Understanding Aprons

An Exhibit in Progress by Sarah McKenney

Do we use aprons anymore? I can think of one apron I have in my house and it’s the one with my handprints in the shape of a reindeer on the front I made when I was five. My father still wears it, but only during the holidays. It’s a symbol of fun not function; he wears the apron to remember the past and stand out in family photos, not because he’s worried about protecting his clothing.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Aprons in the family kitchen are not functional anymore. There is nothing to gain from wearing one other than words and laughs of appreciation regarding the pattern. We don’t worry about spilling pasta sauce on our shirts because we have easy-to-use laundry machines that will wash our clothes for us. We don’t worry about protecting the clothes we wear while cooking because we have multiple options hanging in the closet.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-16039-0002 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-16039-0002 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

However, these luxuries did not exist in the past. Back when laundry was a chore and the clothes you owned were limited to the ones on your back and the few hanging in the closet, aprons did have a function; they served a purpose other than “fun.” Women did worry about protecting their clothing and the task of laundering the few pieces they had. Aprons served a purpose for these women working in the home. Today, on the other hand, aprons are brought out from storage and worn for show, for laughs, and for family around the holidays.

This is not to say that aprons are nothing more than child projects or cheap fabric that have nothing to contribute to the history of kitchen linens. They do. Aprons are more than this limited definition; they are more than purely fun or purely functional. An apron is a piece of history, a signal of changing times, a product of the overarching story of textiles. Aprons may have evolved, but they have not disappeared, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum wants to show you their rich history and present you with their story.

We want to know what you think about when you hear the word apron. We want to know what memories you associate with the family kitchen around the holidays and if you have a special apron story to tell. Tell us what you wear when cooking the family meal, what you use when setting the table. Reach out to us! We’d love to hear what you have to say and what you think about our upcoming exhibit!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2007-0618-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2007-0618-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0