The Decline and Fall of the Apron - Overalls - The Nursery Apron - The Utility of the Apron

Aprons have ceased to be a necessary adjunct to the fashionable full-dress toilette since that memorable day at Bath, when Beau Brummel tore the fine Brussels lace apron from off a duchess's waist, saying that he would not tolerate such things in the ballroom.

The dictum of the " King of Bath " was perfectly sound, though his mode of enforcing it was detestable, and it is best that aprons, overalls, and pinafores should be relegated to the regions of utility. However, one cannot but look with regret at the fine pinner of point de France worn by Made-moiselle de Beaujolais in Nattier's picture at Versailles, at the sprightly green silk folds of the lady's apron in Hogarth's picture, and sigh for the coquettish muslin, with dimpling ribbon knots, which Dickens' heroines were wont to wear.

Aprons a Part of National Dress

In all the peasant dresses of Europe the apron is an important feature, and it must be re-membered that national dress was at one time worn by rich and poor alike. There is a survival of such uniformity even to the present day at the Roumanian Court, where the artist, poet, and queen, Carmen Sylva, frequently dons the peasant dress of Roumania, and her Court ladies naturally appear in the same attire.

Rich embroideries characterise such dresses, and, as in Russia and other countries, the embroideries are distinctive, as belonging to that special country, and are identical, whether worked in cottage homes or in the households of noble women.

The apron belonging to the national dress of Holland, in which Queen Wilhelmina sometines appears, is of embroidered muslin of finest make. Sometimes openwork stitches enrich the satin or tambour stitch. A fine specimen of the eighteenth century in the possession of the writer shows well-defined garlands and embroidered bows. The make of this example might well be copied, as its simplicity is commendable for washing purposes.

A nursery apron made of pocket handkerchiefs

A nursery apron made of pocket-handkerchiefs. A nursery rhyme embroidered on the pocket will amuse the little ones

Instead of being permanently gathered or pleated into a band, thereby making laundering processes difficult, a slot is run at the top - through this a ribbon is threaded, the muslin is pushed into as wide or narrow a fall as is required, and the ribbons tied round the waist.

This method is only suitable for thin materials, such as print or zephyr, and an apron for morning wear would be excellent on this plan; it could then be washed as often and easily as a pocket handkerchief - a great advantage, for in its perfect freshness lies much of the charm of the apron. Such a use-ful apron should fall to the hem of the skirt for full protection, for, as fashion need no longer be consulted with regard to aprons , they should always be ample for pre-serving the underdress from soil. In England before the middle of the eighteenth century, ladies wore aprons that almost touched the ground, but by 1752 "Gray's Inn Journal" tells us that "Short aprons are coming into fashion again."

Overalls

The body and chest protection of many overalls of the present day resemble to an extraordinary degree the leathern apron of a smith of the thirteenth century. Such a protection is obviously an uncut sheepskin in its natural shape, the fore-leg skins are fastened around the neck, the hind legs round the waist, the strong back skin protects the front of the body from chin to knees, just where it needs most guarding.

There has never been a monopoly in apron

Dress wearing by either sex, though the green baize of the plate cleaner or the gardener, the short cloth of the potboy, and blue or white linen of butcher, poulterer, and grocer's assistant, are chief amongst the survivals of male apron wearing. Waiters were frequently called "apron-men," or "aperners," in early days, and the barm skin, or leather, apron, still so called in Lincolnshire, is mentioned in the "Canterbury Tales."

Pockets are very desirable in aprons, and from the tiny handkerchief holder which Alice wore in her wanderings through "Wonderland" and "the Looking-glass," down to the homely washing apron, where the pouch is large enough to hold clothes pegs or a duster, the pocket is a very useful feature.

A useful needlework apron. The chief feature of this is the large pocket to contain both the work and its materials

A useful needlework apron. The chief feature of this is the large pocket to contain both the work and its materials. Linen is a good material of which to make it

A Nursery Apron In the example made of pocket-handkerchiefs, which is intended for nursery wear, a picture is embroidered on the pocket, and tiny people, standing at mother's knee, have been known to find the Hot Cross Bun rhyme agreeable when illustrated in so unexpected a place.

In the needlework apron there is little else than pocket. Those who have delicate embroidery on hand which requires many bits and odds and ends, such as silks or ribbons, will appreciate this pattern. It is fashioned in linen, and is intended to hold the needlework, as well as to protect the dress. When a sudden interruption comes, t he waist ribbons can be untied and the work rolled up in the apron, the waist ribbons being used to fasten round the bundle.

A useful overall with sleeves, that is simple and workmanlike in design, and easy to put on or take off

A useful overall with sleeves, that is simple and workmanlike in design, and easy to put on or take off. It presents no difficulty for a home laundress, and is excellent for the artist or handicraft worker

A pretty and useful design for an overall in sateen or print, suitable for morning wear in the house

A pretty and useful design for an overall in sateen or print, suitable for morning wear in the house

A sleeveless overall of artistic and unusual design

A sleeveless overall of artistic and unusual design. In white linen it would make an effective cooking apron

The addition of sleeves is very useful in an overall, and whether such arm protectors should be separate, or made in one with the aprons is for the wearer to decide. Women who paint, model, or work in leather, metals, or at other crafts which are inevitably messy find a protective overall of first necessity.

Coloured linens of blue, brown, or green are the best for such purposes, and a good stencil pattern or some embroidery greatly enhances the beauty of the garment. A good rule to make when cutting or embroidering an apron is to add nothing which will impair its utility.

In choosing the linen the apron's necessarily frequent washings should be kept in mind. A fabric that returns from the laundry looking faded and washed-out is of no use for a garment which must often go to the laundry.

Unless a well-tried material is used it is a good plan to wash a small pattern oneself, so that a durable colour may be selected. With well-tested material it is worth while to embroider or ornament the apron; and, again, such work should be done with good washing threads, as the whole apron will soon look shabby because of its decoration.

A Decorative Apron

There are a few occasions when a decorative apron is still required. Such an occasion is that on which one invites one's friends to a working bee of some kind. Candy-pulling parties are coming to us from America, and a pretty protection for the front of the dress is desirable for such work. The toffee has been boiled before the guests arrive, and is at that stage when pulling is required for giving it the agreeable brittleness, and when willing hands come ready for the fun of pulling.

Sometimes the head of a bazaar stall will decree that muslin aprons of a distinctive shape or colour shall be worn by her assistants. If each stall chooses a different coloured soft muslin or crepe-de-chine for the helpers the effect in the room is very pretty. Sometimes bandeaux for the hair or dainty Dutch caps are also made of grey, pink, or green silk, to match the apron.

This plan for ensuring uniformity among the helpers at each stall is much simpler and less costly than the rule of dressing alike or in fancy dress.

People are not very fond of "dressing up" in the daytime. The costumes of theatrical peasants, mediaeval ladies, or Japanese geishas look garish when one dons them at one o'clock. Therefore, the dainty apron, distinctive in make and colouring, achieves a very useful purpose.

The quali-t i e s which should characterise a good apron are: that it should be s t r o n g enough for the protection of the dress; suffi-cient 1 y ample for quickly puttin g on and off, and that its shape and ornamentation should lend themselves to easy washing.

A dainty apron in muslin and lace that would be found most becoming and serviceable by one helping at a bazaar

A dainty apron in muslin and lace that would be found most becoming and serviceable by one helping at a bazaar