Dean Keith was 16 years old and living with his family in Corning, NY, when his brother, Preston Douglas Powers, a World War II soldier, sent him a silk German parachute that sent him to France on D-Day. Was found on the beach in Normandy. . It was 1944 and parachutes became iconic items – for making wedding dresses.
“When I met a boy, who met me in a square dance, who was also in service, my mother put me in a wedding gown because the material for the dress was too low,” said Ms. Keith, now 93 Of the year. Home in Country Meadows, a retirement community in York, Pa. “The fact that my brother thought enough to send me, and my mother made the dress, made it special. It was a family effort. You treasured something like this. Especially during that time. “
In the 1940s, silk became difficult to obtain and was reserved for essential items such as parachutes, not clothing. The mosquito net, another article found on the battlefield, was sent home by soldiers to become a bridal veil.
“Fabrics run the gamut from 1941 to 1948 in design, materials and style. They tell the story of resourcefulness and improvisation, ”said Kimberly Guise, assistant director of the museum for curator services. “People think about conflict, violence and weapons. They are not expected to see a wedding dress or an item used in battle, which has turned into a beautiful thing that provides a fresh start. “
These wedding artifacts and inheritances are a testament to women in a creative, inventive and resourceful way, married during a year marked by loss, uncertainty, fear, and longing.
“There was an extreme shortage of goods in the war,” said Tyler Bamford, a historian and Sherry and Alan Leventhal research fellow. “New suits and wedding dresses were out of the question. So were wedding cakes, because there was a shortage of sugar. “
Eighty years later, the coronovirus epidemic has caused couples to perform wedding ceremonies and receptions with equal flexibility, creativity, and resourcefulness.
Mr. Bamford noted the similarities. “The venue was closed and limits were placed on the amount of additions that invited guests,” he said. “Today, and during the war, there were travel restrictions and housing shortages.”
He said, “There was a significant reduction in the wedding of the bride after the wedding and the wedding rituals were largely different. “” In both cases, marriage and marriage tension, small ceremonies and many family members were unable to attend. “
However, while World War II allowed extended opportunities to meet people and encourage relationships between strangers, the epidemic restricted contact and connections.
“It was very easy to meet people during the war because young people were roaming the country as before,” Ms Guise said. “A lot of them were passing through New Orleans.”
The city, which was already a tourist destination, became a center for wartime production and training and was a port of embankment. With the influx of soldiers, the social scene came to life.
“They were going to dances, dinners and canteens, some were run by joint service organizations,” Ms Guise said. “It was exciting for women to present these new men in uniform, which was glamorous and caused some hasty marriages.”
Today that opportunity does not exist. But other correlations remain. Weddings during the war and now reduced, many couples waited to get married, and people were concerned for the safety of their loved ones. Those who could not be together, whether in battle or due to the shutdown, faced prolonged isolation.
Mr. Bamford highlighted the fact that the couple today, who have been postponed, and “enjoyed the joys and festivities, as they did back, with the hope that the wait would be worth it.”
“When faced with enormous challenges, couples and now in spite of obstacles found unexpected ways to celebrate their unions,” he said.
The museum has amassed a collection of more than 15,000 love letters and evasive letters documenting the long-distance relationship between soldiers and sailors and their girlfriends, fiancees and wives. They shed light on the pitfalls, hardships and horrors of war. Like the ensemble, these irreplaceable characters signify a lost art, and the loss of something romantic. (A lip emoji is a poor substitute for the mark of an actual lipstick that has been deliberately pressed on onion paper.)
“These letters and dresses are as beautiful as the brides and their family have told us how they have been received,” Ms Guise said. The stories are shared in written profiles, oral histories and digital images found in the museum Website.
“These personal items have a legacy,” she said. “The war was not played only on the battlefield. It is spread in front of the house.
Mr. Bamford said that parachutes were prime examples of this. “The parachute saved soldiers’ lives and was central to their identity.” They said. “He was considered an aristocrat. If a wife had access to it, it was a rarity. These experiences teach us a lot about ourselves what we expected. “
Ms. Keith talked about hope and optimism, then and now. “We got through the war,” he said. “We’ll get through Kovid.”
Her husband died in 2019. Ms. Keith said that she donated her costume because of its sentimental value and so others could see a piece of history.
He said, “I nurtured it when I had it, and then I wore it.” “The dress is 72 years old. War was part of my sense of being. I don’t know what I would have worn had I not done it. Price alone was.