I love aprons. I’ve been browsing some websites that feature vintage apron patterns, looking for inspiration. I wear an apron everyday. My dresses stay cleaner for longer, and since my dresses are full and pleated, the idea of washing them, then ironing them back into shape, isn’t something I cherish. So cotton denim aprons go over them. If I’m going out, the apron comes off (unless I forget.)
I gave two of my aprons to an eleven-year-old girl who has decided that she needs to wear dresses most of the time. Since so many of her other clothes, jeans and t-shirts, were ruined with the usual pre-teen type stains, I suggested that she wear aprons at home. She’s quite pleased with her grown-up looking self, despite being about four feet and a few inches tall.
So why don’t we wear aprons anymore? Apron patterns were quite popular right through the seventies. The latest “vintage” pattern I found was 1981. Look in any current sewing pattern book, and aprons are relegated to the back, along with cushion covers and dog costumes. Is an apron some sign of an irrelevant past, an emblem of servitude? Well, of course it is, if one listens to the Steinem era feminists. But it is a symbol and perhaps a sign of the practicality of women who work in the home.
Back in the fifties, patterns for Mr. and Mrs. aprons became popular, usually with cute barbeque motifs, or cocktail glasses. It was an indication of new prosperity and leisure, that men had time to relax around their home, find that primal male that can only be expressed in cooking outdoors, and be a fun host while the wife handed round trays of canapes and petits fours. Men’s aprons were the butcher or baker type, usually. It was still a joke to put a man in a half-apron with pleats and ruffles. (My husband recently growled at some absurd male get-up on television with, “What’s next, aprons for men?”, unaware of the whole fifties host apron phenomenon, thanks to a Cockney family.)
But modern advertising would have us believe that what we need is to continually wash clothes. Laundry products and high-tech washer-dryers are the status rage. (Those who have read past posts know that I do my laundry in galvanized tubs, outdoors, with a wringer and a line.) We don’t need aprons because we wash everything, several times a week. Our teenager, in her tween years, hated that we moved into a house without a washer, because it meant she couldn’t decide at the last minute that she needed THAT pair of jeans or shirt for school tomorrow. She had been in the habit (before she was in our blended household) of washing just one or two items in the machines. Frugal me was horrified. She was horrified that I did laundry by hand, like some – well, she didn’t know about hillbillies and Ma and Pa Kettle.
I can’t imagine some of the SUV-driving Moms I see at the market putting on an apron. That would imply that they were actually going to cook. But surely, with $35,000 kitchens (yes, I cringe) and top of the line professional cooking equipment, and the new status rage of homegardening, one would think aprons were making some sort of status comeback. Maybe they need to be status designer aprons. The old sewing pattern lines had one or two occasionally, and the one that sticks in my mind is the Pierre Cardin one that looks ever so much like the pinnies worn by the sewing factory girls on Coronation Street.
While on the subject, I did see an amazing pattern for an apron that turns into a sunbonnet. I am a big fan of sunbonnets, too. Being Quakerly, I love bonnets in general, the simpler the better. I am allergic to sunscreens, so face shading hats are a necessity if I’m working outside. I have made several sunbonnets for children to sell at the market, and plan to make up some adult sizes as well. I’m going to give the apron to bonnet a try, too. I’m not sure how practical it is, but there are times one is out in the yard, in an apron, and taking longer than expected. Wouldn’t it be great to whip off the old apron, fasten a couple of buttons, and have a stylish (ok, maybe not) sunbonnet on one’s head?