Rural American Vintage: The Sack Dress

Photo by Russell Lee, Library of Congress

In generations past in rural America, people were very creative in finding a practical use for almost everything.  One of the best examples of this is the sack dress.

Photo by Russell Lee, Library of Congress

At the time, flour, corn meal, coffee, sugar, salt and animal feed were packaged in cotton printed sacks.  Most rural women would use the fabric from the sacks to make a sack dress. Other items made using the sack material were blouses, skirts, boys’ & men’s shirts, pillow cases, aprons, table cloths and other clothing and household linens.

Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress

The clothing worn by women, men and children in photographs of rural America from the beginning of the 20th century through the early 1960s contain wonderful examples of sack dresses and other clothing made from sacks.

Photo by Jack Delano, Library of Congress

Today, many pieces of homemade vintage clothing can trace their roots to the humble sacks for flour, sugar or animal feed.

Photo by Russell Lee, Library of Congress


Photo by Russell Lee Library of Congress


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Filed under Dresses, Sack Dress

4 responses to “Rural American Vintage: The Sack Dress

  1. Ina

    I btw loved those pics (I think I saw them in Denver Post or something the first time), showing more truth about living on the countryside in the depression’s aftermath and perhaps also the upcoming war (these pictures were from around the 1940’s if I remeber right?). And still the dresses are good looking… I never thought about what they were made of..

  2. Gina

    I think these photos are taken from the period just before WWII and are part of an photo exhibition titled “Bound for Glory: America in Color.” You can buy the book from the exhibition by on Amazon by clicking here. The dresses were and still are beautiful despite the simple materials from which they are made.

  3. Great photos! That one of the little girls in their matching dresses reminds me so much of the sisters in “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou.”!

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