A Very Special WWII Wedding Gown

November 11, 2019
Front view of parachute wedding dress.

Front view of wedding dress.

November is the time of year for remembrances, whether it is remembering our brave Veterans who risked life and limb or remembering all our blessing and giving thanks with family and friends later this month.  The story of this wonderful wedding dress is the sum of both.  The fabric came from a parachute that saved the groom’s life, and then he and his bride showed their thanks for his life by extending the life of the parachute, by making it into a wedding dress that later became both a family and national heirloom.

The story of this dress started in WWII when Claude Hensinger, a B-29 pilot had to abort a mission when an engine caught fire in August of 1944.  The entire crew had to abandon ship over China and parachute to safety.  The parachutes not only saved the crews’ lives, but served as blankets and pillows for them.  They were found and helped by the Chinese until they could get back to America – Pennsylvania in Mr. Hensinger’s case. 

He took that precious parachute home, where he started to court his future wife, Ruth.  When he proposed to her, he presented the parachute and asked that she make a wedding dress out of the life-saving fabric

Side view of parachute wedding dress.

Side view of wedding dress.

Ruth wasn’t certain what to do with the enormous amount of fabric in the parachute, until she saw a dress patterned after one in the movie Gown with the Wind.  With the help of a local seamstress, Hilda Buck, she created this lovely dress, with the parachute material as the skirt and train.  She even used the parachute cords to create ruching, and used the cord casings as a decorative hem.

Claude and Ruth married in Neffs Lutheran Church in Neffs, Pennsylvania, July 19th, 1947.  This family heirloom was later worn by both their daughter and daughter-in-law.  This lovely dress can now be found at the Smithsonian Institution.

Family history is important, and remembering our veterans like Claude or being thankful for family and friends.  Even if your dress never saved your partner’s life, keep good care of it so it can be enjoyed by generations to come.  Foster-Stephens’ Preservation Wedding Boxes and Preservation Bags can help.

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