Parachute Wedding Dress
June 6, 2011
Parachute Wedding Dress, 1947
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
This wedding dress was made from a nylon parachute that saved Maj. Claude Hensinger during World War II.
In August 1944, Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, and his crew were returning from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when their engine caught fire. The crew was forced to bail out. Suffering from only minor injuries, Hensinger used the parachute as a pillow and blanket as he waited to be rescued. He kept the parachute that had saved his life. He later proposed to his girlfriend Ruth in 1947, offering her the material for a gown.
Ruth wanted to create a dress similar to one in the movie Gone with the Wind. She hired a local seamstress, Hilda Buck, to make the bodice and veil. Ruth made the skirt herself; she pulled up the strings on the parachute so that the dress would be shorter in the front and have a train in the back. The couple married July 19, 1947. The dress was also worn by the their daughter and by their son’s bride before being gifted to the Smithsonian.
This item is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is not on display.
More information at http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/costume/object.cfm?recordnumber=834994
White; made from parachute; fitted bodice with left side metal zipper; shirred at center front from waist to bust; shirred at side seams at bust; net yoke inset that also forms upper portion of sleeves; opening in yoke at center back, fastened with eight buttons and loops; wide ruffle of lace and net sewn to bottom of yoke; two darts in back bodice; long sleeves; skirt portion of eight panels of parachute; parachute cord in casings placed vertically and drawn up to form poufs; cords pulled up to make skirt shorter in front and create train in back; skirt lightly gathered onto bodice; parachute cord casings, without cords, used as decorative band around bottom of skirt.
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