WTF Fun Fact 12937 – Queen Elizabeth Bought Wedding Dress With Ration Coupons

In light of the death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday, it’s always interesting to look back and see how things were different over the 96 years during which she was alive. While there are plenty of opinions to be found, we’ll stick to what has been recorded as fact, such as the Queen’s purchase of her wedding dress using WWII ration coupons.

Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress ration coupons

First of all, at the time of her marriage, Elizabeth was a princess – and one who had volunteered with the British Armed Forces during WWII.

Two years after the war, on Nov 20, 1947, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor married Philip Mountbatten. While the war was over, austerity measures were still in place. And while you certainly can’t tell by looking at the royal wedding, the glamorous gown was made with the help of war ration coupons.

She was given 200 extra ration coupons, which she put towards the dress that she got married in at Westminster Abbey.

According to British Heritage (cited below), “she was also given hundreds of clothing coupons by brides-to-be from all parts of the country to help her acquire the dress. She had to return these coupons as it was illegal for them to have been given away in the first instance.”

Creating Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding dress

Just because it was a dress purchased in light of austerity measures doesn’t mean it was austere. In fact, the purchase was more of a gesture to the people.

“The dress was designed by Norman Hartnell. His signature was always said to be embroidery. The designer enjoyed working with soft, floating fabrics, particularly tulle and chiffon, and with plain, lustrous silks…The dress was made of Chinese silk, with a high neckline, tailored bodice, and a short train…The ivory silk gown had a 13-foot-long train with a pattern inspired by a Botticelli painting and was bedecked in crystals and 10,000 seed pearls imported from America.”

It is said that the coupons went towards some of the extra flair involved.

She would become queen less than a decade after her wedding.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Queen Elizabeth II bought her wedding dress with WWII ration coupons” — British Heritage


WTF Fun Fact 12421 – Taking the Leap

In 1944, an American B-29 pilot named Claude Hensinger had to parachute out of his aircraft after his engine caught fire over Japan. He made it safely to the ground in China and used the parachute to keep him warm that night until he was rescued the following day. He returned home safely, holding onto the device that saved his life.

Later that year, he met his future wife, Ruth, and they were engaged in 1947. Instead of a ring, Hensinger proposed with the parachute.

This is the parachute that saved my life. I want you to make a wedding gown out of it,” Hensinger told his fiance.

The Smithsonian, which houses the dress (though it’s not on display), described the circumstances behind its creation:

“This wedding dress was made from a nylon parachute that saved the groom’s life during World War II. Maj. Claude Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, and his crew, were returning from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, in August 1944 when their engine caught fire. The crew was forced to bail out. It was night, and Major Hensinger landed on some rocks and suffered some minor injuries. During the night, he used the parachute both as a pillow and a blanket. In the morning, the crew was able to reassemble and were taken in by some friendly Chinese. He kept the parachute and used it as a way to propose to Ruth in 1947. He presented it to her and suggested she make a gown out of it for their wedding.”

At first, Ruth had no idea how to turn the giant parachute into a dress. But after walking by a store window and seeing a dress that resembled Scarlett O’Hara’s in Gone with the Wind (the one she made from curtains), it all came together. Ruth worked with a local seamstress to make a bodice and veil, and she used the parachute to make the skirt on her own.

According to the Smithsonian:

“She made the skirt herself; she pulled up the strings on the parachute so that the dress would be shorter in the front and have a train in the back. The couple were married in the Neffs Lutheran Church in Neffs, Pennslyvania, July 19, 1947. Their daughter and their son’s bride also wore the dress for their weddings.” – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Parachute Wedding Dress” – The Smithsonian Institute