History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

Time Line

GROWING UP WITH APRONS

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

     While growing up in the 1930s and the 1940s it seemed that all the ladies of the household wore aprons. This included my grandmothers, their sisters and daughter-in-laws. These common household items were worn while cooking, to meet guests in and, of course, to serve the main course on the tables. Most certainly, aprons were worn to do house work.

     Women wore this kind of protection in the early 1700s, possibly earlier. The early ladies didn't have wash-n-wear fabrics much like today. Everyone knows that extensive washing of dresses wore them out rather quickly. Clothes in early days were washed in huge tubs with the use of scrubbing boards. It was during the late 1930s and beyond that the wring washers became trendy and the clothes were hung out to dry. All clothing materials had to be ironed.

     The purpose of wearing aprons was to protect the dress beneath, thus saving on this important piece of dress-wear. Aprons could be washed two or there times a week while the usual wearing time for a dress was once a week.
Aprons were not only used in the household but were used by schoolteachers, children, shopkeepers, and many times by secretaries. Men also wore aprons such as the blacksmith and the shopkeepers. The performers in the various shows wore an apron, it usually reaching the floor.

     Decorating these outfits was seasonal and other rationale. Ruffles were fastened to the shoulder straps, which buttoned at the waist in the back. Decorations were fixed along the bottoms.

     Aprons were also employed for protection. Some of today's vocations such as butchers, waiters and welders are still part of our culture. Included in this repertoire are the blacksmith and metal-smith. Fishermen in this day wore the handy garment to protect their clothing from the fishy smell.

     During the 1950s many folks in commercial advertisements were suited with aprons.

     Cleaning up the mess of gathering produce, eggs, etc, and using the garment for a cleaning cloth was employed. The apron was also used to handle hot food from the oven or off the stove

     Color was definitely used as a distinguishable item. Stonemasons wore white aprons. Barbers from Great Britain wore checked aprons and were known in the community as checkered men. Blue is the color selected by gardeners, spinners, weavers and garbage men. Butlers were attired in green aprons while butchers wore blue stripes; cobblers wore black. Servants and maids wore long white aprons with the upper portion pinned to the dress. The latter now uses the half apron.
Today's male uses simple aprons to barbeque, etc. A good number of modern worker's aprons are of the canvas style. These worker's aprons are styled with pockets for pens and pads.

     Victorian times found the apron taking on an aristocratic look with lace and embroidery. This was done not for protection to their underclothing but as a mere distinction from the servants and maids. Most women in this time made their own lace, which led to a true expertise that was worn with satisfaction.

     The 1920s, following WWI, found the women moving outside the home for work or for social reasons.
The Great Depression of the 1930s created the lack of funds and materials, which in turn, found the aprons used for scraps of clothing and food sacks. Remember the old flour sack aprons? Soon after, the new choice of design and materials led to aprons being made of calico. It was about this time that sewing machines were being found in the home and the apron took on a new look with a new symbolic pride.

Time Line



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