September 14, 2014

From Skyline to Hemline: Parachute Silk Wedding Dresses




I recently got a phone call from a lovely lady who was finding new homes for some beautiful old clothes & jewelry.  She mentioned a wedding gown of parachute silk - which made my heart skip a beat - but in the same breath, she let me know the local military museum had gratefully received it as a donation.

That got me started thinking about parachute silk in general, and whether or not wedding gowns were truly made from the Air Force-issued parachutes of the betrothed.

Sure enough... from about 1944, here's starlet Elyse Knox draping herself in the silk from the parachute of fiancĂ© Lieutenant Tommy Harmon of the Army Air Forces.  Once a parachute, soon to be a silk wedding dress, this kind of repurposing was one of the ultimate wartime symbols of "make do and mend".  

Lieutenant Harmon survived two air crashes, and used the same parachute when he was shot down over China.  And now it's onto another life, and like my recent phone call, it's hopefully in another museum somewhere today.  

What a story in these wedding gowns!

Source: Life: World War II by Philip B Kunhardt Jr

September 11, 2014

Make Do And Mend, Hollywood Style




Rita Hayworth can scrimp and save like the best of us!  During World War II, the boys at Camp Callan in California named the bombshell actress their "away-from-home mother".  Here she sews a stitch in time on the 1940s suit of one lucky soldier.

Note his unlined suit jacket (due to fabric rationing) and her perfectly smooth legs that seem to have the glowing lustre of fine hosiery.  It looks like Rita may have had a stash of nylon stockings tucked away during the war, while new nylons were practically impossible to get, as their raw material was needed for military parachutes.

Source: Life: World War II by Philip B Kunhardt Jr

May 27, 2014

The Pleat According To Dior


Monsieur Dior says -
 
 For years pleats have been, and will continue to be, a high point of fashion.  I love them because they are feminine, energetic and moving.  They always give a look of simplicity that I like very much.  They are very young.

With pleats you may put the greatest fullness in a dress without making it look bunchy.  They are very slimming and becoming to almost every woman.

They are very versatile, too - you can have box, accordion, unpressed, inverted, and sun-ray pleats - and they all have their uses.

Photo: Vogue, March 1, 1955.
Source: The Little Dictionary Of Fashion by Christian Dior