Today, I’m going to talk about the importance of aprons. I’m not so old that I can’t remember when every wife, mother, and grandmother wore them. They were quite handy to have around. The main principle was to protect the dress underneath, especially when cooking. Aprons were a lot easier to wash then a dress. Back before automatic washers and dryers there was usually only one wash day set aside per week. Unlike today when we can pop something in the washer and turn the dial, washing clothes was a major chore.
But let’s look at some of the other uses that aprons filled.
They were handy for removing hot pans from the oven. Not exactly a good replacement for pot holders, aprons were readily at their fingertips and did the job.
Aprons were used for gathering eggs from the chicken coop. Or for carrying fussy chicks. And sometimes for taking half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. They could also shoo an angry rooster or a lazy dog off the porch in case of need.
When company came, those aprons made ideal hiding places for shy children. And those big old aprons were excellent for drying tears or cleaning dirty ears.
When the weather turned cold, aprons could be wrapped around grandma’s arms and used as a makeshift shawl. Or she could wipe sweat from a brow and carry kindling and wood chips into the kitchen for the stove.
While working in the garden, aprons were really useful to have. A woman could load her apron full of ripe vegetables. And she could use her apron to hold the hulls of peas she shelled. In the fall, aprons could carry apples that had fallen from the trees. Those nifty garments could polish those apples to a shine too.
Unexpected company coming to call? No problem. It was surprising how much furniture that apron could dust in a short time. Better and faster than a feather duster and she didn’t have to go looking for it!
Aprons were amazingly used in place of cell phones. When dinner was ready, grandma walked out onto the porch and waved her apron to call men in from the fields. It was a sign dinner was ready and they’d better get their rears to the house.
The big roomy pockets of aprons would hold plenty of clothes pins when grandma was hanging out wash on the line. Those pockets held a variety of other things the wearer wanted close at hand.
In the West, aprons were made from the all-important flour sack and they covered as much of the dress as possible. Cotton material was also used if it was available. The full aprons had a loop or opening that went over the head and held the bib in place. All aprons had fabric ties that went around the waist and tied in back. There were also half aprons that went only from the waist to the knees. Back in Victorian times and earlier, aprons were decorative and worn as actual clothing. In the 50’s and 60’s before they went out of style completely, aprons became merely a fashion statement when entertaining and were very frilly.
Whatever the use, aprons were around for a long time. It’s sad that no one wears them anymore. I have fond memories of my grandmother in her worn apron shelling peas on her front porch. And of my mother, standing at the stove preparing a meal. I loved those old aprons.
Do you have any memories of aprons that were worn by your grandmother, mother….or grandpa? I’d like to hear from you.