Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Evolution of the Apron

Words: Lindsay Anne Bower

The Evolution of the Apron: From functional to fashionable

Your mother wore one. Her mother wore one. And now you wear your mother’s? These days the apron is as much a staple of practical baking as it is a current fashion accessory.

If the thought of wearing an apron over a skirt seems too avant garde for you, a quick perusal of the vast array of aprons available at vintage shops the world over might change your mind. From golden-apple-printed 1960s kitsch to falling-apart-at-the-seams 1940s elegance, the beloved apron is a piece of history vintage lovers now covet. So never fear, a plastic ‘Kiss the Cook’ covering isn’t your only option.

Aprons have always been worn by women throughout the ages when doing housework, by workers performing everyday jobs, and by nurses. Most people didn't have the luxury of owning an enormous wardrobe, so washing and drying clothes wasn’t done on a particularly frequent basis. The apron could be washed every few days and the dress perhaps once every two weeks.

The style of aprons have traditionally conformed to the silhouette of the day, and have changed over the course of the years. In the 1920s and 30s, aprons tended to be long, with no waist line. However, by the 40s, aprons became cinched at the waist, and were often trimmed with buttons or pockets of contrasting colour. Feedsack cloth was an understandably popular material for aprons, as it was quite durable, and the adage of the day was “waste not, want not” - when farmer’s feedsacks were emptied, the fabric was then used for aprons or quilts. Emerging from difficult times, the 1950s brought about aprons donned for special occasions, and people began making them out of sheer aesthetically-pleasing materials. The apron was seen as indispensable until the 1960s, when cheaper clothes and washing machines made them less popular.

Though aprons have always been worn as a means of protection when performing a messy task, and still are, it’s evident that to wear an apron today is as de rigeur as it is practical. Together, biscuit bakers and unique fashionistas, will assure that the apron does not go extinct just yet...

Have a perusal of some vintage aprons here: