Sneak Peek: Spring/Summer Line ~ Crazy for Novelty Prints!

by: Holly Ellison, designer at Bettie Page Clothing by Coral & Jade

During the Great Depression people across America had to stretch their pennies. One way of saving money was to reuse any items already around the house. Ingenuitive mothers soon figured out that they could reuse the old cotton sacks their goods came in to make clothing for their children–and themselves! The most common type of sacks they used had stored flour and grain. When the flour and grain manufacturers learned about the trend they began printing sacks with more and more creative designs, specifically to be reused as clothing. Floral prints were the most common, but the designs were wide and various. These fun prints made fashion during hard times a little more fun.

During World War II rationing fueled the continued creation of feedsack clothing to the point where, by some estimates, as many as 3.5 million women and children were wearing garments made from old fabric packaging!

During the post-war boom, the use of feedsack fabrics for clothing declined as consumers began purchasing more off the rack clothing and fabric. In response, goods manufacturers began selling their products in cheaper paper packaging which was no longer suitable for making clothing. The demand for interesting prints, however, did not go away. Fashion adapted to meet the demand that had been created, creating new prints that were more playful, colorful and plentiful–the more kitsch, the better! In addition to floral prints, many new prints were travel-based using themes like Hawaiian, Western, or South of the Border motifs. Local fabric stores had racks of border prints for sew-at-home projects. Prints were everywhere, including on the full skirts and dresses filling the Montgomery Ward catalog, and home décor items such as table cloths, aprons and curtains.

Today there is a hot market for vintage novelty print dresses and clothing. The dresses that sold for as little as $2-4 in the 50’s now fetch prices anywhere from $75-$300. Rare skirts–e.g., Disney or Elvis-themed–can even reach into the thousands for the serious collectors!

At Bettie Page, we share a love for these fantastic nostalgic prints. We are continuously inspired by the fun prints of the past, and we design and produce all of our new custom prints in-house, doing our best to stay true to the color schemes and aesthetic of the past. Check out some of our prints in the header photo!

~To see more great examples of feedsack prints, check out the following website:

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