I am lucky enough to live next door to a church which dates back to the 1400s. This means that I get to see all the weddings close up. Since living here I have seen more glorious wedding dresses than in the rest of my life and it got me thinking about brides during World War II. I had to ask myself if the wedding dress became a casualty of war during that period. I was intrigued by what I discovered.
His life was saved by a wedding dress.
In April 1940, twenty two year old First Class Stoker, Arthur Brown told newspapers how after surviving the first battle of Narvik he swam 200 yards to shore in freezing water. Luckily, he was given refuge in the home of a Norwegian villager. Brown’s clothing of overalls, woollen underwear and boots were soaked and cold. However, the lady of the house provided him with something to wear. It was a long wedding dress which was embroidered with sequins and crystals. Brown added that it was warm and welcome.
Royal Wedding Dresses on Display During World War II.
In July 1940, wedding dresses were used to raise funds for the Harrogate Division of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association. The Princess Royal (Princess Mary) attended the event and saw her own white and silver wedding dress displayed in a pageant of fashion held in the Royal Hall at Harrogate. Also on view was a white brocaded dress made from Queen Adelaide’s wedding dress and worn by Lady Mary Cambridge in a play given for Queen Mary some years earlier. The dresses displayed were all authentic and covered a period of 125 years.
A Wedding Dress Made of Glass.
Perhaps the most unusual wedding dress paraded during World War II was in June 1943 at Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The bride, Miss Helen Nairn Monroe wore a wedding dress made of glass. The hat, shoes and handbag were also made of the same material. The whole outfit was pale blue. The reason for the unique outfit is down to the bridegroom. He was Professor Turner and believed to be one of the greatest authorities on glass technology in the world.
Kind Hearts and Wedding Dresses.
Although wartime is a time of turmoil, it also brings out the warmth of the human soul as we can see in April 1943 when the Red Cross was lucky enough to get an exquisite gift delivered to Old Bond Street in London. It was a 200 year old wedding dress made of Brussels lace and apparently it was in perfect condition.
When clothing rationing was brought in in 1941, you could only get new clothes if you had enough clothing coupons. If you’d used too many and then decided to get married, you may have had problems getting a wedding gown. Being both resourceful and determined, the ladies found a way around the problem.
In December 1941, it was reported in the news that women who were of a stock size and getting married at Christmas solved the wedding dress problem by pooling their coupons and buying one dress and veil. They could then use the outfit on successive days. Boxing Day and the following day were a popular choice that year for weddings. Wedding dresses were also shared in another way. In June 1943, Mrs George Shaw of Ohio, USA gifted a wedding dress for members of the WAAP who had no coupons and wanted to be married in white.
Nothing Can Come Between a Bride and Her Wedding Dress.
On New Year’s Day in 1941, Miss Lilian Fogerty travelled to see her fiancée in Lincolnshire from her home in Bristol. It was then that Lilian found out that if they didn’t marry immediately, their wedding would have to be postponed indefinitely. Lilian would not get married though unless she wore her cream brocaded wedding dress, unfortunately it was back in Bristol. Indomitable Lilian caught the train to Bristol but missed the one back. However, she caught the first one the next morning and dazzled the congregation as she walked down the aisle in her beloved dress. It seems that the wedding dress, like Lilian, rallied forth and was never at any time a casualty of war.
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