WWII wedding dress made from a life-saving parachute

Wedding dress made from a parachute that saved the grrom during World War Two.

This is by far the coolest wedding dress I’ve ever heard of, made in 1947 from a nylon parachute which saved the groom’s life during WWII. (Now in the Costume Collection of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian).

In 1944, an American B-29 pilot named Maj. Claude Hensinger was returning with his crew from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when the plane’s engine caught fire. After using his parachute to safely jump from the doomed aircraft, the chute further helped him to survive by providing shelter until he was rescued. After returning home from war to Pennsylvania, he proposed to his girlfriend Ruth in 1947, and she used the life-saving parachute as material for her wedding dress. Modeled on a dress which appeared in Gone With The Wind, the skirt uses the original parachute strings, which Ruth pulled up in the front to create the train effect in the back.

Bride poses in wedding dress made from a parachute that saved the grrom during World War Two.

Maj. Claude and Ruth Hensinger on their wedding day in 1947. Photo via South Whitehall Patch.

That piece of chute fabric was the only thing between life and death for Claude, the only reason he was able to come home and marry Ruth. At a time when so many other young men did not return, this piece of material would have been worth more to the couple than all the finest silks and lace in the world. You couldn’t ask for a more fitting wedding dress fabric.

Wedding dress made from a parachute that saved the grrom during World War Two.

The remarkable dress is now in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  Wedding photograph from South Whitehall Patch.

Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things:

WWII parachute crash test dummies

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18 thoughts on “WWII wedding dress made from a life-saving parachute

  1. Oddly, BBC Radio 4 just ran a drama program about a love story between a German pilot and a Scots woman… Pilot is shot down and crashes into a church during a wedding; he then offers his parachute (silk, not nylon) to be made into a replacement wedding dress. I wonder if this happened often enough that at least radio drama people got the idea?

    • I think you’re right, Cereal. I’d never heard of wedding dressses made of parachutes at all before, but your comment prompted me to do a little searching on the BBC archive and found some other stories about it. Although a dress made from the parachute that saved the groom’s life does indeed seem to be a special story, apparantly parachute silk was a practical choice for material when things were still being rationed after the war (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/82/a4217582.shtml). In the archive I also found a charming story of a father nervously having to guard an undetonated parachute bomb, and then claiming the material for his daughter’s wedding dress (http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/59/a4078659.shtml), and another one about an English private who had to bail over the Netherlands, and after landing thought a German soldier was running toward him…but it was only a Dutch woman enthusiastically trying to get his parachute for precious dress material. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/23/a4623923.shtml)
      Finally, there is another incredible story about two Holocaust survivors in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Person’s camp, who traded coffee and cigarettes with a German soldier for his parachute to make a wedding dress for the young bride. The dress was later worn by at least 17 other brides in the camp, and is now in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (http://www.jewishweddingnetwork.com/the-wedding-gown-that-made-history).

  2. This is fascinating, but actually more common than you’d think. My grandmother’s dress was made of parachute silk that my grandfather brought back. It was later cut down into a christening gown, which we still have. Pretty amazing story, though.

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  4. My mother begged her brother to get her a parachute to make a dress. Unfortunately, he was pretty clueless as to why she wanted it, and a tank-commander to boot. Tank crews have little use for parachutes.
    He did deliver though, and wondered why she was not overcome with joy… The parachute he’d brought was in khaki!

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  9. My gran was married in a blouse made from parachute silk. The parachute was from a pilot who had been shot down over her town. She was Belgian catholic and my grandad was a British Protestant soldier. Her mother wouldn’t let her marry in a wedding dress because she was marrying a Protestant.

  10. I have a photograph of myself as an infant in a dress made of parachute silk. It’s still in the family to this day. (I’m in my late 40s)

  11. It is a very good device. There’re on the list of time honored pairs, your decide one of the best I would say. When i bought my personal own world wide web they will delivered extremely fast. We’re impressed by these Michael Kors Bags. There’re now very maintain tip toes now type on the distinctive temperatures. I have not worn these Michael Kors Bags within snow to date, but feel will have them similar to my some other pair, in addition to hold up against good.

  12. Actress Elyse Knox married Tom Harmon (1940 Heisman trophy winner for University of Michigan) in a gown made from the parachute that saved his life during WWII. Their children included actor Mark.

  13. My great-grandmother made her own wedding dress from parachute silk. She later made it into doll clothes and dresses for her grandkids (including my mother), which were much loved, but I would still give anything to have a look at the dress as she wore it!

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