In times gone by, amidst widespread poverty, the flour mills realized that some women were using sacks to make clothes for their children. In response, the flour mills started using flowered fabric…
With the introduction of this new cloth into the home, thrifty women everywhere began to reuse the cloth for a variety of home uses – dish towels, diapers, and more. The bags began to become very popular for clothing items.
As the recycling trend looked like it was going to stay, the manufacturers began to print their cloth bags – or feedsacks – in an ever wider variety of patterns and colors.
Some of the patterns they started using are shown below
Over time, the popularity of the feedsack as clothing fabric increased beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, fueled by both ingenuity and scarcity.
By the time WWII dominated the lives of Americans, and cloth for fabric was in short supply due to its use in the construction of uniforms, it was estimated that over three and a half million women and children were wearing garments created from feedsacks.
Images like these help to remind us that large swaths of the country were once so poor that making clothes for children, out of flour sacks, was simply a part of life in those times.
The manufacturers even gave instructions for how to remove the ink…
Families shown below with their children wearing the feed sack dresses. People back then certainly knew how to try to use and reuse everything they had and not be wasteful.
Feed sacks continued to grab the attention of women during the depression and World War II. In the 1950s, though, cheaper paper sacks became available, and thus the gradual decline for these bright, beautiful and functional fabrics began.
The start of the 1960’s saw sack manufacturers trying to tempt customers back with cartoon-printed fabrics, from buck rogers to cinderella. There was even a television advertising campaign intended to prick the conscience of the american housewife, but it failed to generate a significant upsurge in sales. Today it is only the amish who still use cotton sacks for their dry goods.
The world has changed in so many ways since back then, yet having a mindset for making the best use of what you have available to you is a trait that, rightly, does and should carry on.