HISTORY OF THE PARACHUTE WEDDING DRESS
Silk was incredibly difficult to come by during the Second World War due to rationing and its use in the war effort. Resourceful people would repurpose the silk from parachutes, including for wedding dresses. This allowed women to still create more traditional and elaborate white dresses, when material was so hard to come by.
In February 1945, near the end of the war, a B-24 Liberator, The Jolly Duck, crashed in a field near the village of Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands. Wilhelm Van Niekerk was given the parachute by one of the airmen. The crashed airmen then hid in the nearby haystacks until dark, and evaded capture with the help of the Dutch underground. Niekerk passed the parachute onto his then girlfriend Wilhelmina Van Berg, who stored the valuable silk under her bed.
After the war ended the couple decided to marry and Whilhelmina was able to make her wedding gown out of the parachute silk, and later christening gowns for her children.
This dress, which journeyed to Calgary with the couple, is on display accompanied by the sewing machine it was made on. A christening gown still remains in the family.