Thrift Style explores the reuse of feed sacks to make clothing and other household objects and illuminates how the “upcycling” of these bags mutually benefitted twentieth-century consumers and businesses. With forty-one works from patterns to garments, it serves as an example of past ingenuity that can inform today’s efforts towards sustainability.
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 into American ingenuity, sensibility, and optimism during 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 artifacts in the exhibition demonstrate a mutual goal of sustainability, with local businesses—mills and feed and seed operations—tailoring product design and marketing campaigns to attract customers; and consumers using their imaginations and practical skills to tailor clothing, aprons, quilts, dolls, and more out of the industry’s byproduct: feed sack cotton.
This exhibition offers a snapshot of domestic life during this time, when recycling was as critical as it is today, and it provides one of the best examples of upcycling in our nation’s history.
Thrift Style is touring October 2020 through April 2025. The dates below reflect five-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact MoreArt@maaa.org or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.
- October 21–November 30, 2020 Northern State University
Aberdeen, SD booked
- December 15, 2020–January 19, 2021 Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum
Temple, TX booked
- February 3–April 30, 2021 Johnson County Museum
Overland Park, KS booked
- May 15–June 20, 2021 Rochester Central Library
Rochester, NY booked
- July 5–August 16, 2021 Living History Farms
Urbandale, IA booked
- September 1–October 5, 2021 Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center
Enid, OK booked
- October 21–November 30, 2021 Temecula Valley Museum
Temecula, CA booked
- December 15, 2021–January 19, 2022 Rogers Historical Museum
Rogers, AR booked
- February 3–March 10, 2022 McKinley Presidential Library & Museum
Canton, OH booked
- March 25–June 20, 2022 Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County
Moorhead, MN booked
- July 5–August 16, 2022 Refurbishment
Kansas City, MO booked
- September 1–November 30, 2022 Chandler Museum
Chandler, AZ booked
- December 15, 2022–April 30, 2023 Avenir Museum of Design & Merchandising at Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO booked
- May 15–August 16, 2023 Park City Museum
Park City, UT booked
- September 1–October 5, 2023 Farmington Museum
Farmington, NM booked
- October 21–April 30, 2024 Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
West Branch, IA pending
- May 15–August 16, 2024 Irving Archives & Museum
Irving, TX booked
- September 1–October 5, 2024 Wichita-Sedgewick County Historical Society
Wichita, KS booked
- October 21–November 30, 2024 Oxford Performing Arts Center
Oxford, AL booked
- December 15, 2024–January 19, 2025 Pawnee Bill Ranch
Pawnee, OK pending
- February 3–March 10, 2025 Willa Cather Center
Red Cloud, NE booked
- March 25–April 30, 2025 Louisiana's Old State Capitol
Baton Rouge, LA booked
Custom-Designed and Built Crates
The Historic Costume and Textile Museum and the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, both at Kansas State University
Out-of-Region Rental Fee
In-Region Rental Fee
Number of Crates/Total Weight
The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.