Aprons were part of the official uniform for homemakers when I was growing up. Every housewife had several which included the plain everyday serviceable cover-up to wear while doing housework and cooking to the fancy aprons for special occasions, complete with intricate needlework and trim which could include lace or rick rack in different widths and designs. My grandmother loved to make her own aprons on her treadle sewing machine. She had some of the most unusual aprons in town. If she was having a holiday dinner or a special occasion like a bridge club party, a fancy apron was called for as well as decorated tablecloths (see photo on left) with matching napkins. There were no paper plates, paper napkins or plastic tablecloths in those days. Society was more proper.
An apron was a useful piece of clothing: you could gather eggs and apples or produce from the garden, wrap the baby up to carry him or her and wipe away the tears of an injured child. It could also be used as a fan or cloth to wipe away a sweaty brow, hide a shy child, signal the workers from the porch that supper was ready or as a hot pad in taking pans directly from the oven to the table. A pocket was helpful for all sorts of things like holding the baby’s bottle or pinky.
Styles varied, some were as long as the current style of dresses usually they tied in the back in a bow or they could button down the back. Later there were half aprons (see photo above right) and even shorter briefer party aprons (photo on left) that were more decorative than useful like crocheted or knitted mini aprons. There were smock, butcher or baker’s styles with straps around the neck and ties in back, or half aprons with no tops or bibs. The skirt part could be straight, pleaded or gathered.
Nowadays moms don’t wear aprons or dresses except for special occasions. Their everyday uniform is usually jeans and a t-shirt. Who needs to cover than with an apron? Besides in our modern times, its no job at all to throw a load of clothes in the automatic washer while you are cooking or doing other household chores. In my grandma’s time she owned fewer changes of clothing, only washed once a week and it was an all day task. Aprons were a necessary item as she labored daily.