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 fianc√© 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

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