Linda Ford ~ The History of APRONS


 I remember when women wore aprons over their dresses as they did their daily work. Nowadays, I don’t think our kids even know what an apron is.

The following essay was on this site but also on a number of other sites:

“The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for  removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. (A warming oven was a narrow cabinet above a wood-burning stove, next to the stovepipe.)

“When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.

“Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

“From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

“When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

“When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the menfolk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

“It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that old-time apron that served so many purposes. “

Aprons have been used for hundreds of year by men and women for a variety of tasks. Perhaps the first mention of the use of an apron is in the Bible when Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to make aprons to cover themselves. We traditionally think of aprons being used for cooking, and while that is true, they have served as a cover-up for other tasks that tend to be messy. Occupations such as butchers, welders and bakers have always used aprons to protect both their clothing and bodies from their work.  In fact, men probably wore aprons before women did.

Some interesting facts about aprons.

The word comes from a French word for napkin or small tablecloth.

During earlier times, like maybe the 16th and 17th centuries, colors indicated the trade of the wearer. For instance, English barbers wore a checked pattern, butchers and porters wore green.

A pinafore apron was “pinned” to clothing.

Cooks turned their aprons to hide the stains but only once or the stains weren’t hidden.

I remember the first thing I learned to sew was a half apron that tied around my waist. I also remember when servers at wedding receptions all wore matching aprons. Often the color and style had been chosen by the bride or bride’s mother. I also remember accidently going to school in grade one without removing the apron I wore. I was so embarrassed. Looking back I can’t imagine why it bothered me so but it did.

Here is a site with free patterns for making aprons.

We’ve almost forgotten about aprons although my grandson designed an apron for me that I’m very proud of. (That’s it on the right.) In writing historical fiction, I need to remember how they were always worn and how they were used. In my August release, Dakota Cowboy, I used aprons a couple of times but not in my Christmas novella, Christmas Under Western Skies, due out later this year.

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I’ll give away a copy of Dakota Cowboy to one person who comments.

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35 thoughts on “Linda Ford ~ The History of APRONS”

  1. Thank you for this sweet post, which brings back so many memories. My grandmother always wore an apron when she cooked, and she made most of the aprons herself. She was a wonderful cook and seamstress, and her needlework was beautiful. I still have a number of her aprons, as well as embroidered table cloths, pillowcases, doilies and other lovely things. Aprons are very handy, and some are very pretty! Some are quite elaborate, and some merely functional. Some make a statement: “Kiss the cook”, and some are a required part of a work uniform. The best ones are the softly faded ones made by your Gran : )

  2. I remember my Grandma Rose always wore an apron. She loved to cook! She’d have a pot of soup on the stove, something baking in the oven.

    She had aprons for everyday, for holidays, for catering weddings and funerals ( she catered with 2 of her sisters and a good friend).

    Great Memories.

    I do have 1 pretty apron! I don’t want to wear it and mess it up. Silly!

  3. I love aprons,I look for those old ones all the time,I drather have the old ones because they have such a story behind each one an so different,thanks for such a great post!

  4. What a great post. I do remember aprons and have several in my keeping. On special occasions I do wear an apron but I must admit, we have gotten away from the use and so I tend to forget they are there. Thank you for the reminder.

    I believe aprons are forgotten because they aren’t seen in the general public, television shows, etc. anymore. One television show that comes to mind that I believe the lead character always wore an apron was The Donna Reed Show. Whoa, that’s dating me.

    Have a wonderful day.

  5. Hi Linda and welcome to the Junction! I have lots of fond memories of aprons. My grandma always and one on–and I hid behind it frequently. 😀 All the ladies at church wore one when we had potlucks, which were the BEST because there was always so much good food. Thanks for an excellent post.

  6. i don’t know anyone who wore an apron around the house…but your post still feels like it’s bringing back warm memories somehow…if that makes sense? 🙂

    i wore an apron as a waitress…and they were pretty handy
    and actually…after reading this post i feel like i could really use one around here!
    why did we get away from them?
    probably because we aren’t home much anymore… 🙁

    thank you for sharing

    and i really like both of your covers…
    dakota cowboy especially 🙂

  7. Great post, I really enjoyed it. I remember women always wearing an apron. It seemed to fade there for a while but the habit may be coming back. Not to the same degree, but it seems we’ve been seeing people wearing them more in commercials the past few years. I am also seeing them in stores more frequently.

    I have about 30 aprons that were my grandmother’s and my aunt’s. They are mostly everyday apron, some homemade and others a bit more fancy and “store bought.” At auctions when I have purchased box lots of items, I have gotten some nice aprons. The sheer, frilly ones are definitely for show. They wouldn’t do much to protect your clothes.

    I have sewn aprons to use as well as for costumes and holidays. I actually have the pattern 5288 you show above. I really like that other pattern. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it. Old patterns show up at yard sales and thrift stores. My next apron project is a leather apron for my husband and son to use in the forge. The sparks fly when they are doing their blacksmithing and their clothes are full of little burn holes.

    Great covers for your books. I love anthologies, so I’ll be looking for CHRISTMAS UNDER WESTERN SKIES. Obviously, I like westerns too.

    Again, thanks for a enjoyable post. Hope you have a great Labor Day Weekend.

  8. Wow, look at all you ladies here already. I love hearing your memories of aprons, especially of Grandma’s apron. I wish I had some from my Grandma or even my mother.

    Virginnia, I remember when you could buy those aprons with funny sayings almost anywhere. I wonder if you still can. I’ll have to watch.

    Laurie G.
    It’s funny to keep an apron special when you know the purpose is to get it dirty rather than your clothes but I’m the same way with the apron my grandson gave me. I don’t want to ruin it. 🙂

    Don’t you wish you knew the stories behind the old aprons? Of course, we just make them up, don’t we?

  9. I enjoyed your post today which brought back fond memories. My grandmother spent days in the kitchen cooking delectable meals and baking wonderful creations. Everyone in those days wore aprons to protect their clothing. It was the norm and I think so much has been lost since I pine for those days again.

  10. Cindy, how did we get away from wearing aprons? I don’t even remember it happening.

    Tracy, your post reminders me of church suppers. One of the older ladies made a dozen matching aprons for the serving ladies to wear.

    Tabitha, the cover on Dakota Cowboy is one of my favorites. Actually I think all the covers on the Love Inspired Historicals are well done.

    Patricia, leather aprons to use at the forge!! Now that gives me a wonderful mental picture and makes me want to inclue it in a story.


  11. I still wear aprons especially when I cook for my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My Grandmother always wore them but my Mother didn’t. I still have one my Grandmother made and every time I wear it I think of her.

  12. Oh my how evocative those images you painted were – brings back lots of childhood memories. I don’t remember personally ever using an apron, but my mom and aunts and grandmother all did. And yes, I remember having a few tears dried on one…

  13. Hi Linda, welcome back to the Junction. We’re always thrilled to have you. Love your subject. I, too, made an apron as my first Home Ec project in high school. I loved that thing. My mama always wore an apron when she cooked but never when she cleaned house. I guess that was probably where the decline started. And with so many women living in the city than usual the apron lost some of their uses. I’m heartened though by a renewed surge it seems. Here where I live the grocery store has started carrying them. I doubt they’ll ever be as popular as they once were.

    I love the cover to Dakota Cowboy!! The guy looks so lonesome sitting up there on that horse. I’m going to look for it next time I go into town which is 25 miles. I don’t go very often. Good luck with your books. I’m going to look for your Christmas one too. Love Christmas stories.

  14. I remember my mother working in a restaurant when I was a kid and she always wore a frilly apron, she had tons of them. I don’t even know where you would go to buy one today.

  15. Hi, Linda. I have a few aprons that I received as wedding shower gifts back in the day. I used to wear one of them when I would come home after church on Sunday and start work on lunch. Now we go out to eat, so no more apron. The kids have a dinner they help serve at at church once a year and they break out the aprons for that and get a kick out of wearing mommy’s apron. If it wasn’t for them, the poor cover-ups would probably never see the light of day!

  16. Hi Linda! What a fun post! And it’s a treasure trove of information. I don’t own a single apron, and I don’t think I ever have. I remember my grandmothers having them, but not my mom. With clothing so much simpler than it used to be, and so much easier to wash, I guess there just isn’t the need. Aprons make sense though. I can’t tell you how many t-shirts I’ve ruined by with spray bleacher when I’m cleaning something.

    Thanks for visitng P&P today. I love the cover of your book.

  17. Hi Linda,

    What a great post. I remember in school we had to make an apron. I hardly wear one but I like them.

    Your books look wonderful. I love the covers of them

    Walk in harmony,

  18. Goldie, and Winnie. Hi. Isn’t it amazing that aprons carry memories for so many of us?

    Anon, thanks for visiting.

    Linda B. I’m going to start looking around to see who carries aprons. Most of the ones I’ve seen are meant for barbecuing.

    Linda H. I notice that waiters still wear aprons but they aren’t the frilly ones you refer to.

  19. Karen, funny how church suppers are another reminder of the once popular practise of wearing aprons.

    Vicki, I’m with you. If I wore an apron more often I wouldn’t be constantly fighting stains and bleach marks.

    Melinda, yup, Home Ec and sewing an apron. The good old days. 🙂

  20. The pics on the side are interesting… never thought of an apron as fashionable… As a preschool teacher they were part of our uniform… never used one at home… probably should!

  21. Hi Linda, I love aprons. My daughter called the other day to see if I would make her a fancy apron for her to cook in on her horse drive. We’ll see how it goes. My husband has shoeing aprons and my son has his forge aprons (Hot shoes) and I have mine. So we have a family of aprons. I tend to use my over-size tee shirts as aprons when in the garden: bringing back tomatoes, etc. Eggs, too.
    Would love to read your books.

  22. Three things:
    (1) I don’t wear aprons today because I wear jeans, and jeans hide a multitude of sins (unlike dresses and polyester pants years ago).
    (2) When learning to sew, I made myself an apron. Can’t seem to throw it out, though….
    (3) When my mom died and the family was asked what they’d like to keep before the estate went to auction, my brother wanted the snowblower, organ (like they used on Lawrence Welk), and sewing machine. One sister just wanted the money. The other sister wanted a doily that a neighbour had crocheted. And I wanted an apron that another neighbour embroidered (and this neighbour taught ME to embroider many moons ago). I still treasure this beautiful apron, but alas never wear it.

  23. I loved to get wrapped up in my grandmas apron, and when we collected eggs, I remember filling it with her. Many of my tears were collected on her apron and some blood from scrapes too. I had forgotten about that until today. Thanks for the memories Linda. 🙂

  24. Loved reading about aprons. I remember both my gradmothers wore them and some were even made from feed sacks.
    I learned to sew in school and the first item we made were butcher block type aprons. If it wasn’t for that experience, I would not be able to sew straight.
    I wear an apron today when I am cooking a big dinner for the holidays and when I am making a pie.
    I know a lot of men who wear them when they cook on the grill outside.
    The book sounds really good so would like the opportunity to win it.

  25. My mother wore a clean apron every day.

    I wore an apron when I was pregnant to keep my smocks from rubbing the counters.

  26. aprons were indeed the thing that saved many a outfit; I remember putting them on after church on Sunday while getting the noon meal prepared; it was Sunday so we kept our good clothes on till after dinner.

  27. I grandmother and mother always wore an apron to cook. I still do if I am frying something that will splash. I still have an apron my grandmother made me years ago. It is white and has appliques to stick to the pocket for the different holidays.
    When my granddaughter was little she loved to cook with me so I made her an apron. It still hangs on my baker’s rack.

  28. I still wear aprons when I cook–over my blue jeans! I love the full ones and I think I actually own that second pattern you showed, Linda. I bought it at a rummage sale long ago. I thought I better because one of these days my old vintage aprons will finally wear out and then I’ll be forced to sit down at my 1939 Singer and sew me a few more!

  29. Many memories going on in my head right now, especially of my gramma Ida. I still see her brown buffalo check apron with yellow cross-stitching. She always wore one. I remember my mom nagging me when I was a young bride because I didn’t LOL.

    Congrats on the books, Linda. Hope you enjoy your day in Wildflower Junction.

  30. My goodness. Take some time to bake cookies ( a very rare occassion nowadays), supervise the painters doing my window trim, and take care of a few bills and lots of people show up.

    I love hearing that almost everyone has grandma/mom related memories of aprons. I enjoy all the memories. They make my wind whirl with stories.

    Thanks to all who left comments. I will pop in again later.

  31. I wear aprons every day myself and have for years. I never go to the kitchen and cook without one one. If i didn’t I would screw up all of my clothes. You can’t find a good apron anymore so I make mine. I like the ones that cover you all the way down the front. They have a bid at the top.

  32. I remember my grandmothers and aunts wearing aprons.
    Mother wore one every once in a while, I rarely
    wore one. I do own 3/4 aprons but they mostly reside
    in the china cabinet drawer with the tablecloths and
    cloth napkins!

    Pat Cochran

  33. My Grandmother always wore aprons, so at some point I asked her if I could have a couple of her aprons. I haven’t worn them lately but like having them. Funny I don’t see Grandma wearing them any more, I’m going to have to ask her about that!

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