You can call me “granny” or “old fashioned” when it comes to chivalry, but I’m as fashion-forward about my kitchen gear as they come. And by “gear” I don’t mean knives or gadgets or even chef’s coats…I mean aprons. They may be vintage, flashing florals and adorned with ruffles, bows and lace, but in my Tribe, there is nothing matronly about donning an apron. The mere act of putting on an apron excites me with the promise of food adventures to come, and there is something about it that feels fundamentally feminine – taking the long strings and crossing them behind you, synching and hugging at the hip. Crisp and clean, the cloth itself lures you into this dreamy world of endless possibilities, making you more confident to whisk up a batch of tangelo bars or play pit master to the last of the season’s sweet corn.
Aprons are a well-healed gal’s best friend; particularly in this day and age when we are all trying to cut back on expenses. The last thing I want to do is stain a perfectly pressed dress (forking over the cost of a cocktail on dry cleaning)! Plus, in the dawn of the Domestic Goddess, wrapping oneself in kitschy cotton and claiming your place in the kitchen is actually considered sexy. My how times, and tastes, have changed.
A lot more fashionable now than during the days of their humble beginnings, aprons have gone from being basic, hand-sewn necessities to luxe, mass-produced accessories. In the early 1900’s, women wore aprons daily as they went about their household duties. Back then, it was cheaper to make and wash aprons than the garments they protected. Often women only owned a handful of dresses, so they gathered together flour sacks and leftover scraps of manufacturing textiles from which to sew their own cover-ups. In contrast, today it’s common to purchase an apron that costs more than the meal it’s being used to prepare. Silk, gemstones, velvet, vinyl, I’ve even come across aprons made curiously (and perhaps inappropriately) of cashmere.
Throughout the centuries, aprons have been worn by more than just chefs and Suzy Homemakers – butchers, weapons makers, craftsmen, and leather smiths have all been known to tie a bow around their back. Yes, that is right! This means the fellas were rocking aprons long before the ladies. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the apron got a makeover and women began flaunting the famous “perfect housewife” look that became a staple of the 1940’s and 50’s and remains a fashionable vintage style today.
From runways to households, we modern day women are draping ourselves with fun, feisty, and sometimes, provocative aprons. From Anthropology to Amazon, there are endless places to look in search of your perfect slice of cooking couture. Two ladies I have had the pleasure of working with in search of custom apron creations, are Kate Sargent of Sassy Smox and Carolyn West of Carolyn’s Kitchen. Both have an eye for combining the functional with the flirty, and both sell their handmade aprons for less than what you might expect to pay for personalized tailoring.
The days of stained blouses and “Kiss the chef” cover-ups are over. Polka dots, rhinestones, vibrant and playful prints have rightfully taken their place. That’s sure to get any granny’s approval!