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Wedding Wear

Green Wedding Dress

Today, American brides traditionally wear long white dresses on their wedding days, but back in the 1940’s, it wasn’t atypical for a bride to wear a colored knee-length dress or suit. This green silk (possibly rayon) dress with asymmetrical draping and bows is one such example. This dress was worn by Emilie Marie Szrapko and designed by her mother in Detroit in 1946. Emilie Marie Szrapko was born in America in 1915. She became engaged to Ernst August von Duering in Germany just before the second world war. Once war broke out, Ernest was posted to a medical unit in Germany. Emilie and Ernst managed to keep in touch during the duration of the war, but contact was sporadic since there was no regular mail service between Germany and the U.S. Toward the end of the war, Ernst was taken prisoner by American soldiers and handed to a French prison camp in Epinal. In 1946, Emilie boarded the first ship carrying civilians to Europe and reunited with him in Epinal. They married shortly after her arrival, but Ernest wasn’t able to travel back to the US with Emilie until 1947. The donor explains, “My grandmother sewed and perhaps designed the dress for Emilie before she left for France. I don't know why it's green. Maybe it was because, if the marriage fell through, at least my mother would have a fancy dress to wear in France.”Sadly, the marriage ended in 1958 when Ernst returned to Germany, after a doctor's practice in Collins Center, New York. The formal divorce went through in 1961

White Beaded Wedding Dress

By comparison, Mrs. Berke’s wedding dress was an anomaly during World War II, when purchasing fabric was near impossible and indulging in fashion was unfashionable. This artificial silk floor-length wedding dress was made and worn by donor Mrs. Cylka Berke. An esteemed and talented craftswoman and dressmaker, Mrs. Berke designed this dress in London in 1942 during the height of WWII. Her work was of the highest quality, and she was sought after by top dress designers in London's garment district who hired her to make their samples. Though high-end fabrics were widely unavailable during this time, Mrs. Berke likely had access to such resources because of her occupation. While laying patterns, she noticed she could deliberately place the patterns such that there would be enough extra fabric to make a wedding dress for herself. Her friends, excited by the bright news in a bleak time, helped make the dress.