Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills (Historical Kindness)

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.

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour MillsAs 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

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills 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.

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills 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.

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills The manufacturers even gave instructions for how to remove the ink…

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills 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.

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour MillsFeed 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.

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165 comments

    1. It made me smile , My Mother made beautiful dresses for me and my Sister. She also made bows and ribbons. Hiw pretty we were going to school with iur black and white and Brown ans white Shoes to match. Okay now i am telling our ages. Thanks for the memories.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The top photo which shows 4 young women in their flour sack dresses belongs to my family. That is my mother and her cousins in the photo. Melissa Allred, you have my permission to use it in your art class presentation.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Virginia, my dad has written a book about his childhood, growing up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm, and he’s included a bit about feed sack dresses. Would you consider letting him use that photo of your mother and cousins in his book? I’m helping him include photos (with proper photo credit) in his second printing. Thank you for your consideration!
        – Andrea

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yes I had two dresses that I remember vividly. While in first grade my dresses of the pink with yellow ducklings and one with the pink, yellow and blue bunnies that are in this article. She designed the dresses herself, we could not afford a pattern they were to much money to waste. I have a picture of me in the duckling dress for my first grade picture. I shop antique and junk shops looking for the flour sacks for projects I do like repairing old quilts from that period. We used a lot of flour since my family was a 10 count and mother baked bread for others, her parents for example.
    Jo Ann Meyer Grew up in coal country of Pa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t wait to see the new sacks. I would look and decide what ones I liked. They were all so beautiful. We made coverlets for the beds also. W made dining room curtains also.Loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My grandmother use to tell me that she grew up so poor that her mother made her clothes out of flour sacks. She hated it. I pictured in my mind these ugly beige bags with the word flour on it. Lol… She never explained that the bags came in all colors and patterns. She was embarrassed that she had to wear clothes made from a flour bag. As a result she had the most beautiful clothes as an adult. She shopped all the time and took me with her and always bought me the nicest clothes. I remember one year back in 1985 she spent a thousand dollars on a clothes shopping spree for my back to school clothes which was alot of money for that year and my grandpa told her that was a bit much and wasn’t to happy with us but then I used my charm on him and he laughed and said just don’t spend so much the next time. My grandmother always made it sound like she was the only girl in her neighborhood that wore homemade clothing from flour sacks. I am happy to see that was not the case and the clothing wasn’t ugly at all. The photo showing the family in the clothing is adorable. I don’t know why my grandmother never explained it better or showed me pictures? Thank you for taking the time to research and write this article. I never knew this was so common.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Possibly because her memories of the time were really too painful to share with anyone else in photos. Everyone’s recollections are never exactly the same as anyone else’s, and it’s possible that her vision of herself in dresses made from flour sacks, no matter the actual reason behind them, or the fact that the prints may have actually been quite beautiful for the time, were a source of personal embarrassment and not something pleasant or happy that she wanted to share with anyone else. It was perhaps not suitable to her self image, which may have required a higher social level than was possible at the time, even though everyone in her peer group and neighborhood were all “paddling the same boat,” so to speak. There’s usually someone who aspires to be the captain of that boat, no matter how possible that really is in the grand scheme of things. And, this is why she spent the rest of her “grown up life” making it up to herself, and by way of leading her life vicariously through you as well. Both of you were fortunate that she had such a tolerant man in her life!

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  4. My aunt made all my dresses and bloomers from flour sacks. Beautiful prints. We lived in Seguin Tx. That’s where I learned to sew on a pedal singer sewing machine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christ Is Risen!!!!! Touching and extremely inspiring article!!!!! Inspires me to never be wasteful and to be grateful to GOD for all His many blessings. Thank you so much 4 this WONDERFUL article and for the kindness blog!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I recall my grandmother sitting at her old time peddle driven sewing machine making quilts out of the flour sack fabric. She made one quilt of each of her grandchildren (as well as the ones we used on our beds at the time). If any of you have quilts stored away in closets or cedar chest they could also be ‘jewels’ of that era.

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  6. I made and wore clothing for myself and my family until I was an adult from flour sacks snd I have now a cedar cest full of them that I inherited when my mother died. We never ever thought to feel ashamed of that…we were proud of msking something pretty and usable. I use them now mostly for wuilt making…I have several pictures wearing the clothes I made as a teen-ager.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed this article as most of my summer clothes ((circa 1940’s ) were made from flour or chicken feed sacks. Both Grandma and mom sewed for my 2 sisters & me. Often we kids went with them to help pick out the bags they should buy according to the fabric print.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My grandma made my sister and I dresses from flour sacks. Then later she resorted to making pillow cases for us out if them. I still have several of the pillowcases!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have 5 quilts hand sewn from these fabrics. My great grandmother made them. They are bagged and preserved. Thirty years ago a local paper did an article on her and the beautiful quilts. I am so blessed to have the photos of her with her quilts that I now have.

    Liked by 1 person

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