Saturday, May 2, 2009

Apron History Part I

I found this wonderful historical post on apron at Historical Romance a blog by author Joanna Bourne. She has written several romance novels you may like including My Lord and Spymaster and The Spymasters Lady. So if romance is what your needing in literature you can check her out HERE.

Joanna assembled apron pictures from the 18th century and has given some explanation for their use and construction. I am fascinated by the artwork and the form and function of this historical clothing. Maybe you will like looking as well.

Here is what she has gathered:

Did somebody say apron?

We don't wear aprons these days, so it's a little hard to work out what they felt like to wear. How you handled them. In 1794, everybody in the middle and working classes seems to have gone running around in an apron, more or less continuously.

Now the rich in the C18 don't routinely wear aprons over their clothes. They sometimes show up in little lacey apron-ettes, but that's not applicable to my working folks.

It seems to me well-to-do women in the 1790-1794 period start showing up more and more with an apron on 'em as part of their day dress. Maybe they were making a political point.

So. Looking at aprons.

This one is from 'Street Cries of Paris' by Bouchardon, and dates to about 1740. But I think aprons stayed very much the same.

We got ourselves a salad seller. Looks like Romaine lettuce.

The apron is as long as the skirt, which seems to be typical for working women. It's pulled up and the hem tucked into the waist of her skirt on the side. It's the left side, (her left,) so it's likely that's what right-handed people do.

Here's a closeup of two aprons. Rubens. 1750s or 1760s or so. Both mother and child have the pinned-up bib on the top. See more detail of a pinned-up bib below.

Mom has her apron tied, not in back, but on the side. Her right side. That would be easier for a left-handed person.

I have also seen period apron strings so long they come clear around the wearer and are tied in front.

The girl holds her apron up, making a pouch, keeping her little bits in it. She takes a handful of fabric. This is going to be just an automatic gesture for anyone who wears aprons. As long as I got the picture here, look at the caraco on the woman above. I think there's a slit in the side seam to allow access to a pocket beneath. See how the child has her fichu tucked into the top of her apron bib. There must have been an art to tucking the fichu.

Here we've got another too-early picture ... before 1771. These are market women.

The clothes are much too early to be relevant. But see how our gal on the left has her apron converted fully into a secure pouch for carrying . . . I dunnoh. Maybe the entire Oxford English Dictionary or watermelons.

She's tucked the hem of the apron neatly into her waist at the middle, letting it gape a bit at both sides.

Note also that this is a dark blue apron. I have other examples of dark-coloured aprons in France, at least one of them in period. See the 1794 apron on the tricoteuse further below.

Here are some 1850s aprons. I'm just wandering all over the place, time wise, ain't I?

This Millet is here only for the custom of typing the apron back behind the butt like this and making a big carryall. I'm assuming this was done in my era too.

But since you're tired of me wandering all over French history ... we got some truly period aprons coming up.

The next ones are early 1790s, as are the tricoteuses further on.

In the picture just above, where our sansculotte young lady is carrying a sword, see the way the skirt is drawn up on one side and tucked in. It's on her left side. Right-handed sansculotte? Visit the larger print here,

In other news, in these three prints, note the mid-length hair, worn undressed and loose under the cap. Note the sabots. Note the striped material of the skirts.

Our lady on the top left has a little basket on her arm and what looks like a bag slung at waist level. I think the basket is to hold yarn. As to the little pouch on the side, I've seen these from time to time. Don't know what to make of them. Exterior pocket? I'll try to find another example.

And here we've got Les Tricoteuses Jacobines by LeSueur, which is, of course, smack dab in period.

Our knitters have specialized aprons. Little pockets on the right, (their right,) side of the skirt.
And here is the dark apron I mentioned. So they weren't all white, even among our working class gals.

Find our tricoteuses here.

Below is a rather interesting take on that 'tricoteuse apron.' This is the Palai Royale, a noted haunt of prostitutes. See the madame in the back offering the pretty young knitter to that unpleasant fellow? Her pocket says she's a working girl and gives the impression of an innocence she's about to sell.

Find it here.

Now ... here is Greuze, La Tricoteuse Endormie.
Let us all pause to go aaaaaawwww.

This apron shows how the bib attaches. See how one side has come unpinned?

Purely by the by, see those four needles in the knitting? I have tried to knit with four needles. I will blog about that.

And we got that basket the 1794 knitters carry to hold their ball of yarn when they don't have a pocket in their skirt..

Next week end Part II of this photo series will be presented as it shows "pockets" and how they were styled in the 18 Century. The things I never knew...

4 Goddesses Have Spoken:

The Cookie Girl said...

That is very interesting.
The history of things we enjoy now can be so fun to learn about.

I have an Apron Picture Surprise for you soon. I have a bag full of my Great Grandmother's aprons that she made and wore. I will take pics and post them.

Suzi said...

Wow, who would have thought that there was so much significance in an apron.

DiPaola Momma said...

Along with the corsset and bloomers the apron somehow lost it's sparkle.. I say bring em all back! Who doesn't want a tiny waist, boobie over flow, and the feeling of going camando without the breeze blowing issues.. and top it all off with a clothes protecting bedazzled apron?! Okay so I'm caffiene and sleep deprived today and really I only want to bring the apron back, for obvious reasons.. but hey it sounded historical huh?

Seriously though I loved this post!

the ungourmet said...

I had this down at the bottom of my laptop all day to remind me to read it as soon as I was able! Great read! Love the picture too!