Stylish Aprons a Hundred Years Ago

Apron 4
Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1916)

Are some aprons more stylish and youthful-looking than others? I never thought about it until I saw an article in the March, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal titled, “The New Girlish Apron: Daintily Made in Handwork.”

I always think that I look like my grandmother when I wear an apron – but perhaps my aprons are just dowdy.

Apron 5

Apron 3

Apron 1

Apron 2

84 thoughts on “Stylish Aprons a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Aprons always remind me of my grandmother. My mom wore one occasionally when she was cooking. I’ve never heard of silk muslin! Sounds like an oxymoron to me!

    1. It is an odd combination. Your comment led me to google “silk muslim” and I ended up finding a definition of the website of a company called The Silk Route that sells silk cloth. Their definition: “Silk Muslin is a soft finely woven silk. “

  2. Such a variety of styles and fabrics. I have a couple of aprons which look good on me, and a few more which I really like but which don’t really suit me. And, of course, I always forget to wear an apron the day I am making something messy. 😀

    1. My go-to apron is a holiday apron with penguins on it that my mother-in-law made. Sometimes it’s not seasonally appropriate, but I always pull it out and use it when I’m doing something really messy.

  3. Apron wardrobes were quite the thing when I was growing up. There were the bib type, with lots of pockets and a heavier cloth. They were for days filled with cooking, egg gathering, and such. At the other end of the scale — the far end — were the tulle and organdy numbers worn for parties. Sometimes, there were sequins. They wouldn’t protect against anything of course. But they surely were festive.

    1. The bib type aprons always seemed practical and like they had a purpose, but I never quite understood why anyone would bother wearing the fancy ones. 🙂

  4. I wear aprons,and love them. I wear more of a cobbler smock apron. It’s handy to have one on to slip my phone in my pocket plus glasses,Chapstick,tissue,some threads work their way in,lotion or pills for my daughter . Hmmm.. Seeing this in writing ,no wonder it takes awhile to empty the pockets at night.😄 Lovely aprons, my great aunt used make aprons to sale, ” a little pocket change was needed” so she would say.

    1. I think that I need a cobbler smock apron. It sounds like such a practical way to keep frequently used items within easy reach. Your comment about “a little pocket change” brings back memories. I haven’t heard that phrase in years.

  5. I very rarely wear aprons but love the thought of wearing one. There are some really nice apron patterns out now. Some are even vintage styles. I made all my grandchildren aprons a couple Christmas’s back. The loved them. Even the teenagers. ~Elle

    1. I’ve also noticed that aprons seem to be coming back into style. I’ve seen them featured at several trendy boutiques. The aprons you made for your grandchildren sound wonderful. They are lucky to have you for a grandmother.

  6. I love aprons. Especially old-fashioned ones. I saw a really pretty pink one on a commercial the other day, and I said to myself, “I wish I had that apron!” But alas — I only have a plain blue one. 🙂

    1. So did mine. I think people wore them more back in the days when it was more difficult to do laundry, and it was really important to try to keep clothes clean for as long as possible.

  7. I started wearing aprons a few years ago. My mom always wore an apron. My sister as well. I like the ones that are have the bib. I have several now. I like having pockets. My first apron was made from a tea towel, super simple. Then ten years or so ago I found a simple pattern from a book and made them for everyone for Christmas. I don’t wear them for parties, though!

  8. Coming from the professional kitchen, I find it hard not to wear an apron when cooking! I have one that is made from waterproof material that looks trendy. Very practical and keeps the clothes clean while cooking. 🙂

  9. Shucks. I lost what I had written. Now I’ll have to do it all over again, so here goes.

    Back in 1995 when I left Cheshire, CT, I donated my apron collection to a sale to benefit the Women’s Studies at SCSU. I was told they sold like hotcakes. Sometimes I miss one or two of them though I don’t wear aprons any more. I especially miss a red half apron made by a friend of mine, with huge pockets. They were wonderful for cleaning day when I carried all my stuff around in them. Now, I suppose, I’d be carrying my cell phone.

    I said I don’t wear aprons any more. but I take that back. Maybe once every three or four years I wear the full length, cover-all apron my sister gave me. It’s great when I’m [very rarely] serving some kind of fancy party and I’m dressed accordingly. The apron stays on for protection while I’m doing all the last-minute stuff. it comes off with the first sound of the doorbell.

    Thanks for your fun blogs. They also remind me of things I want to include in “My Father’s House.”

    1. What a nice way to support the Women’s Studies program! It’s great to hear that you enjoy this blog. I have a lot of fun doing it, and it’s wonderful to hear that you enjoy it. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you via our blogs over the last few years.

        1. Thank you for the kind words. I have a lot of fun doing this blog, and it’s always good to hear when others also find it enjoyable and interesting.

  10. The women in my family continue to wear aprons when they were no longer cooking. Grandma Gert had an apron with large pockets where she kept candy, buttons and thread. She would sit and do mending because of poor health, and share her goodies with us grands.

            1. Yes, it’s Sheryl Lazarus. I’m not very active on Pinterest. I pin all the recipes that I have on this site, and in the past pinned some of the fashions from a hundred years ago, but don’t do anything else.

    1. Yes, nice aprons don’t seem to be as readily available now as they once were (though of course we could make our own, like they did back then). 🙂

  11. Wow–people have a lot of opinions about aprons! As you might expect, I’m a fan, too. I wear one, always, when working with chocolate and have sold quite a few vintage ones. I like how they change in style over the years, just like other fashion.

  12. Great post! I’m not very handy in the kitchen but I have accumulated a collection of aprons somehow😕. My son has a collection, appropriately stained, which he uses regularly when cooking for his family.

  13. I don’t wear aprons, but I do have a little collection of vintage ones. This was a fun bit of archiving you’ve done—I especially love the Chinese lantern apron! And I wouldn’t want to hand-finish the one with all the zig-zag/rick-rack trim :/ !

    1. It had to have been very time-consuming and tedious to do the handwork on some of these aprons. These aprons are so beautiful that it’s hard to imagine that people wore them to keep their clothes clean. It almost seems like they should have worn an apron over an apron, so that a boring practical apron could protect an elegant one.

  14. My aunt refused to cook without an apron on. When visiting me she would ask to wear one of my husband’s old shirts as a substitute apron. After changing my shirt countless times while cooking for the holidays I decided to buy and wear an apron. My husband teased me and said I looked like a Walmart greeter… But at least I didn’t have to change my shirt this year!

  15. I have always liked aprons, I really should make me some. My mom though never wore fancy aprons, she always used the “chef” aprons (actually both her and my father who also loved to cook). But then her father owned a restaurant so that is probably what she was used to – that and it was more practical I am sure. I wonder why people don’t wear them any more?

    1. It’s seemed like people worried more about keeping their clothes clean back when we were kids. Now if they get dirty, we just throw them in the laundry and don’t think twice about it.

  16. Sheryl my memories of Grandma in her apron and the rather matronly look have always made me quite loathe to wear one. I currently own one in leopard print. I’m such a rebel. 🙂

  17. Aprons take me back to my Grandma’s kitchen! And Mom had a few cute ones that had cherries on them and a red ruffle, rather dashing for the time. I have one that I wear at the holidays and it has a bib and is quite long – it’s great 🙂 Fun post. MJ

      1. I think the red ruffle was a bit racy for it’s day, and she might have wore it to shake things up at the Ladies Aid gathering. Mom was far ahead of her time 🙂 MJ

  18. My mother had many aprons and made most of the. Alas, most of them were lost or discarded. Aprons are so practical but all I have is an old bib apron made of canvass that I never wear. Would love to find some vintage aprons!

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