Fashionable meant flour sack dress

By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist

Years ago, country women purchased flour in big sacks, usually 25 pounds. They had a crew to feed — three times a day — so flour went fast.

Breakfast was biscuit-making time, dinner was homemade loaves of bread and supper was maybe biscuits again or sometimes tortillas. Whatever the choice, flour was the main ingredient.

Certain brands of flour came in sacks made of fabrics with pretty prints. Each one was available for several months, so the purchaser could eventually end up with plenty of fabric for whatever project she had in mind. As I recall, the fabrics were always cotton.

I remember my mom, when I needed a new dress, letting me choose the pattern. I was about 10 years old, and I picked cloth with a yellow base and little purple flowers scattered over it. I thought it was gorgeous.

The next two weeks I couldn’t wait to check on my dress’ progress after school each day. My mom had a treadle-operated Singer sewing machine. She hated sewing, but she was good at it.

The dress had a full circle skirt and an elastic waistband. The top was a shirtwaist style, and she let me sew on the buttons.

At last it was finished. I was ecstatic, even modeling the dress for my dad. As I remember, he didn’t have much to say about it except, “Where you gonna wear that?”

He had a point. The cattle, horses, dogs and cats were not impressed when I showed up outside wearing that yellow dress.

I got my chance at the next country dance. My dad was one of the musicians playing for the dance, and my mom and the other women took food for the midnight break.

We kids danced just the same as the grownups, only maybe not as well — actually not well at all. However, we had “Put Your Little Foot” learned along with schottisches. A neighbor cowboy friend of our family let me stand on his feet while he danced, and that’s mostly how I learned.

Boys my age didn’t ask girls to dance, and in those days girls NEVER asked boys to dance, so much of the time we girls danced with each other. My yellow dress was really fun when I whirled around.

The best song the band played was “Paul Jones.” Every now and then during the song the band leader yelled “Paul Jones” and everyone changed partners. It was quite all right for us kids to join in, and nobody seemed to care if we weren’t that good at dancing.

After the midnight break and food, some of us (mainly me) were sleepy. So we found a spot along the wall and lay down on chairs — or the floor — and watched the grownups dance. My yellow dress and I didn’t make it to the end of the dance, and the dress was wrinkled when Mom and Dad woke me to go home. I didn’t care. It was still pretty.

Soon after that, they stopped putting flour in pretty sacks. Too bad.