Though everything else we carry in our web store would be in a fabrics or linens department, there is one item of clothing that fits with our other vintage items – vintage aprons. From the 19th century (and probably before) through the present, aprons have been a staple garment in a housewife’s wardrobe. Perhaps a woman of means, who had servants to do for her, did not need an apron, but most of us, and most of our forebears have availed ourselves of the useful apron.
Many people believe that the main purpose for an apron is to protect the garment beneath. Indeed, many an apron has prevented spots and spills from spoiling a dress, but there are many other uses: An apron with large pockets held clothespins, scissors and thread, or many other tools useful for the task at hand. An apron tied at the waist and grasped and gathered at the hem could bear more eggs, apples or vegetables than could conveniently be carried in two hands.
In the twentieth century, however, especially by mid-century, the 40’s and 50’s, came the advent of the apron as a fashion accessory. No longer used to absorb spills or wipe one’s hands, aprons were chosen as a match to the outfit of a cocktail-party hostess, a badge of honor, as it were, saying this is MY party and MY hors d’ouvres that you’re enjoying. As such aprons were sometimes dainty little affairs, covering little of a dress, with ruffles, sheer organdy, lace and beautiful fabrics.
This is the culture that spawned the reversible apron – our topic today. I’m sure some reversible aprons exist that are full, bib aprons, but for the purpose of this discussion we’re talking about half aprons. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been like the ones immediately below – made of polished cotton and lined with matching colored organdy, with a reverse of organdy and a polished cotton pocket. (Click any image to see details of description and close-ups)
The majority of them that we’ve seen have been either pink or black, I’m not sure why. Hmmm, there’s something about seeing through sheer black organdy….
Sometimes there’s added decoration in the form of rickrack or other trims, as in the first two cases above, but the formula seems more or less universal. There are, of course, other ways to make a reversible apron. The two below both use large-scale floral print fabric on one side, and a solid, contrasting fabric on the other, for a more understated look.
This one uses a figural print on the one side, on the other, there’s a row of pockets all around, using the border print of the fabric on the reverse, augmented with pink rickrack.
This fun apron uses plain cottons, one a multi-color polka dot, and a solid blue, with tulip shaped pockets on each side in the contrasting fabric.
And this one’s my current favorite, a frothy concoction in teal and black nylon and acetate, with flocking, spangles and silver rickrack. This one still has its original paper tag, so I guess the right occasion never came along.
With few exceptions, the use of polished cottons, sateens and organdy clearly shows that these aprons were meant as fashion accessories, not as cover-ups. And what fun they are, in all their delightful variety. Many of these, and others not shown, are currently available in our vintage aprons department.