We protect something because it’s worth the effort. An apron is a simple garment that protects clothing from dirt and wear, its appearance falling along a spectrum of utility, adornment, and ceremonial power. When clothing is expensive, or laundry a hardship, an apron serves. When clothing is cheap and doing laundry is as easy as throwing trash in a can, or when the work we do is cerebral rather than physical, the domestic apron fades in importance.
Appearance, the material, number of pockets and pocket placement all give clues to an apron’s purpose. Here’s a farrier’s apron made of leather and with split legs to facilitate shoeing a horse. One has only to watch the farrier working to appreciate the function of the apron’s well placed knife pocket. Every second counts when you are bent over an animal’s hoof in a vulnerable position. Having to look around, shift your weight, and reach for a needed tool costs time and exposes the blacksmith to danger. The utility of an apron pocket can also be realized in the chef’s apron with its narrow high pocket for thermometer and pen. Eliminating the search for a thermometer means it will be used more often, and our food will be safer.
Iconic women’s aprons in America include the frilly apron symbolizing the domesticity of the 1950s, which was both a testament to the widespread availability of sewing machines and the social goal of removing women from the workforce to accommodate men returning home from WWII. Ruffles, pockets, rick-rack, and bows were prevalent in patterns of that time.
The aprons I make are for domestic work; a functional and decorative coverup for cooking, sewing, and cleaning. The crossback style is easy on the neck, and has no ties to wad up in the washer. Generous side pockets are places for easy access.