Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles in Daily Life: Proceedings of the Third Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–26, 1992 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1993).


Copyright © 1992 by the author(s).


A modest temporary exhibit, FEED BAGS AS FASHION, opened in the National Museum of American History about a year ago (See fig. I).1 The enthusiastic and personal reactions evoked by the exhibit, and a story about it picked up by newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, made clear that the subject had touched a popular nerve. The responses of those who called or wrote, and visitors' comments, revealed that the recycling of flour, sugar, and animal feed sacks was a common, if not universal practice in the States between the 1920s and 1960s, still remembered vividly by both country and city folk. This recycling was not confined to desperately poor families; some individuals from frugal-minded families in middle income brackets also still remember the joys or pain of wearing feed sack clothing and making all sorts of household items from sacks.

In this paper I shall review various aspects of the topic, drawing from my own research, as well as from that of Sunae Park who curated the exhibit and from Lu Ann Jones, whose research materials and interviews with rural southern women were incorporated into the exhibit script.