Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Faithful, Long Suffering Aprons

Ten years ago I opened a gift at my wedding shower, inside was a denim apron complete with little pleats around the waist and elastic tensioned pockets.  It was a masterful bit of sewing that took me years to appreciate.

Unlike the mother on 'Leave it to Beaver' reruns, my mom rarely put on an apron in the kitchen, garden, or garage. Though I don't recall putting one on there were aprons in the house, lost in the abyss that was our linen cupboard.  

Aprons (despite growing popularity as a chic fashion accessory) are attached, in our collective consciousness, to home economics of the 50s, when perfect moms wore fancy aprons overtop equally fancy dresses and accessorized by heels and large clip-on earrings. 

Not a bad style for the privileged time, but oh how the perfect fall. That fantasy of the perfect mother has been slashed and scorned, her bra has been burned.

Surely the mothers of the time knew of the illusion and that it couldn't last, but its an unfortunate thing we threw out the apron with whatever Mrs. Cleaver sold us. Since my apron-less childhood, I've learned to embrace the garmet (though it more literally embraces me). How can one not love such a useful piece of material? It has no prejudice for gender or profession. Butchers, gardeners, cooks, secretaries and craftsmen, even school-children, have donned the lowly apron for its finer qualities. Namely, it stops blood, guts, bugs, dirt, and sludge- in fact spray of every kind- with surprising faithfulness. 

An apron also gives its wearer a certain aura, one of productivity, committed-ness, and skill. In fact, I think that a dirty apron can actually increase people's respect for the wearer. For example, imagine neighbour Jane at your front door in her dirty garden apron. "Dirty" isn't the first word that pops into your mind. Instead, you probably would describe a hard-working gardener who is serious about her craft. 

There's another lovely thing about aprons: they breathe authority. Enter a kitchen to inquire about helping, who do you ask? The woman at the stove or the man wearing an apron at the sink?  Okay, that may be a hard one. How about if it was a woman with an apron at the sink? The lady with the apron gets the question from me every time. Unfortunately, the male head cook with the apron will, nine times out of ten, be mistaken for the BBQer.

Men have quite a ways to go in reclaiming their pride in donning an apron. From my experience, men probably could benefit from aprons more than women. My father-in-law, a renovator by trade, gets about four wears out of a new shirt before it becomes a 'work shirt' (or a rag). Sure at Home Depot the male staff seem unapologetic about their orange canvas, fully bibbed uniforms with their name Sharpied over their heart. Perhaps this is evidence of a great step ahead in the relationship of men and aprons, however a quick review of books on the subject reveals that they still appeal mostly to women. And unfortunately the apron's merit as laundry-savers and personal hand towels tend to be overlooked in favour of their merit as a fashion accessory. I'm all into accessorizing, but accessorizing with caked on chocolate chip cookie dough and my child's sneeze remains? 

So here's an introduction to a few of my well-used aprons. They are accessories, but of a different kind than Anthropologies' $44 (and oh so enviable) feature. They have saved my many black outfits from flour and my jeans from dirt. They act as immediately accessible hand towels, mops for the fast spreading milk spill, and kleenex for those moments I emotionally disintegrate over a minor mess. They have been trusted partners in finding joy in the daily grind. 
The first apron I owned which, at one time (before aprons were chic again) I might have called frumpy but now I could call it "sweet". 

I bought this apron from ebay; the sweeping shoulder straps form pockets at the hip. I love the look and feel of the wide back strap.  

My favorite apron, this was part of a multi layered hemp skirt from my sister-in-law. It is looking strangely discoloured because, for the photo shoot, I pulled it off the clothes line in a rain storm. I wash it once a week and it saves me at least a load of clothes over that time. 
This half apron I made out of reclaimed material from the ReUse Centre (orange top) and a hemp skirt (brown bottom) that was too short for me. The key to frequently using my aprons is easy access. This hook is in my line of vision so that I'm never tempted to start cooking without it.

1 comment:

cora said...

nice. they really are useful!! speaking of men wearing them, it's funny, i just came across an old picture last night of my dad in his old meat shop wearing his white apron.....i also remember another one he used to wear (bbq-ing of course) that said "the place is a dump, but everyone's friendly".....never quite got what that one meant! but mostly, it's my grammas who i remember wearing them