Feed Sack Dresses

image image image image image image image image image imageClothing made from feed sacks was a great boon to the economy of the cash-strapped depression.  Farm wives eagerly collected and traded these pretty printed bags.  Three would make a nice ladies dress, provided the skirt was not too full.  Two would make a short-sleeved shirt for a man when plaids and stripes came in.  My mother was born deep in The Great Depression and remembers her mother showing the store-owner a scrap and asking him to  “Try to get me one more of this nice rose print if any come in.”  Crisply starched and ironed, they made sturdy, attractive dresses.  Fading was a problem.  Hems were deep so they could be let down.  Her mother frequently used rick-rack to conceal the fade line when the hem was dropped.  The tie belts at the waist made it possible to adjust for longer wear.

Underwear was made from the soft cotton flour bags.  As often as not, my grandmother used strips of rubber cut from inner tubes for elastic.  It was not unknown for the rubber to snap and bloomers drop to the floor, humiliating the wearer and delighting onlookers.  Fabric remnants went into a scrap bag to be made into patchwork quilts.

50 thoughts on “Feed Sack Dresses

  1. I loved this post. My mom grew up privileged but her family still had that waste-not mentality. That’s how people were. We three girls often wore hand-me-downs not only oldest to youngest, but from another family’s two daughters first (although my older sister, being favored, often had new, as well.) My mom still darned socks! (I HATED to walk on darned socks, they hurt my sensitive feet do much.) She patched pants, and bedsheets.

    I patched my children’s school uniform pants–though only from the inside, because these days, outside patched would have ostracized them. I’ve patched my own by going artsy, making bunny faces. I’ve bought almost all my clothes at thrift stores since the 80’s, and can alter as needed (by hand–I despise sewing machines but like to hand-mend)

    And I make that toothpaste tube cry before I toss it! Bet you do yours the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the pictures, especially the quilt made from flour sacks. Now they have reproduction fabric. I’m not that fond of it. Too busy. But I was brought up in a different world and climate. We had no extra money, often not enough to eat but somehow, my mother made beautiful clothes for us that were nicer than any I saw anywhere else. We had nothing, no toys but we always looked nice. I could only aspire to be as good a seamstress as she was and she did not enjoy doing it. Funny how that is. She was a perfectionist, I’m a good enough-onist. 🙂

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  3. This was both familiar to me and a little strange. My parents and I and my daughter have been sewing clothes all our lives. But I am also nearing publication of the book I have edited of my parents’ wartime experiences. My father was a Far East POW, his memoirs reveal that he made many, many garments and shoes for himself and fellow prisoners out of rice sacks and old tyres and remains of bedrolls etc.

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  4. lfish64 says:

    Great memories from the past. We had an old shoe box, if you needed shoes you looked in the box. I never made anything from a mix until I was 17 or 18, cakes were always made from scratch.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My daughter has an American Girl doll that is suppose to represents girls in the 1930’s. Some of her dresses are meant to be feed sack dresses. It’s kind of ironic because her little doll clothes cost a whole lot more than the real thing would have!! At least they are well made and my daughter will hand all of it down to her daughter some day.
    I loved the photos you posted. It’s interesting to see the styles and hear how resourceful women of that era were. We need more of that today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do. So few people now know how to sew. I was responsible for sewing for myself and my little sisters after I was in 9th grade. I had to make a dress for one of them for every dress I made myself. My older sister did, too. And then there was the ironing.. We couldn’t quit till it was done.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I still use everything till it can’t be repurposed. I patch old jeans, pour sop bottles together, make pot holders out of cutoff Jeans .legs. Just because there seems to be plenty, doesn’t mean toy should waste it. That’s arrogant.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. My father told me his first pair of underpants were made from flour bags. He grew up during the depression years and underwear was a luxury he didn’t know…..I’m not sure how his sisters fared during those times…but his Mother in law made him his first pair….we used to laugh about the idea of him wearing a pair of pants with Betty Sydney plastered across his back side…

    Liked by 1 person

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