Parachute wedding dress spans generations

There’s a story behind each one of the 11,000-plus objects in the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum’s collection. One of the more interesting stories belongs to a wedding dress donated recently.

In September of 1947, Anna Beth Ewing of Lordsburg, N.M. married Baylus Cade Jr. of Las Cruces. Anna was raised on a ranch south of Lordsburg and there was little money for a wedding gown. Her mother, Hazel, bought a World War II surplus parachute made of white parachute silk. There was no electricity on the ranch, so Hazel took the parachute material and sewed a dress together on a treadle sewing machine.

Fifty years later, in 1997, Anna’s granddaughter, Mariah Cade, was married in the same dress. The dress is now being stored in the Museum’s Collections Room.

“The remarkable condition of the wedding dress makes this a wonderful addition to our textile collection,” said Holly Radke, the Museum’s Curator of Collections. “But to top that off, the history of the dress, made from a World War II parachute on a ranch in New Mexico. What a great story.”

Limited resources were a common challenge during and immediately after World War II. Fabric was so expensive that a great number of women simply weren’t able to afford a decent wedding dress, and many of them had to improvise with materials that were available. Parachute silk or nylon became a popular choice.

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