At first glance, Hester Cox‘s wedding dress looks like an abstraction of lines and squiggles creating an artful map of color. But look closer, and you'll find yourself staring at a dress made of a real map. This particular silk dress is not just any map, though—it's an “escape and evade route” map from World War II, specifically of the Scandinavian region. Instead of a map to help guide you somewhere new, escape and evade maps were used to navigate pilots back home. In a way, this handmade wedding dress was Cox's way of finding her new home with her husband Brian.
The dress was designed and crafted by Sara Jane Murray of Home Front Vintage, a business that repurposes World War II maps into crafts, accessories, and clothing. Murray first ran into Cox, a fellow artist, at a British craft fair in 2015. Captivated by Murray's map dresses, Cox requested a custom summer dress for a wedding. “‘How lovely,' I thought, ‘wearing a map dress for someone's summer wedding – let's hope she doesn't outshine the bride!'” she recalls in a blog post. Little did she know that Cox was planning on wearing the escape and evade dress to her own wedding!
For the shape of the dress, Murray modeled it after a simple sleeveless v-neck that Cox already owned and loved, but added a bit of “swish” to the skirt so she could dance the whole night long. Cox chose a vibrant, swimming pool turquoise color for the lining of the dress, providing a brilliant popping contrast to the map pattern.
Above photo credit: Jo Denison
For Murray, it was an honor to have Cox wear one of her prized silk maps on such a special occasion. “These maps have incredible stories,” Murray told The Simple Things in an interview. “They'd be hidden in boot heels or in place of the lead of a pencil so the enemy wouldn't discover them…Sharing these stories is about putting a marker in the sand so we remember what happened.”
Just as these maps remind us of the events of World War II, Cox's map dress will always remind her of her wedding. The dress itself has a story to tell that will keep going on and on, collecting memory after memory—starting with the wedding on July 2, which was a great success. (No escape routes were necessary.) Cox looked beautiful in her dress and even wore a matching clip in her hair. The party danced all night 'til they were starry-eyed with love and happiness. Perhaps they needed Cox's dress after all to guide them back home.
Check out the following pictures of Cox's special day in her Home Front Vintage dress, courtesy of photographer Jo Denison.
Here are more map dresses/outfits from the 1940s that helped to inspire Murray's creation:
Images via Catherine Smith Vintage
Image via Imperial War Museum
Image via The Fashion Museum
All images via Sara Jane Murray unless otherwise stated.