chute instead of a ring. “This is the parachute that saved my life. I want you to make a wedding gown out of it,” said Hensinger to Ruth, according to Ripley's.
Ruth wanted to create a dress similar to one in the movie Gone with the Wind, where Scarlet O’Hara made one from her curtains. The bride-to-be sought out Hilda Buck, who was a local seamstress, to make the veil and bodice as Ruth designed and sewed the skirt. “My husband didn’t see the gown until I walked down the aisle,” said Ruth. “He was happy with it.” According to The Smithsonian, the couple married July 19, 1947, and the wedding dress was also worn by their daughter and by their son’s bride before being gifted to the Smithsonian.
On June 6 (D-Day) #WWII bride Elizabeth Deaner visited the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum to see her 1944 wedding dress. The dress, made from a parachute used on D-Day is on permanent display at the museum. https://t.co/IZH1wEHvZH @FtBraggNC @VisitNC @nctripping pic.twitter.com/TLhDCB73gm— Visit Fayetteville NC (@VisitFayNC) June 8, 2018
Army paratrooper Edwin Morgan and his bride, Betty, got married on February 16, 1946, in Girard, and Betty was also one of the many brides who ended up wearing a parachute wedding dress. During an interview in 2013 when Betty was 90 years old and Edwin, 95, the two said no one ever asked them about the gown on their big day, reports WFMJ. In 1997, a relative suggested that they donate the gown. It is now part of the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection at Ohio State. The dress became one of the most popular teaching tools of its textile collection. "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.
Another bride, Evelyn Braet, wore her partner George Braet’s parachute for their Wisconsin wedding. George was a young army pilot who flew in dangerous missions to defeat Hitler in Europe. The parachute he brought home was full of holes as a result of the broken metal of his aircraft after taking enemy fire, reports CBS New York. Not the 76-year-old wedding gown is part of the Cradle Of Aviation Museum’s collection on Long Island. Kate and Mike Braet’s mother wore the dress in 1945. “Something that was meant to save somebody from a crashing plane, then became the parachute that carried them throughout their marriage,” Kate Braet said. “My father came home with this parachute filled with holes,” Kate said. “If the parachute were not there, it would have killed him.” As silk was in short supply, “my mother got the idea to have that parachute transformed into this beautiful gown,” said Mike Braet. Although with time the dress has turned yellow, it 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.”