If there is one garment cherished above all others, it has to be the wedding dress. Most young girls plan for years and dream of the dress they will wear on their wedding day. For many, no expense will be spared, even though the dress will only be worn one for little more than twelve hours. More than any other garment, from that day forward, the wedding dress will carry the memories and promises made to each other in front of family and friends.
During World War II and shortly thereafter when fabric was scarce, brides were forced to be resourceful. Some wore their Mother's dress, altered to individual preference, some wore their Sunday best suit or dress, and some created gowns out of fabric brought home by their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons returning from service in Europe or the Pacific. That fabric used was the beautiful silk from military parachutes.
In 1947, one year after Maj. Claude Hensinger returned from WWII, he proposed to a gal he'd known since childhood. Instead of an engagement ring, he handed her his most important possession - the one that saved his life during the war - his parachute. He handed it to her and told her to make a wedding dress out of it. She did and the stunning dress pictured here is the result. Years later it was worn by their daughter and then their daughter-in-law after which it was donated to the Smithsonian where it is on display for all to enjoy.
"And did you know a young girl made a wedding dress out of one of the pilots' parachutes?"
This was both a statement and a question I was asked over and over again by folks I interviewed while writing We Bought A WWII Bomber. The second half of the book is about the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in Meadows of Dan, Virginia where townspeople came to the aid of the crew forced to bail as the plane was going down.
Vera, the youngest of the Barnard girls, confirmed the first part of the story but said her sister never made the wedding dress. You see, the Barnard girls had a brother who was in the United States Army Air Corp. When he came home on leave and saw the parachute, he told his parents they had to send it back to the Captain's military base. So Mr. Barnard packed it up and sent it back to Lockbourne Army Air Force base.
I wish the rumor of the parachute wedding dress had been true. I would have loved to include the story, complete with photographs, in the pages of the book. Instead, I added the story to other mythical gems that grew out of the day a B-17 bomber, circled the historic Mabry's mill twice and crashed in a pig lot in a tiny Virginia mountain town.
Do you have a story and/or a photograph of a wedding dress made from a parachute or another unusual thing? I'd love to hear about.
Leave a comment, tweet or share and I'll put your name in a hat to win a copy of We Bought A WWII Bomber.
Parachute Wedding Dress story from The Vintage News https://www.facebook.com/thevintagenews