Navy blue rayon dress, c. 1945, with the story of D-Day printed on the fabric. The bottom section around the skirt shows men in landing barges, wading through water and hitting the beach. The next row up are pictures of tanks, trucks and jeeps moving across roads. Next are soldiers being welcomed by French people in small towns, and finally there are people throwing bouquets and cheering. The bodice repeats the last row of the motif and around the shoulders and collar are waves. The dress opens down the front with a placket concealing nine navy blue buttons, a hook and eye at the waist and a snap at the neck. There are thread belt loops at the waist, but the belt is missing. Inside the neck is a label from “Bonwit Teller / Fifth Avenue / New York.” We have been unable to document other similar dresses; please let us know if you are aware of any extant pieces.
The dress was worn in Charleston by Mercedes Marshall Blount, wife of Charles Blount, Jr., the president of United Piece Dye Works. She was probably in town with her husband who was negotiating the site for a new plant. Apparently she was in the shop of artist Elizabeth O’Neil Verner, who later convinced her to donate the dress to The Charleston Museum on June 6, 1962, in honor of the 18th anniversary of D-Day.
United Piece Dye Works was America’s largest commission dyehouse, founded in Lodi, NJ in 1907. They were in the business of dyeing, finishing and printing both silk and other fabrics and later rayon and other synthetics. In 1952, a few years after Mrs. Blount wore this dress here, a new UPDW plant was opened in North Charleston at the Hanahan Station. It closed in 1976 and the last UPDW plant, in Edenton, NC, closed in 2011.
On this 68th Anniversary of D-Day, we submit this dress as a tribute to the 160,000 Allied troops that landed on the beaches of Normandy, along with the over 5000 ships and 13,000 aircraft which supported the invasion. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded — but more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday