The Return of the Apron?

Kelly got me an apron for my birthday last year which I thought might be taken as a hipster affectation in my semi-public, sidewalk-adjacent workshop. But on the very first day I wore it I dropped a sharp chisel in my lap and realized that this garment, made out of sturdy canvas, actually has a purpose. Then there’s all those pockets in which to put rulers and pencils.

A quick perusal of the interwebs will show you that, at one time, all of the trades had their own aprons. In addition to safety and tool holstering, aprons are from a time before the cheap, disposable clothes we now wear.

The decline of the apron could also be about our modern world’s distaste for visible signs of physical labor. We’re all supposed to be spending our days in front of glowing screens. Speaking of which, I’ve got to get back to work . . .

For more on the history of the apron which some nice examples, see this article by Delores Monet.

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12 Comments

  1. I happen to love aprons and am old enough to remember being told to put on an apron if I was going to start cooking. The idea was to keep the ‘good’,’street’ clothes clean and to keep the bacteria from outside away from what we were making. And most had pockets which I still consider to be a near necessity.

  2. I’ve always assumed that aprons of the domestic labor variety, unlike your protective physical labor sort, were in common use because folks used to wear their clothes more than once, perhaps even all week, between washings. I’m a baker, canner, gardener, etc (hey, that’s why I’m here), and I’ve always found aprons more a hinderance than a help, but I also wash my shirts after only one wear, and I wear gardening-specific pants. I do like the idea of doing less laundry, in theory, but in practice, I’m quite attached to not smelling.

  3. I wear aprons for cooking and cleaning already (it’s not just about doing laundry for me, it’s about protecting my nice work clothes or even nice casual clothes from grease stains that don’t come out!) and want to make myself a sturdy linen one for gardening. I think aprons went out of style when women went back to work and embraced convenience foods, etc. (I’m a die hard feminist, so this is not a value judgment, just a historical observation), and cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc., were no longer considered cool things to be doing. It got to the point that when I was really into sewing aprons in the early oughts, people were saying that aprons were symbolic of the patriarchy, a symbol of oppression and keeping women at home. But the practical reality is that, absent a crew of servants or outsourcing everything, we all do a lot of physical labor, and there’s no shame in wearing some protective clothing to keep your outfits nicer longer. So I’m all about the apron. Incidentally, they are fun and easy to sew, and a canvas dropcloth can be a very cheap way to source fabric.

    • I also feel that aprons are more a symbol of the *matriarchy* – maybe because I feel so powerful and in control when I am wearing one ­čÖé Actually, I find it hard to throw myself wholeheartedly into my work when I haven’t put one on. I have ruined more than one garment during my reign when I didn’t take seriously the appropriate attire.

  4. I think it’s time for you to start distributing “Aprons for people who work all day at a computer”. You could have pockets for a phone charging cord and diabetes medication. Each apron would feature a unique design customized with printed ads geared towards the type of people who are frequently in meetings with you.

  5. Aprons have never gone out of style for me. I will put one on and wear it almost all day while working around the house. Who wants to splatter from food or cleaning supplies all over their clothes, even if they are casual clothes and not “office wear.” Gardening is different; no apron there just lots of pockets.

    The art of sewing is showing a resurgence and there are lots of folks who start out with an apron. It’s easy and wearable, no matter how it turns out!

  6. I wore aprons in middle school and high school when cooking at home. Mama said I should wear the apron backward because there were flour handprints on my behind.

    Aprons with a bib are soooo hot. Two layers in a hot kitchen or the warmth of cleaning are more than I can stand. I just wear torn, paint-stained or ripped clothing to cook. My favorite shirt to cook in looks shredded on the back. It is barely decent.

  7. I wear aprons almost every day in the kitchen or when I’m doing other household chores. When I’m outside walking the dog and forgot to take it off I think I’m turning into my great aunt gAthered who always seemed to be wearing hers.

  8. I’m here in Miami for a conference and noticed the wait staff at some of the upscale ($400 meal) restaurants wear aprons as if they were carpenters. Not sure what to make of it…

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