by Ellyn Anne Geisel
How did aprons go from being an indispensable part of a woman’s workaday wardrobe to an American Icon, to a sweet scrap of collectible nostalgia, to one of the hottest sew-crafting trends going? The short answer is that unlike other clothing trends, the apron has always had a basic job to do. No amount of progress or technological advancement of fickle fashion tastes can change the fact that an apron has always been the best, most commonsensical means of covering up and protecting our clothes from grime.
Women celebrated their domestic life wearing cheerful aprons one day and the next, threw them down in a huff and became “liberated.” During the Women’s Movement of the l960’s, a generation of women joined the workforce to seek reward and fulfillment outside the home. Freed from their aprons’ now strangulating strings, women tossed them – even those lovingly sewn by their own mothers and grandmothers – straight into the giveaway bag. I.n that gesture, the historical connection that “tied” the modern woman to preceding generations of women was snipped. And so, for a new generation of women, whose association with the apron would be limited to a junior high sewing project, the apron was a relic of values and a lifestyle that no longer applied.
The good news is that the apron’s disappearance for almost fifty years was just temporary.
Even though American women are now fully entrenched in the workplace, they are also back to cooking, sewing, crafting and nesting like never before. Seems like there are whole cable channels devoted to the very fine art of home-making! Aprons are coming out of the attic and back to the kitchen. If we aren’t lucky enough to uncover a handed-down family apron, we’re scouring thrift stores for them or sewing them up for ourselves. It’s not just some retro trend or nostalgia for a simpler time that makes us want to take up our aprons again. It’s part of a movement to reconnect to our love of home and family, as ever expressed in the many shapes, colors and adornments of the humble, but lovely, American apron.