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 Home > product Knowledge > Collecting Female Uniforms: Vintage Aprons
Collecting Female Uniforms: Vintage Aprons

Few things can rile a feminist more than images of repressed atomic 50?s females. One icon of such repressed domesticity is the apron, with its literal ties that bind women forever to the most dreary work imaginable: cooking and cleaning.



It?s easy to view aprons as gender uniforms; they were so prevalent ?a and practical. They covered one, protecting clothing from spatters and spots, keeping garments from repeated and daily laundering. This alone prevented clothing from the wear & tear of washings, which was no small thing in days when clothing was more expensive and dresses were worn for a week or more.


Being so practical and vital, aprons were necessary. But they also were socially regulated. In Victorian times, for example, widows and other women in mourning had to wear black ones ?a any thing else was disrespectful and showed a lack of decorum. As such, aprons are seen as more than ties to home and hearth in terms of cooking and cleaning, but to society and culture as a whole. A woman didn?t just wear an apron for practical reasons, but wore one to express her role. By wearing an appropriate apron, she was showing her conformity to her community?s standards.


Myself, I remember my grandmothers wearing aprons. There were the less appealing aprons which spoke of work not just in the automatic way they were swiftly put on prior to any dirty dead of cleaning or cooking, but in their faded yet stained appearance which spoke of all the work they saw her through.



There were those aprons, yes; but then there were the glorious ones donned like any gay apparel for parties. Those aprons were so unlike their well-worn cousins. They were taffeta stiff, chiffon sheer, and fabulously frilly ?a and they sparkled & shone like festive jewelry or any ornament on the Christmas tree.


It?s the latter of these aprons which causes such confusion. As do memories and photos of happy, contented, non-drugged women who proudly wore aprons ?a of any kind.


When I think of my grandmother?s smiling face as she carried her magnificent turkey to the table, or refilled glasses, there was a pride not only in her hostess skills, but in looking the glamorous part. Her party apron was as carefully selected as her pretty dress, the shoes which matched her handbag, her matching rhinestone earrings and necklace, the style of her hair, and all the items applied as she sat at her vanity.


Like any feminist, I may bridle at what I believe to be conformity & repression; but like many a woman, I thrill at her aura of glamour. I want to be liberated ?a but look so fabulous.

I tell myself that putting on stockings, high-heels and a dress isn?t dressing ??the part of woman?, but is a choice ?a a choice I am free to make. That?s the difference. I am free to be as girlie as I?d like, when I like; and stop when I choose.


Many modern women opt for such old-fashioned fashion alternatives, such as corsets & stockings, declaring our rights to express our femininity and expect equality. Can aprons be equally reclaimed?


Like any intelligent adult, the proper starting place is to take a look at the real history and role of aprons. Thankfully, along with the Internet opinions, there are books and even museum exhibits with which to do some research ?a and it seems there is more to aprons than the perceived ties which bind in a ??bad way?.


Aprons were practical & somewhat culturally controlled (as are men?s pants), but aprons were also a means of self-expression. Women used them to showcase their creative skills by being thrifty, making them out of everything from fed sacks to sheets, and to solve unique problems, like this combination apron & sunbonnet.



And they made them & decorated them to be be beautiful.


Be it original apron creations, or those made from patterns, all were stitched with pride. Aprons were often embellished with embroidery and other needlework. Even those black Victorian mourning aprons were adorned with delicate crochet, lace and other needlework ?a in black, of course.


The most elaborate, artistic aprons were the ones put on for serving. Be it family or guests, the old working apron would come off, and a fancier apron would be put on to serve. It wasn?t just to be kind to the people being serve, but to acknowledge & honor the important work & personage of the one wearing the apron.


Being the guardian and caretaker of home and hearth was respected work ?a at least by the woman doing it. And that?s why she created (and was creative with) her ??uniform?. In this sense, aprons are really textile folk art.

The practicality of the apron is something to be admired. I must admit that I myself have longed for more pockets while doing housework ?a and an apron with built-in hot pads is nifty beyond belief (where do those hot pads wander off too, anyway?) No wonder some unknown, but likely female, author wrote this?-

   Return to Aprons Product List
 • [Aprons List] The function of Apron
 • [Aprons List] Collecting Female Uniforms: Vintage Aprons
 • [Aprons List] How-To: Stitch an Apron
 • [Aprons List] The History of Aprons
 • [Aprons List] Other meanings of Apron
 • [Aprons List] What is Apron
 • [Aprons List] Aprons in the home
 • [Aprons List] aprons
 • [Aprons List] An Ode to Aprons
 • [Aprons List] Apron Size and Style
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