Sometimes I feel like a relic. I try to keep up to date with what's happening in the world -- wars, disasters, political leaders, socio-economic changes, health care trends -- but sometimes I fail. I wonder how I missed out. My latest "how-did-I-miss-it" experience involved, of all things, aprons.
Aprons have been used by men and women for centuries to protect bodies and clothing. Until recently, I associated aprons with childhood memories of grandmas and holidays. I owned a total of two aprons -- neither of which I wore. I kept them in the back of a drawer for strictly sentimental reasons. The pretty pink and white half apron with rick-rack trim and three deep pockets was worn by Grandma when she had company. The homemade bib apron was a gift from a friend when she had little money to buy Christmas presents.
Suddenly, I began to notice all manner of aprons for sale in upscale retail stores, in catalogs, and online. Their prices ranged from $14.99 to $49.99. Then I attended a niece's bridal shower. She received the cutest smock apron and matching oven mitts I'd ever seen. Bold, contemporary fabric and very ruffled. She tried them on and looked adorable!
Each November I get together with a group of friends for a daylong, marathon cookie-baking event. We spend hours making hundreds of fanciful and delicious cookies, then go home with enough cookies to see us through the next six weeks of holiday festivities. Friend Carol has a large, fabulous kitchen and more cooking gadgets and accessories than most of us know how to use. We gather there for our annual cookie extravaganza.
Last year we arrived early on a Saturday and she handed each of us a wrapped present. We opened them together and found that she'd made aprons from Christmas-themed fabric. No two were alike. Her instructions were to use them each year when we gathered to make cookies. We looked festive, but I soon realized that her gift was practical and functional.
Instead of wiping flour-covered hands on a paper towel or blue jeans, I used the apron. When the mixer speed was too high and cookie ingredients sprayed from the bowl, the batter landed on the apron, not the clothes.
Then friend Stephanie loaned me a stack of magazines. One was titled Apronology. It was
thick and loaded with images of aprons. That prompted me to do an online search for aprons. To my surprise, I found countless websites devoted to -- aprons.
There were free apron patterns, apron tutorials, images of designer, vintage and retro aprons, aprons for children, and matching adult and child aprons. I learned about the many types of aprons -- bib, smock, dish towel, butcher, homemaker, half, cobbler, bistro, four-way, crocheted, Bar-B-Q, tea towel, chef's, holiday, and Kappogi (a traditional Japanese apron). I also learned a new word -- apronista. In case you don't know, apronista is a person with an appreciation for all things related to aprons. How had I missed this?
My mom's home has been lived in by seven generations of her family. That means she's inherited a lot of "stuff" -- stuff that others left behind. It's filled with furniture, housewares, books, and decorative items that once belonged to a great-grandpa or Grandma or a spinster aunt.
On a recent visit, I opened a dresser drawer to store some of my clothes and discovered a fabric-filled bag. I peeked inside and saw stacks of colorful folded cloth. I removed a few items from the bag and realized they were aprons. Some had the faded look of well-worn cloth. Others looked new. One still carried the price tag from a long-gone variety store -- $1.97.
Grandma was a farm wife. An apron was part of her daily uniform. As a kid, I never saw her without an apron unless she was going to church. Aprons allowed her to multi-task. I remember her using an apron to wipe up spills, to carry beans from the garden to the porch to string and snap, and to dab the perspiration from her face while she stirred simmering pots of fruit preserves.
Aprons fell out of favor in the 1970s as the women's movement progressed. The apron was for some a symbol of subservience. I never made a conscious decision to NOT wear an apron; it simply seemed to me that aprons were old-fashioned and not necessary.
But I've changed my mind. And from what I've observed, it seems that younger generations are discovering what their ancestors knew -- aprons are handy, useful and functional. However, I'm guessing Grandma wouldn't have paid $49.99 for an apron!