Aprons of Today and Long ago… Were aprons of yesteryear really made from bags of seeds and flour?
When most of us hear the word apron we picture our grandmother in the kitchen wearing an apron and baking away, or we visualize a middle aged mother from a television show of the 1950’s – 1960’s like June Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver”, or Alice, the maid on the “The Brady Bunch” wearing a half apron made with lace and a feminine print fabric. The fact is aprons came about long before the television was even invented.
The apron came into part of fashion because of practical necessity when times were hard and money was scarce. Back in the early 1800’s everyday folks did not have the luxury of owning many pieces of clothing. Nor did they have washers and dryers, therefore washing clothes was not done that often, so people had to wear the same clothes for a couple of days in a row. It was not uncommon for a woman to wear the same dress everyday for a week before it was washed.
Hence, the apron came about. An aprons purpose was to cover up the dress underneath and protect it from getting dirty. This made washing much easier for women. The apron would be washed every couple of days, and the dress might be washed once a week. This left more time for other many chores that the women had to attend to.
Aprons were not just worn by housewives. School teachers, children, shop keepers, and even secretaries wore different styles of aprons everyday over their clothing. The apron served one purpose; to protect the dress and clothing underneath it.
By the 1920’s and 1930’s handmade aprons were made from feed sack. Feed sack is a large bag that farmers would buy which held their seeds or flour. It was made from a heavy cotton fabric with different floral and plaid prints. Nothing was wasted back then, so when the feed sack bag was empty, it was never thrown away. Handmade aprons were made from the feed sack bag. It was a sturdy heavy fabric which was perfect for an apron! Once the feed sack apron was used up and ready to be thrown away, parts of the apron were saved to be used for making a quilt. Not one inch of fabric was wasted!
By the 1940’s and 1950’s the half apron became popular. Many were made with beautiful prints of different kinds of cotton fabrics with different color pockets and bottom borders. The fancy aprons were trimmed in lace and rick-rack and were made to look very pretty just like the ones you would see on television today.
Nowadays people wear aprons for not only practical use, but also as part of fashion. Today you can find an artist, a gardener, a baker, and many more every day people and professionals wearing aprons.
Judi Harris – Crafts of Chadds Ford
Photo. Anthony Shkraba