Feedsack Fashion in Rural Appalachia: A Social History of Women’s Experiences in Ashe County, North Carolina: 1929 – 1956

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Natalya Rachael Hopper (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Neva Specht

Abstract: During the Great Depression, rural American women began re-using empty textile bags used to package animal feed, flour, sugar and other goods to make clothing and home textiles. In a culture of material scarcity, excess cloth was a valuable commodity for creative, thrifty women. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, cotton bag manufacturers targeted farmer’s wives by printing stylish and colorful patterns on the sacks to be used for homesewing. In this case study of Ashe County, North Carolina, women’s experiences with sewing and wearing textiles and apparel made from feedsacks and other economical fabrics sources were examined. Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, Ashe County has a unique sense of place and community, which was particularly evident in the more rural parts of the county. There, some residents did not have conveniences like running water or electricity until as late as the mid-1950s. Rural women’s roles as producers and creators were explored, as larger cultural changes, like an improving economy and modern technologies, affected the mountain region. Local store record’s revealed the transition to a full-fledged consumer society, when women began to purchase more ready-made garments and home textiles in the late 1940s and 1950s. Oral history interviews with rural Ashe County women supplemented an analysis of extant objects made from feed and flour sacks. A variety of attitudes were found about self-sufficiency, new technologies, consumer behavior and the power of store-bought goods to convey social status. It quickly became clear that rural women’s relationships with dress and textile goods were complex. Women became increasingly reliant on readymade apparel and home textiles, and the meaning of the objects and the user’s relationship with the goods changed. Yet as they navigated social and technological changes after the Second World War, one constant remained – rural women’s continued emphasis on fashion and appearance.

Additional Information

Hopper, N.R. (2010). Feedsack Fashion in Rural Appalachia: A Social History of Women’s Experiences in Ashe County, North Carolina: 1929 – 1956. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010

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