February 8, 2013 - 10:47 pm

Hey, Alice! Where Did You Get That Dress?

2_8_blog_dduckJust close your eyes. Think about Alice in Wonderland as you saw her in the animated movie produced by Disney. Do you see her long blond hair tied back with a bow, hanging to the middle of her back? Can you picture her wearing her little white apron over her blue dress? Does she have on white stockings and black Mary Jane shoes?

If that’s the way you always picture Alice, you are not a feedsack collector.

Back in 1950, the Percy Kent Bag Co. of Kansas City finalized an agreement with Walt Disney Productions and was granted the exclusive rights to print Disney characters on “quality cotton material,” which turned out to be an 80-square percale.

Walt Disney Studios provided a variety of designs and colors specifically for the bag company, and by July 1950, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Alice in Wonderland and other characters were cavorting around on Ken-Print cotton bags.

The bags were perfect for sewing rompers, shirts and dresses for children. And they worked perfectly for decorating a child’s room. The prints weren’t just reserved for children’s wear; “Ready to Use Apron Bags” sported the designs as well.2_8_blog_3_Alices

It appears that Disney sent his characters shopping for new clothing on their way to the Percy/Kent Bag Co. When Alice arrived, she had shed her familiar blue dress. She kept the same style but had a wardrobe filled with dresses of green, brown or pink.

2_8_blog_Cindyball1I can clearly see Cinderella being dressed in blue by mice-turned-tailors and birds draping ribbons and bows while her benevolent fairy godmother sings “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”  Cinderella apparently left her blue dress back in her closet. When she arrived in Kansas City, her color scheme changed to yellow or green as she danced the night away with her Prince Charming.

Even Donald Duck changed his clothes. He shed his blue sailor shirt and traded it in for a red one.  Oddly enough, no one thought to give him a pair of pants to wear with that red shirt.

The selvedge on the Disney bags has the name of the movie in which the characters were 2_8_blog_paint rosesportrayed. The line also carries a copyright symbol for W.D.P. One of the Ken-Print bags from Alice in Wonderland is titled, “Painting the Roses Red” from Alice in Wonderland, and there is not a red rose anywhere on the bag. Instead, pink, green and yellow are the predominant colors.

I have a sneaking hunch that Disney was protecting his characters, even though he was allowing them to venture out and visit the farm. By changing the color of their clothing, there could be no mistake that these designs had been made specifically for another purpose.

Children are very perceptive little people, and it wouldn’t have taken much for them to recognize that something was odd about the Alice or Cinderella prints. Even children know that cartoon characters never change their clothing. Simply by virtue of wearing a garment made from one of the Disney prints, one could advertise the fact that she came from a “poor” family. After all, it has never taken much for one child to taunt another on the playground.

I wonder if old Walt gave that any thought before he sent his characters shopping.

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