An apron is a garment with a thousand uses and full of history that has travelled through the ages. An excellent symbol of hospitality, its main purpose is to protect the clothing of the wearer. When we think of an apron, we immediately imagine a mother or grandmother busy in the kitchen, preparing a good meal. L’entraide diabétique du Québec is bringing back the glory of the apron—a garment that is regaining its popularity.
The apron’s origin
Throughout history, aprons have been used for all sorts of practical, decorative, functional and ceremonial purposes. Made of cotton, leather, linen or rubber, the apron was produced according to its use. In ancient times, the apron was worn and decorated to symbolize the status of the individual. According to the Christian religion, it was the first garment designed and worn by Man. In the Middle Ages, it was worn by both men and women for strictly functional reasons.
Regardless of the era, coloured aprons are used to illustrate specific trades. For example, the purple apron was worn by bishops, while stonecutters wore white ones, shoemakers wore black ones and butchers’ aprons had beautiful blue stripes. Although many of these trades still use aprons with strong symbolism, the one we are most familiar with is the one worn by our mothers and grandmothers: the apron made of natural cotton that was used to do everything at home! Although it was so practical, we forget today all the uses it had 80 years ago, when it was a home-maker’s essential accessory. Even though nowadays, it is worn less on an everyday basis, it will always have a very important place in history.
In honour of aprons, EDQ brings you the popular poem about the history of grandma’s apron!
THE HISTORY OF GRANDMA’S APRON
“Do you remember your grandmother’s apron?”
Our children don’t know what an apron is. The main use of our grandmother’s aprons was to protect her dress, because she only had a few! In fact, it was much easier to wash an apron—usually made of cotton—than a dress, blouse or skirt made of other fabrics.
The main use of Grandma’s apron was therefore to protect her dress, but in addition to that, it was used as a glove to remove a hot dish from the stove, long before the invention of “oven mitts”. It was also wonderful for wiping away children’s tears and, on some occasions, for cleaning up dirty faces.
From the chicken coop, the apron was used to carry eggs home as well as chicks that needed to be resuscitated and sometimes half-hatched eggs, too, which Mom would place in a warm oven to help them hatch.
When visitors dropped in, the apron served as a shelter for shy children, which is the reason for the expression: “Hiding behind your mother’s skirts”. When visitors arrived unexpectedly, it was surprising how quickly that old apron could do the dusting.
In cooler weather, Mom would pull it up to wrap her arms and shoulders in it, and in hot weather she would wipe the perspiration from her forehead. That good old apron also served as a sort of fan (a bellows), as she waved it over the wood fire to rekindle the flames. And her apron was used to carry potatoes and dry wood into the kitchen.
From the vegetable garden, it was used as a basket for lots of vegetables; after the peas were harvested, it was the cabbages’ turn. At the end of the season, it was used to collect the apples that had fallen from the tree.
At mealtime, Grandma would go out on the front porch and wave her apron, which was a sign that dinner was ready and the men in the fields knew they had to come to the table. Grandma also used it to take the apple pie out of the oven and put it on the windowsill to cool; nowadays, her granddaughter also puts it there, but only to thaw it out…
Other times, other customs! It will be many long years before someone invents a garment that can compete with the good old apron. Horrors! How many germs could accumulate on the apron in just one single day? In fact, the only thing that children of those times caught from Mom’s or Grandma’s apron was… LOVE!