Style exhibit shows Depression-era creativity

A new exhibit at the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum gives residents a look at the innovative and resourceful style trends of the Great Depression.

“This exhibit really shows the creativity of a previous generation, and since tradition and history are so important to Temple, it’s an excellent display to share here,” Museum Director Mike Hicks said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to present these examples of American ingenuity.”

The exhibition, organized by the Historic Costume and Textile Museum and the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, both at Kansas State University, provides a nostalgic view of a particularly challenging time of economic hardship and war—the period of the Great Depression and World War II. The reuse of feed, flour, and sugar sacks was a cost-saving and resource-saving approach employed by homemakers to make new items to meet their families’ needs.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, manufacturers began producing patterned and colored feed sacks to give home seamstresses more options. During World War II, the federal government limited fabric use for individual garments and homemakers were obligated to use thrifty approaches to repurpose what was available to them.

As fabrics from feed sacks were not considered a limited resource, women turned to them as an accessible and patriotic option during the war effort. In response, trade organizations and manufacturers promoted the thrifty use of feed sack fabric by publishing how-to brochures and booklets with clothing designs, mending instructions, and other suggestions for restyling clothes.

The exhibit will be open through Jan. 19 at the Railroad and Heritage Museum, 315 W. Ave. B.