More Apron Patterns

vintage Advance pattern

 I have found eBay to be a good source for vintage patterns, if you have the temperment to browse through frame after frame of small photos. Aprons are a way of seeing how our foremothers saw themselves; how culture thought of women; what women were expected to do.

I suppose before sewing machines were a common item in households, most women made patterns from their old clothes, and kept their workday items fairly simple.  Wealthier people had their clothes tailored, and I believe that young housemaids and kitchen girls were expected to make up their own work costumes. Aprons were utlitarian, the clothing that protected dresses and skin from water, soap, dust, mud and food spatters. Maids had work aprons that went over serving aprons; I still do this. I have kitchen aprons that go over the cape and apron or dress apron that covers my dress. (Even on warm days I have three layers of clothing.) By the 1930s women made their own aprons, and while still pretty utilitarian, they were becoming a little more fashionable.

the 1930s woman - looking good in the kitchen

Patterns were available by mail order from newspapers. As dresses got shorter, so did the aprons. Printed feed and flour sacks were used for this kind of everyday garment, or older dresses were taken apart and made into new aprons. Women wore the cocverall kind of apron right through the 1940s, with popular patterns advertising that they used a yard or less of fabric. The Depression shortage of funds for new material and the wartime shortages of any fabric may be why wraparound and coverall aprons were rarely made in those decades.

The 1950s br0ught a new prosperity and a number of “labour-saving” household devices; while my country living family still wore the coverall or bib apron, suburban women were becoming more sophisticated.

a fun little apron, suitable for entertaining at coffee klatsch

 It was in this time, and into the 1970s, that aprons became an at-home wardrobe enhancement, “dressing up” a plain skirt, or worn as a way of indicating hospitality. In some communities, bridesmaids received a gift of a pretty apron for helping serve at a bridal reception. (I gave my two “bridesmaids” vintage aprons when Nicholas and I were married.)

Most of us wear aprons for the old reasons – we have kitchen, house or garden work to do. We need pockets big enough to carry tools. We wear full aprons and the two-piece cape and apron for modesty. While my young friends like an apron for baking or cooking, they aren’t likely to put one on over a dress for appearance or modesty. Nor would they wear one outside the home, or even think of putting one on just because that’s what YOU do. Yet I see young women acorss the continent and in Europe making and wearing aprons.

My friend Bethann made the point in seminary that the apron has been the distinguishing garment of women for millenia; men may have work related garments that cover clothes for safety or sanitary reasons, but women wear aprons as an identifier of feminine competence. An apron says that we are ready for serious work, or at least we might consider it. Even women in the Sun King’s court put on a lacy little overskirt, as if to say, “I could whip up a batch of madelines right now.” Marie Antoinette had a frilly dairymaid’s apron to go over the elaborate peasant costume worn down on her play farm at Versailles.

We are reclaiming the apron. It passed out of the fashion vernacular for a few decades, but it looks like it is coming back.

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10 thoughts on “More Apron Patterns

    • I enjoyed the older post, with the pumpkins – we are planning to grow heirloom pumpkins for the market this year. I love that apron fabric, too.

  1. Magdalena,
    You may find it easier and cheaper to buy them at the used clothing etc. sales run out of church basements, and Goodwill and the Salvation Army to a lesser extent. If you let the stores know that you are out looking for those kind of things, they are more likely to keep them around for you to buy as well.

    Chrifter

  2. I need a very ‘high’ apron as I am short. My main area of mess in the chest and stomage while the legs rarely get anything on them. I have a 1960’s (I think) apron that go up to the neck and is buttoned in the back the whole way down but I usually only close one or two buttons. It goes to the knees in the front and is shorter in the back and go to cover most of my behind. It is in a bright pink,orange and red floral typical of the 6o’s and I love it, both the model and the crazy print. I have plans to make me another one in the same model as it works very well for a tiny person like me. I think however I will make it slightly wider and a bit longer but not that much.

  3. M, What lovely old apron patterns. I love your blog and especially this post on aprons. I am really glad to see someone other than myself wears an apron over her apron!!! Like you I wear an all covering kitchen apron over my cape dress and regular apron. When I am finished with the messy stuff I toss my kitchen apron off and I am left with a clean apron for serving and enjoying our meal.
    On wearing aprons outside the home , I do regulary. To our local farmers market , to church sale days etc. I find an apron, especially one with large pockets for all my stuff very handy.
    Two of my favorite aprons are the Edwardian apron and the Prairie pinafore apron. Both of which have good size bibs and full skirts. I am what I call a “hip wiper” so my apron skirts have to come round and nearly meet together in the back.
    Blessings,
    Grace.

  4. Thank you for writing about aprons. It has been very thought provoking, especially where you talk about wearing an apron outside the house.

    I would like to wear an apron indoors all through the day. Something that I could wear over any and every outfit and that would represent both modesty and the working life of a woman.

    I have three aprons acquired over 45 years, none of which were made by me, all of which have a loop over the head and none of which fit properly. Perhaps it will not be long before I am sewing a new apron for myself!

    In respect of wearing an apron over clothes worn out in the world, I would not like to wear my stained household apron, simply because I would like to present a clean appearance and my indoor aprons tend to be grubby and over-washed. I would prefer a pinafore that I could wear over my clothes.

    Thank you again for your article and your fine blog. Please continue writing.

    Best wishes,

    Simi

    • I try to keep “outing” aprons that don’t see kitchen work. I once got to church and after the service realized I was wearing my old denim apron.

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