Do you wear an apron these days? Occasionally I remember to when I’m cooking but that’s usually after I’ve ended up with tomatoes splattering onto my white top or flour over a black top. It’s a bit like my reading glasses. They don’t help when I don’t use them.
There are quite a few elderly European women who live in my street and whenever I see them outside their houses – sweeping, chatting, gardening – they are always wearing an apron. I had never really thought much about why until I recently read this chain email about aprons. Or more specifically, the multifarious uses of aprons of another time...
“The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material.
But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.”
In those days – and for those women living in my street today – the apron represents nearly every facet of home: cooking, cleaning, caring for children, creating a welcoming environment. But what about aprons today?
Elke Ricks, who designs and sews kitchen aprons for her label Wonderland Avenue, says ‘I love how aprons make you feel feminine when you have one on.’
As a stay-at-home mother of an 18-month-old son, Elke felt the need to do something creative. ‘I've always been into fashion and started sewing when I was nine. With a love of different fabrics, aprons were so easy; I could have just a few styles and a huge assortment of fabrics.
Elke wanted to create an apron that would both fit a woman’s figure and be flattering so her customers would feel good every time they wore it. ‘The first two aprons I made were the classic apron and the half-waisted apron with a frill on the bottom. I was giving one to my mum for Christmas and she wanted to pick the fabrics herself. She said she really wanted a full apron with a frill on the bottom so I decided to make a few more of them and now that style apron is my best seller!’
‘When I choose my fabrics I think of what would look good in a kitchen and the different tastes people have. Some people love the classy, sophisticated looks, so damask prints and classic colours like black, white and reds seem popular. Others like to have fun and wear the cupcakes or brightly coloured fruits. I like to have something for everyone.’
Unlike the aprons and housecoats of old, Elke is hoping her customers have ‘a bit of fun’ with their aprons; ‘It doesn't have to be all too serious. Put it on when you have some guests over, or surprise your husband one night. Even my three-year-old loves it when I wear an apron!’
But most of all, Elke loves it when customers buy and apron and say; ‘ "wow that is so Jenny" or "that is so Lizzy". It’s like the aprons resemble the personalities of people we know.’
And I think that is probably something those women from another time would agree with.
To see Elke’s range of aprons, visit her Etsy site here or her Made It site here.
Photos © Elke Ricks