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In New York City, the capital of American fashion, names such as Hattie Carnegie, Claire McCardell, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel made headlines in the 1940s. Perhaps more familiar to many American women during the same time period were the names Bemis Brothers and Percy Kent, two of the many manufacturers of commodity bags. Commodity bags, woven fabric bags that originally packaged products such as animal feed, flour, sugar, and salt, were an important resource in home sewing for women from the 1930s through the 1960s. The manner in which women practiced the adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” as they converted empty commodity bags speaks through the extant clothing and household textiles made by them, much as a page from a diary, offering a personal glimpse of life long past. This exhibition illustrates the history and uses of commodity bags in the mid-twentieth century. The goal of the exhibit is to educate visitors about commodity bags and the many ways they were used by industrious women to clothe their families and decorate their homes. The exhibition highlights what commodity bags were made of, who made the bags and recycled them, why they were produced and used, where they were most widely available, when they experienced the highest popularity, and how bags were marketed to consumers.


Converting Commodity Bags:
Recycling Circa 1940

Exhibition Dates: April 2005 - June 2006

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LSU Textile & Costume Museum
140 Human Ecology Building
Department of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising
College of Agriculture
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Telephone: (225) 578-5992 and 578-2281
Fax (225) 578-2697
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