“An apron is a garment worn at the front of the body, since ancient times, for practical, decorative, as well as ritualistic purposes. From the French word ‘naperon’, meaning a small tablecloth, aprons have been worn to protect garments, and indicate status…..Aprons can be made of cotton, muslin, linen, canvas, leather (a blacksmith), rubber, or lead (X-ray technician).” (From the History of Clothing.)
The apron became the symbol of family, mother, and “apple pie” in the late 1940s and created a picture of a cozy kitchen, and a happy family. The American housewife’s apron could be plain and practical, fun themed and kitschy, or sheer and ruffled for dress or hostess duties.
When home economics was a class offered in school, an apron was typically the first sewing project. I have a small collection of aprons from the 50’s and 60’s that were made by family members. They are made of gingham fabric, adorned with rick rack, crocheted, some overwhelmed with polka dots, and a few made of sheer fabric for fancy occasions. Here are a few from my collection…
One of my favorite – reminds me of something Doris Day would wear.
Don’t know who in the family made this crochet beauty. I would love to figure out how to wear it today, just as a decorative piece of clothing.
Of course you would have a themed apron for special holidays. Hearts for Valentine’s Day.
I have at least three red checkered aprons – a must when serving an Italian dinner. The time people spent creating their aprons is mind-boggling. Sheering and cross stitching, making binding to go around the pockets and edges… certainly a lost art. In the late 1960s, aprons were suddenly viewed as old fashioned garments worn by grandmothers and fuddie-duddies.
This is an old poem about Grandma’s apron I found on Treasure Maps Genealogy:
I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.
The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.
You’ll be happy to know that between cooking shows on the Food Network, and a new appreciation for quality meals made from scratch, the apron is once again used for practical reasons. Full aprons with extra long ties (that go around the back and tie at the front), and aprons made of sturdy fabrics are now the favorites worn by home cooks and celebrities.
Today’s aprons range from plain white to a wide range of colors. Many have amusing sayings on them such as “hot stuff coming through” or “what part of it’s not ready yet don’t you understand?” Whatever your style or color choice, there’s an apron out there for you.
Here are a few of my modern day, well-used aprons. I like big aprons (butcher style with pockets) because I’m a little messy (okay very messy sometimes) and want a larger apron to cover more of my clothes underneath. It still amazes me when I take my apron off that some spills and spots have managed to get under the apron and stain my clothes.
When I’m no longer able to cook, and they send me to the “home” to live out the last of my days, I’m taking my aprons to use as bibs. I wouldn’t be caught dead (oh, poor use of words) wearing a bib, but would proudly wear an apron to catch the drool and drips. 🙂