The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Feed Sack Garments

By Mary A. Summerline © 1991

Issue: July, 1991

Like many families who had survived the lean years of World War II, we were accustomed to finding ways of stretching our money. My mother made many of the clothes we wore, especially those for my two sisters and me.

About 1946, when I was in the ninth grade, an initiation was held for the freshman students into some of the clubs. My club was the Future Homemakers of America, which had only girls. (The boys had the Future Farmers of America Club.)

The girls were required to wear feed sack dresses, and have their hair braided into thirteen pigtails. Most of the girls, including me, wore burlap bags, with holes cut for head and arms. I wore mine over my gym suit.

One girl wore a dress made from a feed sack with a floral design, nicely tailored with finished seams and hems and button trim. She received many compliments from our home economics teacher, and I'll admit the rest of us were rather envious.

At home we were raising a few pigs and chickens at the time, and when my mother heard about the pretty feed sack dress, she started looking for the sacks at the local milling company. Over the years she made several garments for me and other family members.

One that I especially remember was a blouse made of fabric containing small checks of blue, yellow, green and white, with blue predominating. It was trimmed with yellow buttons. Mom made it for me about 1962, and I wore it to work when I was employed by the FBI in Washington, D.C. I received compliments on it from my supervisor.

It was one of the last things my mother made for me, since she died in early 1964. I still have that blouse, although it no longer fits. It's very special to me.

Editor's Note... My grandmother saved feed sacks and I also have had many a dress made from them. People who have never seen them will never know what nice material they were and what pretty designs and colors. A hundred pound feed sack probably contained a yard to a yard and a half of material.

When my grandmother died, my mother must have taken her stock of material. When my first daughter was born, mother pulled out her materials and made several pretty little dresses. The last of the feed sacks were used at that time in 1964, but when my daughter outgrew them, I carefully put them aside and still have them saved away in a trunk to this day.

Feed sack dresses were a part of the not-so distant past that has all but disappeared in the last 25 years.