Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Women of the World War II home front adjusted to war related fabric shortages and rationing through the use of ingenious alternatives. While yard goods were subject to war rationing, and ready to wear garments were redesigned to use less fabric, a segment of the American population took advantage of another option. These families continued to create a number of attractive garments and household items throughout the war from a type of cotton percale which was available for free and classified as an unrestricted industrial good. The cotton commodity bag or cotton feed sack, gained popularity as an alternative to traditional yard goods throughout rural communities. This tradition began at the turn of the 20th century and continued to grow with the support of grain manufacturers and the Department of Agriculture, which published a number of pattern booklets designed specifically for commodity bags. Three 100 lbs sacks of grain could make an average sized adult dress and packaging companies hired notable fabric designers from Europe and New York City to create colorful dress prints for their cotton packaging. This tradition continued into the 1960s, bolstered by the annual industry sponsored Cotton Bag Sewing Queen contest. The contest was held at state fairs nationwide throughout the 1950s and 1960s to maintain consumer interest in the cotton bag at a time when the paper commodity bag began to grow in popularity with manufacturers.