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Collecting vintage aprons


Collecting vintage aprons
Aprons are the quintessential mark of the homemaker. No housewife worth her salt would have been without a sturdy apron to protect her clothes as she performed her daily chores. The most practical type of apron for the hard-working housewife was one that completely covered her outfit. It is, after all, easier to change one's apron and wash it than to launder one's entire outfit due to splatters.

In essence, it became her most useful tool for maintaining the house. In this way aprons combine nostalgia and ease of collecting to make them a popular retro collectible.

An apron for every kitchen

The true heyday of the apron was in the 1950s, when modern appliances became commonplace in the house. The items, billed as time-savers, freed housewives from kitchen drudgery and provided them with ample leisure time to create decorative aprons. These aprons were worn for entertaining, and they are the most commonly found vintage aprons nowadays.

After the 1950s, housewives left the kitchen and went to work, leaving the apron to fade into obscurity. Today, aprons enjoy a revival as a popular collectible item. While some simply collect to display, others once again make use of their aprons in the kitchen.

Apron styles

Aprons come in many styles. The style chosen by a wearer depends on the reason the apron is being worn. A bib apron has a strap around the neck, and will protect the wearer's entire outfit. This is helpful for particularly messy tasks. A waist apron or half-apron, on the other hand, is more of a decorative fashion accessory. When made of frilly organdy or chiffon fabric, they are sometimes called "hostess aprons".

Apron fabric options


Calico is a cotton fabric printed with a small repetitive design (usually floral). It originated in India, but by the 1700s, production was beginning in Europe as well. Early European calico was normally on a cream coloured background.

Calico was a common fabric used in early America. It is typically the fabric thought of for antique quilts and pioneer women's clothing such as sunbonnets and dresses. The popularity of calico experienced a resurgence in the 1970s and early 1980s when fashion trends were earthy and back to nature.


Gingham is a medium weight cotton fabric woven in a checkered pattern. It is usually (not always) a solid colour and white in the design.

Gingham originated in India in the 1600s as a striped pattern, and the word "gingham" originally referred to the type of fabric, not the pattern. When production of gingham began in Europe, the checked pattern became common until that pattern is the one thought of as gingham. It can be used for clothing, quilting, and table linens.


A feedsack is just that, a fabric sack used to store and transport a quantity of livestock feed. What we think of today as a feedsack is a coarse canvas bag, but from the 1920s through the 1950s, feedsacks were colourful cotton bags printed with striking and beautiful designs. These bags had paper labels so that the label could be removed and the entire bag could be opened for reuse. Once the feed was gone, thrifty housewives would reuse these bags to create clothing, towels, quilts -- anything the household needed which was made of fabric!

It can be difficult to identify feedsack fabric. The fabric is typically a slightly looser weave than cotton fabric of the period, but that's no guarantee. If you're lucky, you'll see the wide holes along one edge where the bag was stitched together. The best way to tell, of course, is if the original sack shape is still intact -- that is, it has not been cut open to be flat -- and the original paper label is still attached. If it still looks like a feedsack, you know it is an authentic feedsack, Otherwise, it might not be.

The original feedsack fabrics are long out of production, but vintage feedsacks are a highly sought-after collectible. For those without access to vintage fabrics, reproduction cotton feedsack fabric is also being produced for use in quilting projects.


Oilcloth was traditionally a heavy cotton or linen cloth with a linseed oil coating. It was waterproof to some degree. I usually see this in a checkered or striped pattern.The most familiar use was for brightly printed kitchen tablecloths, but it can also be used to make utilitarian waterproof aprons.


Organza is a light-weight sheer fabric with a bit of a shimmer to it. Aprons made of this and other similarly sheer fabrics are termed "hostess aprons". They and would have been worn by the lady of the house during a party. Aprons made of organza are not meant to be workhorses, but are more for making you look and feel pretty and fashionable.

Care of vintage aprons

Vintage apron patterns

Sometimes it can be difficult to find vintage apron patterns that are uncut or have all the pieces. With so many patterns being reproduced for the apron collector nowadays, it just makes more sense to buy a new pattern unless you are collecting the vintage envelope to frame for display. If you are lucky, you might even find a pattern envelope in good condition or even the entire pattern from as far back as the 1930s or 1940s (that would be fun to collect and frame).

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