Frances Talapina Sprague died in 1975. She was a Nazi concentration camp survivor who left her daughter with an incredible token of everything she went through. Before she passed away, she gave her daughter, Darlene, her wedding dress that she had handcrafted from two silk parachutes used by an American GI soldier who helped to liberate Germany. That soldier would become her husband.
The dress is a stark contrast to the filthy and disgusting things Frances faced in the concentration camps, like eating nettles, cleaning boxcars, and carrying bodies from the gas chamber to the crematorium. She spent time in three camps, most of it having been spent in Dachau. In 1945, the camp was liberated and Frances was finally free.
While inside, Frances had managed to to learn seven languages, and went to work at an American hotel in Bad Tolz, Germany. That’s where she met Gilbert “Buck” Sprague. He had enlisted in the Army and was sent to land at the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and help move the Germans out of France. He ended up in Bad Tolz at the end of the war, and that’s when him and Frances met and fell in love. They married on Jan. 1, 1946 with six other couples, where she wore her handmade parachute dress.
Her daughter cherishes the dress that tells the story of her parents’ serendipitous union. The tiny, gathered waist of the dress is indicative of the time; when Frances was released from Dachau, she was 5-foot-7 and weighed just 80 pounds. The dress features silk-covered oblong buttons and a long, flowing skirt. And despite the amount of time that has passed, only one of the parachutes has yellowed, while the other is still incredible white. What an incredible story of history, creativity, and love.