Parachic

Wedding dress worn July 19, 1947, made from parachute used in 1944. From the collection of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

A reader of my Forties Fashion book sent me a link to a blog about a wedding dress made from a parachute. I have seen, read about or heard of maybe two dozen garments made from parachutes, including underwear, baby clothes, and raincoats, but most of the time it’s wedding dresses that were made from parachutes.

Because of the lack of available material during and immediately following the war, parachute silk (which was rarely ever silk but rather nylon or some other man made material) was used to make civilian clothes. It was illegal to use found parachutes during the war because authorities required them to be turned over for investigation. All of the surviving garments made from parachutes I have seen were made from postwar surplus rather than wartime finds.

This wedding dress was made from the nylon parachute that saved the life of the groom, Major Claude Hensinger. In August 1944, Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, was returning from a bombing raid over Japan, when the engine caught fire and the crew had to bail. Years later, when Hensinger proposed, he offered his bride-to-be the parachute for making her wedding dress. The couple were married July 19, 1947 and the dress was later worn by their daughter and daughter-in-law before being donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

4 thoughts on “Parachic

  1. I do love this dress. It’s kind of hideous, but you can just tell it is a parachute just from looking at it – which really appeals to me. It’s the kind of dress you can just imagine a parachute being transformed into.

    So often when something is made from something else, you don’t see much of the original object in the reworked version – although I do have a very interesting 1920s evening-dress in black velvet, obviously a “poor woman’s version”, where the side gores of the skirt were made using a 1890s beaded black velvet shoulder-cape, and it excites me that you can SEE the two semi-circular halves of the shoulder-cape, with wear to the shoulders, incorporated into the 1920s chemise dress. It’s the polar opposite to a Chanel, but I think more interesting than a Chanel. And this wedding dress is in the same category – so much of its interestingness is in its very parachutiness.

    • I agree, the qualities of the parachute are evident in the dress, which I think makes it a winner.

  2. I’ve got a couple of magazines which have patterns for using the long triangular sections of surplus parachute material from 1946-47, also camoflage netting, one item is a dress remarkably like your wedding dress but strapless for evenings.

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