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.