Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Farm and Ranch Museum collection includes a wedding dress made from a WWII parachute

By Craig Massey, Public Information/Media Relations New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

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

In September 1947, Anna Beth Ewing of Lordsburg, New Mexico married Baylus Cade Jr. of Las Cruces. Ewing 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.

In 1997 – 50 years later – Ewing’s granddaughter, Mariah Cade, was married in the same dress. The dress is now being stored in NMFRHM’s collections room.

“The remarkable condition of the wedding dress makes this a wonderful addition to our textile collection,” said NMFRHM Curator of Collections Holly Radke. “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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