Flower Sack Dresses from the Flour Mills (The Kindness Blog)

One of my favorite blogs, The Kindness Blog, ran this historical small act of kindness that eventually affected millions of people. Enjoy!

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.

flour sack material

One example of flour sack fabric

As the recycling trend looked like it was going to stay, the manufacturers began to print their cloth bags—or feed sacks—in an ever wider variety of patterns and colors.

Over time, the popularity of the feed sack 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 feed sacks.

feed sack clothes

Clothes made from flour sacks

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. People back then certainly knew how to try to use and reuse everything they had and not to be wasteful.

Sacks continued to grab the attention of women during the depression and World War II. In the 1950’s, 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 way 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.

4 thoughts on “Flower Sack Dresses from the Flour Mills (The Kindness Blog)

  1. Brings back precious memories for me when my mom made my clothes in the sixties. Not flour sacks, but pretty pink and yellow jumpers for summer playtime. And, she used the leftovers to make matching outfits for my dolls. A woman before her time 😊!

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