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Apron Strings

June 5, 2018

Apron =  /ˈeɪpr(ə)n/ (does anyone know what these symbols actually mean?)noun – a protective garment worn over the front of one’s clothes and tied at the back.

Traditionally children who wouldn’t leave home were talked of as ‘tied to their mother’s apron strings’.  I suspect that is why some aprons have removable strings.

When I put on an apron it is a sign that I am about to focus on cooking, or perhaps some other sort of work that involves getting grubby or splashed, but mostly it’s for cooking.  I’ve been wearing aprons for years, more since owning my own catering business where putting on my apron is a reflex action and signals to my brain to get ready for a day’s cooking, shift focus, put on that hat.

When I was a waitress, back in the olden days, I wore a black waist apron and red lipstick.  Both of these together were my ‘uniform’, and with them my day to day persona was masked and my front of house, flirty, cheeky character flourished.  Youth helped of course but my point is that the putting on of any kind of uniform (and make up can be a part of that) can help you transform into the person you need to be at any one time.

Waitresses have always worn aprons, possibly the most famous style being that of the Nippy from the Lyons Corner Houses that were country wide at one point, even having a brand of cigarettes named after them.  The aprons were not very practical, being little pleated organza things attached their alpaca (!) dresses, but were part of a uniform designed to be easy to identify and they presented a brilliant image for the company.

Nippies with adapted dresses for cycling (note no aprons here but i just love this image!)

Aprons are cover-alls, just like overalls that mechanics wear, or dungarees (overalls as they call them in the US, dungarees are just jeans over there) that old timey men wear while chewing straws and strumming banjos on their front porches, while Grandma rocks in the chair wearing her own cover-all of a traditional apron of the faded floral pinafore variety, shelling black eye peas and smoking her corncob pipe.  I digress.

Over time they have been used for all sorts of things including ceremonial purposes, bejewelled for Egyptian pharaohs or Masonic initiates.  In early Crete they were worn by fertility goddesses.  I struggle slightly to see how that could be related to to today’s version, especially as with bosoms akimbo they certainly wouldn’t protect the wearer from spitting fat from the frying pan but things were different in them days.

Aprons have mostly been worn by women over the last century or so, for work and for domestic use, although chefs, fishmongers, butchers and other burly tradespeople of the male kind also still wear them.  They have varied from the full you-will-not-get-past-me pinafore, or pinny, to the frilly little waist thing that the good housewife would change into from her workaday one in order to greet her hard working husband at the door, gimlet in hand and puckered lips at the ready.

I had some of those which I bought in a job lot of old linen, and while these fantasies can be fun to consider for a nanno second, the reality is they were ridiculous items and a badge of subservience which women sensibly no longer subscribe to (also barely made it round my waist but that’s not why I gave them away, obviously).  They have a variety of names from the butcher’s or bib apron, to hostess, pinny, cobbler, smock or even, bizarrely, bungalow (what we would more easily recognise as a ‘house coat’ of the kind that was worn by depressed housewives as they polished their ornaments, usually made of bri-nylon sparking all the way, or as worn with such style by the fabulous Mrs. Overall).

Of course aprons have a very practical point, and that is to protect the clothing underneath from whatever you are doing, in my case more often than not wiping floury hands, or sticky knives on them.  The add a layer of security and bust rustling efficiency to any domestic scene, even if worn by a man.

When I put on my apron I feel encased, supported and ready for anything.  It’s a bit like wearing big pants for security on a bad day.  I think everyone should have at least four.  Aprons that is.  I think one should have as many pairs of big pants as your drawers (haha – pun fun) can contain.




3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2018 9:37 pm

    marvelous Lizzie I wonder if the sporan is related.

    • June 6, 2018 8:38 am

      think that’s more of a pocket, but then aprons have pockets so who knows?!

  2. SUSANNA DAMMANN permalink
    June 6, 2018 8:45 am

    The symbols are from the phonemic alphabet and are a pronunciation guide. Very useful. I love your apron story – putting one on, for me, means I am about to do Cooking – as opposed to just getting a few bits out of the fridge and sticking them on plates. Much love from Sorrento – back tomorrow. XxxS

    Susanna From my iPhone London – 02072289270 Somerset – 01749899606 Mobile – 07900213449 (signal dicky at both ends so try landline first)

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