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When Burlap Underwear Was Fashionable

From the Mid-1800s Onward, an Ethic of Thrift and Ingenuity Was Woven Into American Clothing

Patterns were often classics that would not quickly be out of style and could accommodate different sizes. Image courtesy of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

By Joy Spanabel Emery
December 4, 2017

In 1928, when President Calvin Coolidge visited Chicago, the ladies of a Presbyterian church presented him with a set of pajamas made from flour sacks dyed lavender and finished with silk frogs and pearl buttons in appreciation of his program on economy and thrift.

It seems surprising now, but once the use of cloth feed bags for clothing and household items was a part of mainstream rural American culture—related to a long practice of utilizing all resources that is deeply …

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Clemente Wisconsin girls WIMTBA

By Deirdre Clemente
August 7, 2015

I study one of the most profound cultural changes of the 20th century: the rise of casual dress. I study casual dress as it evolved on the beaches of Miami. I study casual dress as worn by the Black Panthers and by Princeton undergraduates. As a professor, I teach seminars on material culture and direct graduate students as they research and curate costume exhibitions, but my bread-and-butter as a scholar is the “why” and “when” our sartorial standards went from …

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