A Memorable Memento: Wedding gown fashioned from WWII parachutes - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

A Memorable Memento: Wedding gown fashioned from WWII parachutes

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GIRARD, Ohio - Most couples have a special story. For Army paratrooper Edwin Morgan and his bride, Betty, their February 16, 1946 wedding in Girard was about falling in love soon after he returned from World War II.

However, they never realized how much Betty's wedding gown made out of a Nazi parachute would make a statement many years later.

The gown is now part of the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection at Ohio State.

Edwin, who was known as "Doc" retrieved the parachute from a burning German hangar just before the war ended.

"When the Germans were retreating out of France and certainly, back then into Germany, they would set fire to munitions storage and airplane hangars so that their enemy coming in wouldn't be able to take it and use it as their resources," said Marlise Schoeny with the Ohio State University Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.

The silk parachute became a valuable resource to Betty, who wanted to keep with the tradition at the time of having an all-silk wedding gown, but couldn't afford the $300 price tag.

Silk was being rationed in the United States, since the war with Japan cut off all relations to the Asian mainland.

Betty's future mother-in-law gave her an idea.

"And she said, 'Well, you know honey, Edwin has that parachute upstairs. I don't know why you wouldn't have one made out of that," said Betty.

So Betty gave the parachute to a tailor in Warren who made it for $18.

"It was completely unfolded in a backyard. So you could see the entire piece of fabric, which is quite large. And I believe he started laying out pattern pieces in the yard," says Schoeny.

And if you think just seeing the dress on the hanger doesn't do it justice, Betty thought so, too at first.

"I said, 'I don't know. It's so plain. Do you think it's going to look nice on me?' and he said, 'well, try it on.' And I tried it on and I thought it was beautiful. That train was big enough for three kids to carry," Betty said.

It had the popular sweetheart neckline and long sleeves that came to a peak, but it also still had the tether seams and even this piece bearing the German swastika and Nazi soldier's name.

"This way, when she was holding up her train, you'd be able to see this and so she'd be able to talk about where the silk came from and what the story was," said Schoeny.

But Betty who is now 90 years old and Doc, 95, say no one ever asked them about the gown on their special day.

It wasn't until 1997, when a relative advised them to donate the gown to OSU.

For Betty this was just an old wedding gown that was sitting in her basement.

At Ohio State, it's become one of the most popular teaching tools of it's textile collection.

"There's just so much we can use to teach with it. You can really see that it's a parachute and you can talk about why that is important and why they would be rationing and what this would have meant to have a dress like this," Schoeny said.

A dress that tells the story of one of the few paratroopers to survive D-Day. It's about a love that blossomed after the war and now remains strong after 67 years.

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