Apron Evangelism

Dear Readers;
This is a post written by Maggie, a ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ believer who sometimes takes a look back in time to turn things around.  Please enjoy this post and be sure to comment about your own “apron experiences.”
Susanne – The Hillbilly Housewife

One day not too long ago I was struggling with the boys over some minor details which come up when a lot of people live in a small shack in the woods. Details like the value of picking one’s dirty clothes up off of the living room floor when company has been spotted driving up the mountain. The boys were unusually stubborn that particular day. Rather than fight with them over their household responsibilities I picked up the dirty clothes myself and crammed them into the washing machine. I ran some soapy water in the sink to get a start on the dishes before the company arrived.

Now usually I am not one to hold a grudge over small disagreements like laundry on the living room floor. This one settled in my brain though, and I felt compelled to mull over it for several days. It was the outright insubordination which offended me the most. After I figured that out I went in search of solutions.

About the same time I was in the process of Spring Cleaning. I was having a great deal of trouble motivating myself to wash the walls in the kitchen and mop the back porch where the cats live (blessedly with a doggie door so they don’t need litter boxes).

Well, the more I worried about these twin dilemmas the more I felt the need to discuss them with the queen of solutions, my momma Darthulia. As I suspected she had the perfect solution. Darthulia told me I needed a uniform or costume which would reassure myself and others of my intention and status in the home. She claimed it would remind me of my duties, inspire me to greater levels of cleanliness (which as a hillbilly I sorely need), and reaffirm my authority in the home.

Darthulia then went on to describe the homemaker’s uniform to me in detail. “Imagine the modern archetype of the housewife.” She began. “Think Donna Reed, or Beaver Cleaver’s mom. They wore full skirts, and stockings, and heels when they vacuumed. But you knew they were doing housework because they had their aprons on. A string of beads graced the necks of their classic shirtwaist dresses, and a lacy bibbed apron proclaimed their role as matriarch in charge of household management.”

I only have a fleeting memory of Donna Reed. I sort of wish she came on television regularly so I could take notes but she doesn’t in my area so I am stuck looking for other heroines-of-the-home to model myself after. Most of what momma said made sense to me though. That very day, I put on a full skirt, stockings, sensibly low high heeled shoes, and a string of pearly white beads. Then I sat down at my sewing machine and ran up a couple of bibbed aprons, decorated with lace and ribbons.

I made up the pattern as I went along using a small rectangle for the first bib and a heart shape for the second bib. Then I stitched lace around the edges of the bib and attatched it to a simple tie with a full apron skirt gathered to the waist. I made them short waisted so they would fit my maternal figure a bit better, and voila, I was set. I put the first apron on, a creamy white or ecru, and looked in the mirror to admire my handiwork. I expected to see myself staring back at me, probably looking a little silly in this frilly piece of confection designed to protect my clothing.

Boy howdy, was I in for a surprise. In the mirror I saw a vision of the homemaker I have always strived to become staring back at me. Her cheery face glistened in the sunshine. Her hair tied up neatly in bun looked authoritative, and compassionate all at the same time. The apron covered several figure flaws and accentuated the fertile curves of the woman I saw in the mirror. This woman had purpose. She had status. She had clout. I stood there, contemplating the wonder of the homemaker that shone through my image in the mirror. “This is who I want to be” I told myself. “This is the Keeper of the home, with a capital ‘K’. ”

I wear my aprons every day now. I have made more, in different colors and configurations so as to be pleasing to my senses. I have come to believe they are a like lacy bits of lingerie, only worn on the outside, and a quite a bit more respectable. When I put on my aprons the children mind me better, wandering visitors immediately know my role as a stay at home mom. Door to door religious missionaries assume I am a virtuous woman and cheerfully move on to the next house. Fred thinks I look cute as a button, and neighbor children hug me more often.

I like my aprons. They have changed my life, raising my standards, inspiring me to greater feats of home making skill, and making me more effective as a parent. Whoever thought that a dollars worth of fabric and lace could effect so many changes on one woman and one family? Since my success with aprons I have become a true believer. I am now called to spread the word among my fellow housewives. Join the crusade by sharing your love of aprons with friends, family and internet buddies around the world. Together we will change the face of the House Wife, the world over.

Blessings,

Maggie



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Comments

  1. Marty Meeker says:

    I am 70 years old and have always worn aprons any time I was about serious work in the home. It is wonderful to see them back in style. My apron goes on as soon as I reach the bottom of my coffee cup in the morning. Even when I worked outside of the home, the apron hung in the kitchen, just waiting for me when I got home at night. Many of the women my age have long packed away their aprons or even worse made rags out of them. The “apron wearing” young women are an inspiration.

  2. A few weeks ago, my younger daughter said she wanted to make aprons for her friends for Christmas. She is a knitter and sculptor, but doesn’t particularly enjoy sewing, so this surprised me. So I have been on a quest since then, during moments of free time, to find perfect (i.e. free and funky/cool) apron patterns that don’t require a lot of sewing. This morning I came across the link to this blog, and because I use some of your recipes (I can’t tell you how surprised I was that Toad in the Hole is comfort food in January, around here), I thought I would check out what you had to say on the subject. I don’t mind that there isn’t a .pdf pattern–I have come to the conclusion that a pattern isn’t going to be necessary at all–but I am intrigued by the notion that an apron is a uniform, that it inspires the respect of others.

    I have two aprons hanging in my kitchen: one is a straight-lined “guy” apron that was a wedding present many years ago, the other is the apron my mother made for me when I played The Widow Paroo in the Music Man many years before that–a true costume. This latter is yellow, with a gathered skirt and bib top, plainly sewn ties, and white rick-rack trim. It is THIS apron, not the modern one, that my daughter’s friends hope for. All these years it has lurked in the towel drawer or hung on a hook, mostly used when washing dishes while wearing “church clothes” or frying stuff that tends to splatter. (My children are delighted when my husband dons it, mostly at my insistence because he isn’t the one who has to get bacon grease out of his good work shirt or trousers.)

    I am going to peruse my fabric stash this afternoon and see what other fabrics I have that I can use to establish my authority and inspire my dedication to my home work (yellow isn’t really my color, but it showed well on the stage, which is why Mom chose it in 1979; I prefer red). Thank you–I have recently been struggling with those very issues, especially concerning my older children. Even if I am the only one inspired by my costume, it will give me the confidence to assert my authority as someone other than their personal driver and chef.

  3. I have just come back from visiting my daughter-in-law and grandson who live in a small town in Japan. Country Japanese women (and some city women too) very sensibly wear aprons all the time when they are at home. These are not just-cover-the-front aprons, but articles of clothing that really keep their clothes clean. As a person who manages to get dirty no matter what I am doing, I appreciate the civilized-ness of wearing an apron. The ones I have now though, butcher-style ones, are not the kind I want to wear.
    I found your site because I was looking for a pattern that I could make into the style of apron I saw and coveted in Japan, but did not buy because they are made for virtually hipless Japanese women.
    But your post–on the power of an apron to change your image into the kind of soft and strong maternal figure who turns both hospitality and cleaning up from duty into art and joy–made me so glad that I had to write and tell you. Thank you.

    • The Hillbilly Housewife says:

      Thank you, Vicki. Your kind words are much appreciated.
      That is very interesting about apron-wearing in Japan. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. This is a great post! I think you are so right & plan to get my apron on this week. Love it!!!!!

  5. loved this post. thank you. just got a beautiful apron from a vintage pattern from this etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueStarVermont?ref=seller_info. after reading your post, i put it on and feel like wearing it the rest of the day. thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Love your story. I usually wear aprons when I cook, but will start wearing them to do housework now. I have four hanging in the pantry and choose them according to what else I am wearing and what I am cooking,(one is particularly grease spotted) and how I feel. I make aprons to sell and give as presents.
    My dear Aunt Stella always wore a cobblers apron, even at the nursing home. She died at 95.

  7. Thanks for opening your life and heart to us and sharing your story. Your post got me smiling. My twin sister and I share your appreciation for aprons. We have been researching antique apron patterns. Opening our first antique 1940′s mail order apron pattern and holding those unprinted tissue paper pieces, we were hooked. It was stepping back into the lives of these women. Now we are bringing these antique patterns back to life making aprons for all ages (even dolls) and baby bibs too at Blue Star Vermont on Etsy. (Editor’s note: click on “Megan” for store.)

    What might have once been a symbol of domestication is now a means of expression for women creating hopeful happy lives for themselves and their families.

  8. Thank you so very much for this article! I’m 22 and new to homemaking and this has inspired me so much. Also when I put my apron on I always feel more energized to get things done even if I was feeling very run down just before I put it on. I have a few of them but I only ever where my prettiest one. I was trying so hard to explain it to my husband and mother so I just showed them this post and it changed their perception of aprons. My mother is even going to give me my great great grandmothers’ aprons. Thank you again!

    ~Jamie

  9. My grandmother always spoke of wearing a “pinafore” when she was a little girl. It was white, frilly, and kept her clothes clean (sometimes). One time when visiting her grandparents farm she picked up a piglet and its muddy feet soiled her pinafore. Her cousins washed and dried it to keep her from getting in trouble. They didn’t have to wash the dress! Thanks for the blog, I really enjoyed it and am making an apron for my daughter – she wants one after reading another article about aprons and how they seem to make the woman a classic mom, or grandma.

  10. I have been wanting to make some aprons for some time now…like you said to motivate myself. I have ALWAYS loved the look of women back in the 50′s with their flowing skirt or knee length dress a pair of simple heals and her apron. I used to love going to my grandmas house and I would wear her old apron when helping her cook and clean the house. If I’m going to be a stay at home mom then I want to do it right…and look the part lol.

  11. i loved your post and i LOVE aprons!!! who ever thought that we should go without them!!! i have a small sewing business and it is called “Apron Strings”….after my collection of vintage aprons from my grandmothers…..
    i love trying new apron patterns but always seem to go back to my favorite ones…………
    hopefully the apron love keeps going strong!

  12. Your post insipired me to look for apron patterns. I have several aprons that I wear when I’m doing especially involved cooking or baking but I don’t wear one all that often. I think I’ll change that and wear mine more now that I’ve read your info. Thank you. My aprons are functional but not particularly pretty so I started looking on the internet for free apron patterns and found 50 free patterns at TipNut.com which is where I first heard of Hillbilly Housewife. I love both of these sites and have gotten so much valueable information from both. Here’s the link to the apron patterns for anyone who’s interested.
    http://tipnut.com/56-free-apron-patterns-you-can-make/
    Number 11 is even a link to a Japanese style apron – it’s written in Japanese but the pattern info is illustrated so it could still be useful if you are familiar with sewing and can figure it out from the pictures.
    This list of aprons even has a link back to this post about Apron Evangalism! How cool is that?

  13. Barbara Rickard says:

    I have been making aprons for about 7 months. I really started working hard on aprons for Christmas for myself, sister and nieces. I have found some pretty cute and easy patters, but I am always looking for one that is different.

    I came across your Apron Evangalism and I feel as if I have found a long lost friend! I know exactly what you mean! The apron is coming back and I LOVE it! My sister and nieces loved their aprons and want more. I am cleaning out my stash of material and coming up with new aprons all the time! I am adding ribbons, lace, rick-rack, beads, bows, and many more things to make each apron a one-of-a-kind.

    After reading Apron Evangalism, I have a new idea for our Home Makers Club!! I believe the girls will get a kick out of this!!

    Thanks!

  14. Hi! I love aprons! I have a very old one with red trim on it that belonged to my great-grandmother. I take it out and look at it sometimes, but I don’t use it. I have a couple simple aprons like you buy for bbq and such, but I want to make some aprons, too. I’m so grad I found this site and it is up to date, like in 2011 and 2012. I saw several others dated 2005 thru 2007.
    Anyway, I look forward to learning and sharing with y’all. I can sew but not really well. i am really interested in some easy samples of criss-cross back aprons which are more comfortable to me, although I do love all kinds of aprons. Like most, I suppose, it reminds me of days with my mother and such.
    Thanks!!

  15. You know what’s funny? Just about two months ago I was thinking about getting myself an apron; then I found this article and think it’s time to take the plunge. I have an older sewing machine that works, though have no idea how to use it. Would it be a bad thing if I just go and buy some fabric and using one of the patterns you guys have posted, attempt to sew one myself? Granted getting all the things you need to get the sewing machine running can be pricy, I think it would be a good investment. Just imagine I might actually be proud of myself for something. I love you guys. You are a blessing in so many ways.

  16. I am apron-loving thirthy- something SAHM. I have struggled with my new position since getting out of the Army and deciding to stay at home for the kids. I discovered the apron as a uniform by chance; I wanted to look and feel cuter than the frumpy SAHM and housewife I felt like I had morphed into. I debuted My beautiful apron with fear because none of my friends wear them, I have never seen my mom or my grandmother in one. Anyway, I feel less frumpy, a little more sexy (yes, sexy!) and instead of not getting dressed and lazing during the day my work uniform helps get me motivated. In addition my new attitude, the kids now know that when the apron comes off, Mom is off work for the night. So thank you! Thanks not just for the apron post but for validating my job as a SAHM and home maker. You rock.

  17. I think your Mom is very wise. I am in the medical field and anytime, even when first starting out, that I had on my uniform, I was the professional. I do my work better, faster, and I have the authority of my degree, but I comes out better with my uniform. Believe it or not, you even answer phones differently. I immediately can assume the role, and am prepares to serve others. That is my favorite part. :)
    Blessings to you on a very worthy mission. I have just put on my apron!

  18. Thank you for inspiring me! I really was inspired.

  19. Tomorrow the apron comes off the peg!

  20. I found this by looking for apron patterns. I am new to sewing, but have made two of my own aprons out of scrap fabric and white flour sack towels. Thank you for the inspiration!

  21. I grew up on a farm in KY, and when my Mom wasn’t out helping with the farm work, she was in the kitchen with her apron on. Your comments brought back that cozy feeling of home. When I was about ten years old, we moved to a nearby town. Daddy was the police chief, and Mom opened a restaurant. She made new frilly organza aprons to wait on patrons, when she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking. They were so cute!

  22. I wear my aprons every day now. good

  23. hi
    i am totaly bowled over by this article..my aprons comeout frm the closet tdy itself will get washed and will start using them from tomorow itself…my husband will be v happy they are getting used almost after 10yrs!!!!we live in india where cooking is really messy and sweaty …most of my home wear had turned patchy yellow …they will not turn that way now….thanks again!!!

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