Real Women Wear Aprons

CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Music – “Momma’s Apron Strings” from Almost Home by Larry Sparks. Released: 2011

When I was growing up, my mom had a bunch of frothy, gauzy organza and organdy aprons, homemade of course (some by her and one or two by me).

Blue Organza apron I made for my Mom in Home Ec (way back when)

Blue Organza apron I made for my Mom in Home Ec (way back when)

She would go into the kitchen and take one out of the ‘apron’ drawer, tie the long pastel sashes into a large neat ribbon behind her back, check the pockets for any leftover recipe cards and commence cooking.

This was one of my Mom's favourite aprons

This was one of my Mom’s favourite aprons, with applique

I don’t recall my mom ever using her apron to wipe her hands. That would be gauche. Rather, it was to protect her ‘day’ clothes from the grease spatters spewed out from the Hamilton Beach fryer and the flying blobs of butter cream icing from the Sunbeam Mixmaster.

I thought aprons were quaint and were the epitome of domesticity. The housewife going about her cooking chores, still looking stylish. In Home Economics (or Home Ec, as we used to call it), my first project was to make an apron for my mom (actually, it was the second project: the first was to make a decent bowl of oatmeal). The apron was blue organza with lace borders on the edge and on the pockets. My mom saved it all of these years and I found it among her things after she passed away. Also was a later Home Ec project, a mother/daughter apron set.

The mother/daughter apron set I made for us

The mother/daughter apron set I made for us

I had graduated to using organza over an underlying cotton pattern. As you can see from the photo, mine was the one with the smaller pockets. These too, were my mom’s treasured mementos.

During the 1950’s, just about every perfect TV mom or female movie star was photographed in a fetching apron of some sort. Of course, most of them had them cinched tightly into waspishly tiny waists, presenting a rather startling contrast to the sexy Hollywood star vs. the picture of domestic bliss.

Lauren Bacall in her "domestic" photo

Lauren Bacall in her “domestic” photo

If any of those of us growing up in the 1950’s remember, June Cleaver was THE poster child of the all-American family, where the man went to work, the two children to school and the wife “kept house” and raised her children to be doctors or lawyers.

June and Ward Cleaver (I don't think June was ever seen without her pearls)

June and Ward Cleaver (I don’t think June was ever seen without her pearls)

June always wore a pretty apron over her stylish dress (with pearls of course). I wanted to look like June Cleaver when I grew up, she was so “together”. Lucille Ball, in “I Love Lucy” wore many aprons during the life of the series.

lucy apron Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Audrey Meadows….they were all filmed at one time another wearing the symbol for domesticity.

Caricature of Joan Crawford, date unknown

Caricature of Joan Crawford, date unknown

So were Lauren Bacall and Vivian Vance. Vivian, probably best known for her long running role as Lucy’s sidekick in “I Love Lucy”, somehow made “Ethel Mertz” look more housewifely, than, say, Lauren Bacall in an apron.

Ethel and Fred Mertz, from the "I Love Lucy" show.  Fred was known to wear an apron on occasion, too

Ethel and Fred Mertz, from the “I Love Lucy” show. Fred was known to wear an apron on occasion, too

Betty Davis in an apron (undated)

Betty Davis in an apron (undated)

Elizabeth Taylor, looking the picture of domesticity

Elizabeth Taylor, looking the picture of domesticity

Women (and men), still wear aprons today, but they appear to be mostly rather graphic (bosoms and butts lithographed in strategic locations), or purely functional, as in the Starbucks standard issue. As for me, I still treasure the organza aprons of my mom’s. Perhaps, being “Retro”, they are again in fashion today.

Betty Grable's name associated with an apron pattern

Betty Grable’s name associated with an apron pattern

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,235. What next? More shelves?
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7 Responses to Real Women Wear Aprons

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  6. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Chef’s Hats and Aprons | Things I Make

  7. I have several similar ones from my mother!

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