The short answer is “no.” The long answer is “under the right circumstances, absolutely.” Need a unique Halloween costume? Done. Doritos offering you 10K to wear the Dorito bag shirt to your wedding? Done. (Sorry honey). Mom is sort of off her rocker, but it’s her last dying wish? Done.
What is the point of this post??
Wearing clothes made out of the bag your food came in is silly to us – but it wasn’t to the women of the Great Depression. In the late 19th century, manufacturers of products such as grain, feed, and sugar realized they could save money by shipping their products in cotton sacks rather than wooden barrels. Shortly after that – and spiking during the Depression – enterprising women began to repurpose the cotton fabric for dishtowels, undergarments, bonnets, and the like. There are several (possibly apocryphal) tales of women who couldn’t quite remove the labels from the feedsacks and used them for underwear only to have disastrous results, like the woman who tripped and her fiancé saw “south’s best” written across her rear or the man whose wife couldn’t quite remove the “self-rising” label from the feedsack before making his underpants. Oh those zany seamstresses!
Feedsacks get the Mad Men treatment
Knowing that folks were using their products in this way, some companies began to put slight embellishments on the fabric. It didn’t take long for manufacturers to realize that women were going to the general store with their husbands and picking out products based on which fabric they liked best. This lead to a sort of feedsack arms race where companies vied to produce more and more desirable bags. To most modern collectors, cotton feedsacks evoke images of small floral prints in a somewhat course weave – but it doesn’t end there. Prints using images from Cinderella, Mickey Mouse, and Gone with the Wind emerged by the 1940’s; some manufacturers printed patterns for small dresses on the inside of the bag so women could get down to business as soon as the feed was emptied. It wasn’t uncommon for companies to hire an artist to design exclusive images for the outside of a feedsack in hopes of courting more business.
Feedsacks: the legacy
By the 1960’s almost all the companies who supplied items in feedsacks had transitioned to paper bags, and the cultural phenomenon died off. Feedsack fabric is still quite popular among the quilting community, and can be found in small quantities online at sites such as Ebay and Etsy. It is worth noting that many reproductions exist and some sellers are less scrupulous than others, claiming their modern fabric to be a vintage original. To spot the difference look for a label, or label remnant. Another way to spot the real McCoy is the chain stitching (or holes left by chain stitching) which was used to seal up the bags. If there’s a 1930’s kernel of corn in your bag, that’s probably a good sign too.
At Lagniappe we’re proud to offer a bowtie featuring feedsack fabric from the 1940’s, purchased from an estate sale in Iowa.