History-Loving Bride Transforms WWII Escape Maps Into A Stunning Wedding Dress

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Every bride wants something special for her wedding day, that’s pretty much a given. But when you’re an artist like printmaker Hester Cox, you know that sometimes, a regular white gown simply won’t do, especially when your love is in design.

That’s why when Cox saw the work of fellow artist Sara Jane Murray at a craft fair, she knew that it was exactly what she needed for her special day.

Murray runs a studio called Home Front Vintage, which specializes in repurposing World War II-era silk maps into wearable, and beautiful, clothing and accessories.

She immediately requested a dress.

At first, Murray didn’t realize that Cox was the bride. “How lovely,” she wrote in a blog post, “wearing a map dress for someone’s summer wedding — let’s hope she doesn’t upstage the bride!”

One-of-a-kind wedding dresses are nothing new, and they’re always remarkable. With some skill and creativity, we’ve even seen regular toilet paper turn into truly stunning, and actually wearable, wedding gowns.

Check out Cox’s beautiful, unexpected gown below, as well as some of the other beautiful creations Murray has made using these gorgeous maps!

[H/T: My Modern Met]

Artist Sara Jane Murray of Home Front Vintage uses World War II-era silk escape and evade maps like these to create her clothing and accessories.

These maps would have stayed with soldiers as a way of helping them get their bearings and, if needed, get to safety.

They were printed on silk rather than paper because silk is more durable, is still readable when wet, and can be rolled or folded up for easy concealment.

Today, while the intact ones are in museums and archives, the damaged ones end up with artists like Murray.

She turns them into clothing, accessories, and home decor that are functional, and celebrate history.

They’re also beautiful.

When Murray met fellow artist and printmaker Hester Cox at a crafts fair in 2015, she was surprised when Cox requested a custom dress for a wedding on the spot.

She didn’t even realize that it was Cox’s own wedding at first, but she was thrilled to take on the challenge when she realized she would be making a wedding gown!

The gown’s design was fairly simple, which allowed the pattern of the map to be the focal point.

Murray modeled the dress after one that Cox already owned, so it was sure to be her taste, and added a slight fullness to the skirt: perfect for dancing.

For the lining, Cox chose a turquoise color that complimented the map beautifully, matching the water areas and contrasting with the red roads.

In case you were wondering, Cox’s map fabric details areas in Scandinavia.

While it might seem strange to wear a map of war to a wedding, Cox and Murray don’t think so at all.

“These maps have incredible stories,” Murray said. “They’d be hidden in boot heels or in place of the lead of a pencil so the enemy wouldn’t discover them.”

And you could say that the map was a way to symbolize Cox and her husband, Brian, finding their ways home to one another.

To accessorize, Cox also wore a matching hair clip, also made by Murray.

Murray also made the turquoise sash and map corsage for the tiny bridesmaid.

All in all, the dress is a beautiful success, as was the wedding!

But lest you think that turning silk into dresses is a new practice, it’s actually not.

Murray comes from a long line of crafty and thrifty women who turned these silk maps into clothing ever since the 1940s.

During and shortly after WWII, silk and other fabrics were rationed, and so they made clothing from the old, discarded maps they could find at the surplus stores.

Today, Murray doesn’t just make dresses. She also makes clothing and accessories for men and women, as well as home decor items.

The maps make perfect ties, for example.

And she’s also able to salvage even small pieces and cuttings to make smaller items, like these cufflinks.

She makes pillows, too, and sachets like these, filled with lavender. They even include the story of the maps on the back.

Crafts like these are a great way to bring a little history into the present, reuse perfectly good material, and even change the meaning of these maps a little.

While they were created in conflict, Murray is turning them into objects of beauty. And that’s pretty special!

You can check out more of Murray’s map designs on her website, Instagram, and Facebook page, and you can also see what Hester Cox is up to with her artwork on her website and Facebook. Wedding photos by Jo Denison.

And be sure to SHARE this beautiful, historic, and unexpected gown with your friends!