Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now with Domestic Servitude Included!

In this post, we looked at the history of the house dress, that humble uniform of domesticity which speaks volumes about gender and class. But even more fascinating, I think, are garments that included a household tool - like a potholder or an apron - attached to a main garment like a ball and chain. (Oh the tortured symbolism!) Simplicity 8413, pictured above, is a prime example. The dress and bolero are classy daywear, but at any point the detachable apron can be buttoned back on, ensuring that the little lady never strays too far from the kitchen!

Claire McCardell herself, the pioneer of American women's sportswear, seems to have perhaps initiated this idea. Take her early "popover dress" for instance:

Behold the attached oven mitt! The Met's information on this dress includes the following tidbit:
In utility achieved with ingenuity, McCardell found a synergy. The modern woman could both be chic and do the cooking. In a photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, the model wearing the "Popover" has one hand in an oven mitt and the other in her capacious pocket.
Of course, this text fails to note that the oven mitt was ATTACHED to the dress - they make it sound like the photographer stuck it on the mannequin on a whim. No, the whole idea of the dress - style paired with domestic labor - was very premeditated.

The idea was certainly reflected in patterns of the time, as on this 40s house dress with the oven mitt tethered on.

The concept also seems to have evolved into "hostess outfits:" dress ensembles that included aprons or smocks. Hostess aprons were often made of tulle or chiffon, and were meant to be seen by guests. These patterns, like the one below, went so far as to coordinate the whole domestic ensemble of dress and apron, both meant to be worn while entertaining - not as a house dress for chores only.

This maternity pattern with an interchangeable apron and stole really says it all, don't you think?

I think this was very much sold as the aspirational lifestyle for a woman of this time - switching effortlessly between gorgeous home and street wear, all while tending to her burgeoning brood. Though that chiffon apron will look mighty amusing during the third trimester, I think. Not that the pattern illustrations could actually show a pregnant woman. (Gasp! My delicate sensibilities!)

This pattern for little girls starts 'em young.

And perhaps the pattern most fraught with symbolism EVER: a wedding gown with an apron.

Chew on that for a second, will you? Though it's not of the decade we're focusing on here, I just couldn't resist.

So there you have it, readers. Aren't you glad our dresses have broken free of the shackles of the attached oven mitt?


  1. Mouth dropping, really... I sort of smiled while reading thinking "oh my, i'm so gald to live in this millenium" but i actually got a little sad when you mentioned the little girl outfit.
    And dwelling on this, i realize that even if my husband and i share chores 50/50, i'm the only using an apron when washing the dishes. Why is that i wonder... Am i messier? Or is it just an inherited habit?
    thanks for sharing this. Made me think a lot...

  2. of course i meant jaw dropping (excuse my english!)

  3. Reading Nella Last's War has really brought home to me what "domestic servitude" meant not so long ago. Before the war made it necessary for Nella to volunteer with the WVS, her husband expected her not only to cook every meal but to be home to serve it to him. With the onset of war, he grudgingly consented to figure out how to eat his own lunch, but it was still unthinkable for her not to be home to dish up his dinner -- meaning she often had to drop what she was doing during the day and tear home to be there in time to warm up his slippers and pour his tea. And this was an improvement on her life before the war, when he wouldn't let her go ANYWHERE without him (other than to the shops to buy food for the family, out of her allowance of course).

    This is why I can't really get behind the romance of the apron, much as I realize its utility...and the idea of being literally tethered to an oven mitt freaks me out slightly. Both apron and oven mitts in our kitchen are carefully gender-neutral.

  4. That top pattern is fab. I might actually wear an apron if it made me look that chic in the kitchen! We have an array of pinnies at home, but they're all my husband's; I never wear them (but then nor do I cook...).

    And the Claire McCardell dress is beautiful. Accessorized with a straw hat and a trug, who says you can't look good when giving the gardener his orders!

  5. Gertie, I love your posts and I am a long time reader of your blog and I don't want to be unduly contentious here, but I actually think you've turned a little snarky towards those of us who choose to be homemakers and who like to be in the kitchen and who have a burgeoning brood (and that makes me sad, because I'm pretty sure that's not your intention). I for one think the coordinating day dress apron ensemble is awesome and I want one.

    Is there any way we can, instead of seeing these fashions just as oppression or domesticity as just slavery, see these fashions here as possibly being liberating or as recognizing that the mundanity of domesticity is nonetheless something deserving of respect? Something that you should and need and want to be well- and fashionably-dressed for? As something that gives the appropriate dignity and gravitas towards homemaking, which is an essential part of life no matter who does it?

    What's wrong with having a dignified and beautiful clothes even if I'm staying at home? I try to dress "up" every day, even though I am a stay at home, work from home mom and all I see are my kids and my husband on some days. I have enough respect for my job as a homemaker and the importance and necessity of my job that i want to look nice and be respected while I'm doing it, and dressing nicely helps convey my own self-respect and also command respect from others. I think the 50s actually got that right.

    I think the super-chic day dress with apron attachment imagines a really powerful reality. A women in that outfit could get dressed in the morning, make breakfast and feed her kids without worrying about splattering grease on her dress, take them to school and then whip off her matching apron and go to the city for a meeting with her local political representative or a power lunch with some entrepreneurs or movers and shakers or with the city planning commission to lobby for better parks for her community or anything.

    The attached oven mitt, now that's just practical. I lose my oven mitt all the time. Aprons, too, symbol of oppression? Or just practical way to have a nice wardrobe while getting messy. I'm not denying that women were expected to be domestic and that there freedoms (like Nella's) were limited) but I'm saying lets have a more nuanced view of domesticity.

  6. I've been reading up on textile traditions around the world and many (most?) traditional costumes for women in europe, africa, subcontinent and the middle east included some kind of decorative covering of the reproductive area (belly and genitals and sometimes the butt too!). Fertility was (and still is) pretty important.

    I think that these old patterns can be considered as an echo or continuation of traditional costume rather than solely a relic of downtrodden housewifery in the mid 20th centry :-)

    I don't wear aprons when I cook, and my clothes tell the tale with splashes and stains... maybe our foremothers knew a thing or two!

  7. From a purely fashion history standpoint, looking at McCardell's design in particular, I've always seen a very ingenious blending of design and practicality in housedresses. While you may not agree with the traditional "housewife" role, it was something that the majority of middle and upper class women did at the time*, and McCardell (and other designers of the era) were just tapping into a large market that was there and needed to be catered to. Plus, like many of McCardell's designs, it was a bit radical compared to the more fitted/uber femenine housedresses of the era: her's was loose, comfortable, utilitarian fabric, and featured ways to easily adjust and customize the garment's fit to the wearer's body (freeing a gal from wearing constrictive foundation garments while working). Even aside from the potholder (and being a bit of a cooking geek, I rather love this idea), it's a ingenious design when looked at closely, and a bit of a departure from other styles of the era. I'm not as into the 50s incarnations of housedresses and aprons, but that is more from an aesthetic standpoint--I prefer the more tailored, utilitarian styles of the 40s (which were far more practical than the longer, fuller skirts of the 50s).

    *I do want to clarify in all this that although I have chosen to be a stay-at-home gal, this is by no means the only thing I think women should do. I am not so naive! Frankly, I love the fact that in this modern age women have the choice to be a career woman, homemaker, or a blending of the two! Although each faction still struggles with not being looked down upon for their choices (believe you me I get a lot of flack for my chosen path--despite it being "traditional" on the surface), it's an amazing thing from a historical standpoint that we can decide for ourselves in the western world! What freedom we should be thankful for!

    Anyway, I hope I haven't been too decisive, but I just wanted to put in my two cents about the styles. :)

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  8. I gotta say, as a stay-at-home mom of a growing almost teen boy who has chosen to be vegan, I spend a lot of my time cooking. I have matching aprons and pot holders, mostly to encourage me to use these items. If I forget these items, my clothes get stained and my hands get burned. I think women who don't stay-at-home see it as "domestic servitude" but many of us who stay-at-home just see it as a job just like a job outside the home.

  9. Like elizabethe, I don't see these patterns necessarily as domestic servitude ... my mother and grandmother never wore T-shirts and jeans around the house (and grandmom never wore pants, always dresses), so an apron to protect nice clothing was essential. I grew up wearing dresses to school (I was in junior high before they allowed girls to wear pants), so you needed an apron or smock for art class. But the apron on the wedding dress may be a bit too weird, even for the hippie '70s!

  10. Even though I am twenty-one and I am not a mother nor a homemaker, I still love these type of dresses. They conjure up thoughts of a more simpler time and I think if I wore these type of dresses--and a pretty apron and oven mitt to boot--I will enjoy my time in the kitchen more. It is sort of like putting on a jacket and pencil skirt for work and feeling more professional about your job. It puts you in the right mindset and that is hard to do when you are putting a meal on the table for your family.

  11. I agree with elizabethe and others.

    Also, I'd like to point out that the last pattern looks a lot like traditional Russian dresses - which included a decorative apron, just like the one pictured.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  12. Thank you for these posts, Gertie, and to all of you ladies for the interesting comments.

    How funny: I suddenly realized that no one I know, even the French stay-at-home mums I know, wears an apron or anything close to an housedress. No one ever wore a prom dress either, if I refer to one of your former posts. Would dressign for a precise occasion be a rather American feature? I'd love to know more about this...

    (oh, and for the record, I personnally think the wedding apron is due to nothing but the victorian/prairie nostalgia of the seventies)

  13. PS: Yes Dasha, I remember those Russian aprons! The apron is part of many folkloric costumes in the whole Europe, too...

  14. huh. I do all the cooking and cleaning in my house.

    But I think it's kind of a fair trade off, since I don't work...When I did have a job, we split chores equally, and ordered out the majority of the time. When he was unemployed, he took care of the cleaning...

    Aren't we forgetting something, when we look back and are horrified by the expectation of what we view as servitude?

    These women, the home makers of ages gone by, simply didn't have the choice to go out and provide equally for their house and families.

    So isn't only fair that they contribute in a different, yet equal manner?

    I actually love being a stay at home partner (no kids, ever though!) I love being able to provide my partner with a clean house to come home to, being able to feed him tasty nutritious meals to eat, and present myself an unstressed companion for his troubles...

  15. I too love your blog Gertie, but I also have to agree with the defenders of aprons, attached potholders, and stay-at-home-moms/housewives.

    Beware of generalizing. Just as women have widely differing experiences today, so too did they back then, and further back than then.

    There's also the perspective to this that women didn't want men involved in their work because they weren't trained for it. Men would just make a mess of things, they couldn't handle domestic work. And the verse stating that the home was the woman's domain didn't have to just mean she was chained to it, it also meant that she was the boss there, and what she said went.

    I don't wish I lived at that time, but I don't think it's fair to judge a period in the past by only our current values.

  16. I agree with the comments many others are making, although I don't think we need to simply focus on stay-at-home mothers (or fathers for that matter). For example, although my step-mother does the majority of the cooking, she doesn't wear an apron. My father does though, when he is using his grill. I love cooking and frequently cook wearing clothes I don't want to have covered in grease, sauce, and flour. I also support the attached oven mitt - it reminds me of the mittens on a string for kids. Although I personally like aprons that don't match my clothing, as readers of a sewing blog I think we can all understand the interest in always looking good and not destroying our clothing.

  17. I have to agree with the defense of being home maker. But I think enough people have talked about it that i am going to take a detour through what else this made me think about. My dad. He was a war baby and went through his formative years in the 40's and 50's. My grandma was a housewife. I was once told a story about how they had one of the first air conditioners, was the size of a refrigerator, and it went into the kitchen so grandma could cook. Not anywhere for the comfort of the men but for the lady cooking dinner. Because she was important and because my grandpa, like my dad likes gadgets. My dad is rather old school and always encouraged me to be more domester-cated. particularly when it came to cooking. While my dad doesn't cook per se other than pasta, salad and heating things up in the microwave he was always in the kitchen being my assistant making sure I didn't slice my fingers off and always willing to let me try whatever recipe I wanted. My dad is also the only man I know who darns his socks and can sew on a lost button and because he was a police officer he sewed his own patches on his uniform.

  18. Gertie, give me a few minutes, and I can top the little girl pattern. I have one that's in either size 1 or 1/2... as in toddler sizes!

  19. Oh no! Please accept my sincerest apologizes. The post was supposed to be lighthearted rather than snarky, but I can see that I clearly missed the mark. This is apparently what happens when I write posts while cranky and sleep-deprived. I do not judge stay-at-home moms or homemakers AT ALL. This was more meant to be a look at how patterns were packaged and marketed for women. Again, though, mark clearly missed!

    More to come, but please know that I meant no offense.

    elizabethe, love your comment. Could you drop me an e-mail if you have a moment? I have a proposition for you. gertie@blogforbettersewing.com

  20. Just popping back in to say that I think "brocadegoddess" made some good points about judging historical movements from a purely modern perspective, as well as negating the individual versus popular culture experiences/choices of the period.

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  21. How I enjoyed this post and the following comments:) I am kind of grossed out by the attached oven mit for practical reasons...am I the only one who's oven mits look like something from a horror flick? I wouldn't want that old thing hanging around me! Other than that, I am not offended by the idea of "domestic servitude" or any garment that may suit the needs of that profession.

    At the time that those patterns were on the market, women didn't need to prove the legitimacy of their work in the home, nor did they have to prove that they were "above" it, nor did they have to prove their worth in the business world. It does appear that they felt compelled to prove their womanliness by how they looked and how well they accomplished their domestic chores...newsflash, so do most women today, only now we also feel the need to prove ourselves in many other arenas. There is so much more pressure. While I appreciate the supposed "equality" that I share with men, I certainly don't feel liberated. There are many days that I would prefer to don a dress with an attached oven mitt and all that that means, rather than fill the shoes of the modern woman that I am. I wonder what kind of modern accouterments we could add to our clothing now that would cause women in 50 years to respond the way we do to an attached oven mit:)

  22. Dropping in again (obviously we hit the "post comment" button at the same time!)...

    I just wanted to say Gertie that I really appreciate your apology. After reading and initially commenting on your post this morning, I was really upset by the virile tone of your post (even though I now understand you meant to be lighthearted) as a homemaker. To me it just seemed like a kind of off-topic rant against homemakers that seemed uncharacteristic for your blog, and it saddened me because GNBfBS is one of my favorites. So thank you, as a homemaker--it takes guts to come back and clear things up and apologize! :)

    All the best...

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  23. Wow! This post has really brought out a lot of ideas.

    I do agree with some of the other commenters that we must be wary of making assumptions about other women's lives. When I went to college I was taught that GI Generation women were objects of incredible oppression and it seemed that most aspects of their lives were seen through that lens of "domestic servitude."

    Time has tempered my view on this and I begin to wonder if seeing an apron as a symbol of servitude is altogether accurate. When clothing is a precious commodity isn't it practical to protect it?
    By politicizing such mundanities as aprons, and seeing them for what they mean to us, have we lost what they originally meant to the wearers?

    The ladies I remember from my youth possessed bold tongues, did not indulge in too much "paralysis by analysis", and were not so chained to the concept of productivity that they couldn't enjoy a sit down with a cup of coffee and a friend. And their houses were filled with whimsical, sometimes outrageous, pillowcases, aprons, toilet paper roll covers,etc. Upcoming generations would come to see these items as not classy enough or symbols of oppression. I remember the women themselves thinking it was all just a hoot. Now were they deluded or are we?

    When I look at the career opportunities open to women I see a vast difference and much improvement. But when I look at the media and consider some of the social constructs we live with I am not sure that the modern woman is any less constrained than those ladies with the oven mitts attached to their aprons. And at least they could find the damn things!

  24. Click here.

    Notice how it's a pattern for overalls and a "smock", but only the baby girl is wearing the apron?

  25. Aprons of course started out to keep everyday clothes clean, and in the 50's they were elevated to FASHION STATEMENTS!
    Why have a dull everyday apron when you can make a fashion statement, I personally love all these patterns and I do wish that I liked dresses, but for the most part I do not like dresses I am a slacks gal. But I do have an apron, I downloaded the free one from fabric.com called bubbies apron and it's my favorite I made it and I wear it often!

  26. I was born in the late 1950s, and I remember my mother wearing cotton house dresses (some of which she made herself), and later on, slacks, but not aprons. But she was not a messy cook. In fact, she wasn't that much into cooking. When she did messy jobs around the house, she just wore old clothes. A pot holder attached to a dress? Never heard of such a thing (until now).

    Now my husband and I BOTH wear aprons when we cook. I prefer the bib aprons with a big pocket in the front. (One of our aprons is from a local Thai restaurant. We were eating there once, and my husband left the table and came back with an apron that he had bought for me! It's black with red chiles embroidered on the bib.)

    I do remember, in the 1970s, feeling horror at the idea of being "just a housewife." I'm not sure where this came from -- perhaps imbibed from the atmosphere of the time -- because my mother loved being at home. She eventually did get a job outside the house when she was 50, but wasn't terribly happy about it.

  27. Presented in this way, it seems like female domestitcity at the time was the dresses' fault. Clearly, we are all happy that women today get to choose between more options than housewife and old maid. I actually view many of these dresses in the opposite way, as leading toward female empowerment and away from people who were solely dedicat4e to domestic tasks. How's that? When being a housewife and mother is what is expected of you, then the fact that designers are giving you options that are flattering and that easily transform into something non-domestic shows more respect for those people who are doing the domestic work. At this point in time, the middle class was growing rapidly, and the number of women who wanted to perticipate in society but who also did all of the domestic work themselves was burgeoning. To me, this pattern trend shows that these people were not employing domestic sevents clad in maid's uniforms, but actually doing the work themselves, and therefor demanding more fashionable attire that would easily transition to the non-domestic parts of their lives. This also shows that there was a much smaller population available who were willing to work as domestic servants in other people's homes, which is an even larger decrease in domestic servitude than the subsequent decrease in the number of housewives.

  28. I think that some of the disagreement here about the implications of oven-mitt-attached fashions has to do with misconceptions about mid-century America. Firstly, the "happy homemaker" was only ever a white woman; non-white women rarely had the option of being homemakers for their own families. Second, far more women worked outside the home in the 1950s than we realize today; the breadwinner-homemaker model of family life was limited to middle class who were wealthy enough that the wife didn't work for money yet not rich enough for servants. Third, (without sounding conspiracy-theorist), government policy actually played a significant role in discouraging these women from working; Alice Kessler-Harris's excellent book In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men , and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America explores how tax policy, labor laws, even Social Security were all designed to encourage single-worker families without any consideration of the impracticality of this arrangement for most Americans.
    Given these factors, one can start to see how dresses like those pictured in this post were part of a cultural paradigm that was intentional and designed to achieve specific economic and social ends. And therein lies the ick-factor; women in the 1950s were not freely choosing between wage-labor and home-making, and the lack of choice made many women absolutely miserable. The attached oven mitt is a symbol of a whole slew of socio-economic factors that subordinated women.

  29. Maybe it's just because I adore Gertie's snark, but as a stay-at-home mom I wasn't at all offended by this post! I read it more as disgust at the way these patterns were marketed to women - venture out into the world if you must, but you'll always be tethered to the kitchen.

    Perhaps the attached oven mitt does serve a purpose, but having it hang from me like a ball and chain would seem especially sinister. Besides, I have two young daughters who are frequently hanging from my legs and the less I have attached to me the better!

    I understand that there is a tendency among women who have 9-5 jobs to look down on homemakers, but I just didn't see it here.

  30. thatgrrl, that's how I feel about it too - the suburban homemaker role in the 1950s wasn't the Way It Always Had Been, and it wasn't the way it was for everybody - it was a very specific creation of the times, in response to very specific political and economic forces, and this particular version of "suburban housewife" as an institution only existed for a decade, two decades max in American history. These clothes are part of the creation and marketing of that specific institution - the woman who has been liberated by technology from drudgery and hard labor, and can fulfill all the roles of a household (roles that, I remind everyone, were fulfilled by large households, servants, and extended families even two or three decades previous) without breaking a sweat, who can seamlessly act as cook, cleaner, nanny, hostess, and society wife at once. I am trying to remember the name of the historian, but there's a very prominent historian who argues that the feminist movement of the 1970s wasn't in response to underwork because of technology, but rather in response to the unreachably high expectations heaped on the 1950s housewife - that she would be an expert in all these different fields and perform them all beautifully and seamlessly, without ever deviating from feminine grace. These envelopes could be used as lecture slides for that theory.

  31. p.s. I love vintage clothing, patterns, and sewing, and I don't think there are necessarily any ideological implications to the circle skirt or the hourglass dress - but I do sometimes wonder if the hipster embrace of vintage styles might not be linked to living in another era where women are expected to fulfill so many roles seamlessly without breaking a sweat - being the perfect Montessori parent while canning the tomatoes and knitting the socks and keeping up the blog and working a creative, fulfilling job that makes the world a better place et cetera! What a burden of expectation we carry in those oversized housedress pockets!

  32. I love aprons! I love all the ones posted too!

    I have too many - or so my family tells me - and in all styles!

    I get dressed each morning (normally in jeans/skirt, top, slide on shoes) and then throw on an apron (normally one that matches - in color)...

    And then I go to work - cleaning, teaching my children (they are all home-schooled), some cooking - hey, I let the teens/dh cook too!, and then work in the afternoons (I am in IT) from home.

    Normally my apron stays on, until I leave the house...

    though I have been known to walk into church, the store, or my mom's house with it still on...

    (talk about teens being embarassed!)

  33. In response to Sapote's comment, I think the historian you're talking about is Ruth Schwartz Cohen -- her book "More Work for Mother" argues that new household technologies didn't really make the workload lighter for homemakers as they advertised, they just increased the expectations about how much work should be accomplished in a day. It's a classic book in the history of technology and would be a great read for anyone interested in the experience of women in the post WWII period.

    I'm not surprised this post generated a lot of discussion, and I think it's good to have it -- adapting this like 50s housedresses for modern women's lives is tricky work. I think we have to be thoughtful about what symbols we take up and why. Dresses with attached oven mitts don't *actively* subjugate women, but they're not neutral symbols either.

    I personally have been thinking about making an apron for a long time for practical reasons, but I still can't decide what it should look like. Ironic? Plain? Over the top retro? For me it's a really tricky decision, because I want it to make the right kind of statement about me as a feminist who also likes to cook and sew.

  34. Okay, now that I reread Sapote's comment maybe that's not who you actually had in mind... but I'd be interested in hearing about who you were thinking of if you remember!

  35. Now Gertie... I am a follower of your blog and a fellow sewing enthusiast, but I must say I'm a little taken aback by how harsh you are on women who choose a more domestic way of life. Please don't forget that there are plenty of intelligent and beautiful women who choose a way of life that involves a good deal of cooking and parenting. While I understand that you are a big advocate of women's rights in the workplace, you have no right to make fun of women who choose to stay home (or work AND take care of the house)! You're doing women a disservice by this post.

    Lighten up, will ya! :)

  36. As a stay at home/ work from home mum, I took Gertie's comments as tongue in cheek and light-hearted. Then again, I mistook the oven mitt for a gardening glove, so perhaps my subjugation to domestic servitude falls a little short!

    What I love about today's post is that here are patterns and dresses that were devised to make you look chic yet ready to face the domesticity of life without having to get changed. Whenever I wear my vintage dresses, it always strikes me how awkward and sometimes outright difficult they are to slip on and off. The idea that you could look effortlessly chic all day, whether you were out and about or popping a roast in the oven seems so practical and positive. These are patterns that take on board that modern women lead busy lives and maybe don't have time to change in and out of their housedresses three times a day...

  37. In re: bridal aprons: there seems to be an entire company, Tidy Bride, built around this concept. (I don't *think* it's satire. Too many different styles.) Not something I'd have thought of, but it does make sense, sort of -- if you shelled out a thousand bucks or more on a wedding dress that you're planning on keeping as an heirloom, why wouldn't you protect it?

    So yeah, a bridal apron could be a symbol of getting back in the kitchen and makin' a sammich, but it could also be a practical item to protect a really expensive dress. Like any apron, it depends on how you look at it.

  38. Gertie, I really liked this post, and I read it as poking fun at the old conventions rather than being anti-SAHM in any way.

    I feel lucky to live at a time when I have choices. I don't think that being a SAHM would bring me joy or fulfillment in life. That is not to say that I judge, put down or de-value the work of those who do choose that path. I don't. I just know it is not the life for me and am glad I live at a time when the prevailing culture is not telling me that my life should have an apron mitt attached.

    Others have pointed out that judging the past by today's values is fraught with problems. I also don't think that it is fair to assume that the comments that you made about the idealize life of a 1950's housewife (or the patterns that were marketed to them) is a reflection of how you feel about the modern SAHM.

  39. I think this blog has the smartest most articulate readership in all of blogland.

    Carlotta's comment has me wondering what French women wear to cook and clean if they don't wear aprons. Are they just neater than I am?

  40. I think thatgrrl has really hit on the head what makes me uncomfortable about the idea these patterns create of the glamorous housewife snapping on an apron, or being almost literally, tethered to the kitchen. As Betty Friedan discusses with far greater erudition in the Feminine Mystique, the 'happy housewife taking care of house, husband and children, all with perfect makeup' was an image that was sold to, often college-educated*, women (sold being the important word - particularly memorable for me is Friedan's discussion of the way that the content of women's magazines evolved through the 40s and 50s, and the development towards the idealisation and promotion of the happy housewife stereotype). I think that the patterns Gertie highlights form a part of this 'mystique' and as such deserve critical appraisal. I don't think that this should be taken as _at all_ being an attack on homemakers or even the right to look nice while doing the job of a homemaker; it's a critique of the stereotype and the marketing push that was in operation during the 50s, to promote that stereotype.

    As a side/practical note: my oven gloves usually end up somewhat dirty with use - not sure I'd want that actually attached to my dress..

    *note, I'm not saying that one can't be college educated and a homemaker, but that the idealisation of that path for _all women_ is/was problematic. I need to read Betty again, probably... :)

  41. centrallyisolated, that's what I get for quoting things I read in undergrad! I'm not sure it's her either, but I'm going to read her now and find out, because that book looks fascinating.

  42. Wearing an apron over a wedding dress is customary in Slavic countries. At the reception, anyone who wishes to dance with the bride has to give her some money, which she puts in apron pocket to save for her housekeeping. Don't think about the symbolism of that one for too long.

  43. Although I'm a feminist working girl and have no husband or kids to be "tethered" to, I do have to agree with elisabethe in that there's nothing wrong with wanting to be domestic and fashionable at the same time. How many stay at home mom's maintain the "dumpy housewife" look of too-tight stirrup pants, a dirty t-shirt and hair thrown up under a baseball hat? At least in the 50's women didn't appear to give up on themselves the way some SAHM's do today. I agree that the 50's bred women to be tethered....but these days many women can and do have it all. And like elisabethe wrote, it's nice to be able to have an outfit that can go from being domestic to executive very quickly.

  44. As both a full time working woman and the higher wager earner in my household, I can't imagine staying at home. But i know there are personal as well as practical reasons for doing so, especially when there are multiple children. I was recently confronted with when my sister chose to quit her job when her first child was born, and i know that it is just not practical for her to continue at her job.

    I also fantasize about what it would be like for there to be someone who kept house for me and was primarily responsible for cooking and cleaning. I just can't deal with keeping up with all those things, in addition to my job, my commitments at the community theatre, the yard and vegetable garden. Something had to give and in my life it was housework.

    However, I should start wearing an apron when I cook because bacon grease (even when it' on your yoga top) is a pain to launder out.

  45. I love your blog, Gertie.
    As a cultural historian-in-training, I would advise women particularly and people in general to be weary of conflating the vision of the 1950s woman projected on the pattern envelopes and the reality for women of that time. Someone mentioned the fact the most non-white women would not have been able to enjoy the privilege of full-time domesticity; however, many white women also would not have been able to stay at home full time either. The idealization of womanhood is exactly that - an ideal and sometimes is not clear to what extent women embraced/rejected that ideal. Presence of an image often does not denote acceptance.

  46. Hi Gertie, I have just found your blog and after one post I'm loving it already.

    Like you I share the horror at an oven mitt being part of the dress, however, I'm at that age where the brain takes a leave of absence on occasion and I often can't find my oven mitt so on those days it might be helpful to have it attached to me!!!

    Also there is something slightly off to me about having dresses made specially for doing the housework in!! I tend to do jobs like that in my oldest, scruffiest stuff. It seems to smack of a pretense that we have to look beautiful and well dressed for our man at all times, because he would lose all respect/love for us if he saw us as we really are!!

  47. Oops, I meant to say 'with far greater erudition than me' (not Gertie!). Thinking about this some more, I think that one of the reasons the disagreement over this post may have arisen is that, in addition to the Mad Man's packaging of the housewife ideal in the 50s, there is no shortage of negative stereotypes these days about homemakers and SAHMs (as well as career women, working mothers, in fact just about anything a woman can do...) One of the reasons I am a feminist is that these stereotypes damage just about everyone (of all genders), and it's important to understand the ways in which they operate, and to work towards overcoming them.

    Gertie, I hope you do keep posting about controversial issues, yours is one of the few sewing blogs I read that really discusses feminist issues and how they relate to fashion in an intelligent way, and the discussion in the comments is often a highlight. Although by all means, finish off with a kitten picture. I like kittens..

  48. I am finding this so fascinating. Someone could write a doctoral thesis on it! I always felt mildly suspicious of my grandma's chiffon aprons as a child. Now I know why!

  49. Gertie- I agree with Clare. I read your blog BECAUSE you start interesting discussions. Please don't shy away from them!

  50. It is funny being attached to your oven mitt! Great discussion, however it is important to view these patterns in the context of the time. And important to realise that we are only looking at a glimpse of reality (compare today's pattern covers with today's person in the street - there is a difference now, and there was a difference then too!).

    Re: aprons and their recent revival in popularity - my theory is that a lot of women feel forced to work today due to financial or feminist pressures, and would much prefer to be a stay at home mum and domestic goddess of yesteryear, hence the revival of the romantic notion of aprons and other domestic things! What do others think?

  51. Poor Gertie!as a stay at home mum,I took this as just teasing...just like when my friends and I say "oh we just have to buy that padded triangle bikini for our 4 year olds...and maybe those thigh high boots to accessorize"

  52. I have really enjoyed reading this discussion. I didn't take your post as being snarky but I do think it seemed a little predictable. Really I think we need to stop thinking everyone from the past lived like the images we see depicted in magazines and on pattern covers. In 50 years time will it be valid from our granddaughters to judge us by what they see in old TV shows, movies, magazines and so on. Women's ( and men's) lives are so diverse, the advertising copy people might like to think they know us but they don't and they didn't in 1950s either. I was born in 1959, my mother never had a dirty old oven mitt attached to her, she always used what ever cloth was handy to get things out of the oven. She wore a neat home made half apron when she cooked if she was in good clothes and that's it.

  53. Oh, I'm with SherryS ... I'd love to be a SAHM (more sewing time, bwah ha ha!). Seriously, more time with my kid, who is growing up entirely too fast. My mom has said she was more liberated than me, because she didn't have to work. I do, as I'm the breadwinner and provider of health insurance, and have been for many years.

  54. Yes, the greatest thing about cooking, knitting and sewing these days is that it's optional. I usually like to cook dinner but on the days I don't - I don't!

    I think that because women have a choice of having a career and don't NEED a husband to support them, that gives us power, but only if we use it. I think that young girls (teenagers) really need to be encouraged to think about what their role in marriage will be and to discuss it with boyfriends before accepting a marriage proposal.

    Instead of just saying "yes", we need to say "Well, I'm interested in marrying you, but if we have several kids and we one day both decide that it is more practical for me to stay home, I want financial equality with you, I want one night off a week, and a housekeeper to come in once a month."

    I think a lot of men with lower-income earning spouses are willing to pay a larger share of the household expenses - but does that really make it fair? I thought it was fair for a long time. Now, what I think is fair is that a marriage is a partnership and both parties should get equal say in how household funds are spent and each partner should get an equal amount of spending money. Better to discuss these details before marriage.

    I think that a lot of men who are the sole income-earner think that if they're paying the rent, paying for food and clothes and taking the wife out for dinner once a while, then they've done their duty and the rest of their income is theirs to keep. Well that's not fair and see above - his partner should get equal say in household finances and equal spending money.

    Some of the issues women have in their marriage such as doing more housework than their mate and having less spending money than their mate comes from their own view of theirselves and what they're worth - and not demanding better. Hence talking with your teenage daughters and preparing them for one day they may fall in love, get married and be stay-at-home moms and discussing now what their expectations are.

    Two quotes from Kate Winslet's character in Revolutionary Road (as remembered by me)

    "You think you've got me in this trap and you can just bully me into feelling whatever you want me to feel"

    "No, I don't love you, I hate you. You're just some boy that made me laugh once at a party and now I can't stand the sight of you."

  55. You know, I think my mom might have had that last pattern...I seriously remember seeing either that exact one, or something scarily similar, among my mom's stash of patterns from the 70s when I was a teenager. (Alas, she no longer has any of them--they got purged in a decluttering binge.)

  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

  57. Wow, the bee hive has been poked so to speak. The 50's and 60's were not all Happy Days and Leave It to Beaver type households. In fact, I never ever found one that even faintly resembled the families that were portrayed in them. The same goes for the images found in the media. No one wore high heels to garden or wash the car or care for children. No one had their children under perfect control or their clothing perfectly ironed. What a myth the media brought into our homes! My mom wore aprons because she couldn't do three loads of washing each and every day. The image of women working and staying home were in conflict because the men of society came home from the wars and needed jobs, so women were sent home except for the jobs that no men wanted to do or for which the pay was too low. I wonder what will be written 50 years from now about women and their clothing of 2010? Keep up the discussion ladies and gentlemen.

  58. Wow, Steph. Maybe you should head on over to Martha Stewart's blog. Nobody but us Feminazis here.

    Seriously though, getting this upset over someone's blog post is a little much. Where indeed are the niceties of daily life? With all of the comments from women who were a little offended and took the post the wrong way, your comment alone was mean, pushy, selfish, and rude. And may I add ignorant? You took a post about vintage marketing tactics and turned it into a personal attack on perfect housewives everywhere. A little much.

    I am a stay at home, work from home mom and I have seen both sides of the coin. I am a hardcore feminist who likes to sew; an empowered woman who plans meals and adores her children and doesn't take any crap from people who like to tell me how and who I should be. I'm sure many of Gertie's readers can feel me on this: YOU CAN BE BOTH. It is only in other's perceptions that there is any conflict. I thought it was thought-provoking and funny and not in the least offensive.

    Gertie, Keep Calm and Carry On. The wedding dress took the cake for me! I loved your post.

  59. My grandparents had the very sterotypical 50s - 60s house. Four kids in four years, smoked like crazy, kids made the drinks, Grammy sewed all the clothes- with one exception. My Grampy did (& does) all the cooking. There's even a story about uncooked macaroni in macaroni salad.
    She had 'sewing aprons' so she didn't have to pick threads off her skirt, but he had the real thing, complete with snaps for his bbq tools.
    So even though I have tons of aprons, I always kind of giggle when people hold them up as this huge symbol of female repression.

  60. Gertie, you've done it again!

    Hilarious. I love the "starting 'em young" remark with incriminating photo. It's so true that women of the era were expected to be in the kitchen, thinking about the kitchen, or shopping for the kitchen/housework. It would have been the center of our universe for many of us had we been unwitting enough to have been born 40-50 years earlier.

    Look at the happy little housewives all over TVLand. Glam women who made keeping house look fun and, dare I say, occasionally sexy in the most wholesome way- Lucy, Laura, Samantha, etc.

  61. Well, I'm not at all opposed to the idea of the dress with oven-mitt/apron attached - what people don't realise is that the shackle isn't the dress, but rather the mind-set that goes with it. If you grudgingly put on an apron dress to slave away doing things you don't want to do, then yes it is servitude. But if you honestly want to be in the kitchen cooking (which I quite enjoy) then a sexy dress with matching apron is quite fun. I know I wouldn't mind one - it would be great for dinner parties.
    Feminism these days is really all in the mind - you have the choice to be a man's hired help or to simply do as you please. I would hang out in the kitchen by myself in a comfortable, sexy house dress with handy, attached oven-mitt.
    The true enslavement is imagining that you HAVE to away in a kitchen, begrudgingly for someone you don't like, doing things you don't like.
    And anyway - we all have to do chores some time or another, and I would much rather feel good about myself in a well-cut dress than shloof around the house in my tracky pants and no bra. But that's just me - I enjoy dressing up for myself and no-one else. I would still do it if I were completely alone.
    The one rather bizarre element I find is not commented on, and that is the absurdly tiny waists of the supposed maternity models. That kind of deliberately misleading image amounts almost to false advertising and simply makes women feel bad about their bodies. However, we must understand that pregnant was simply not an outwardly acceptable state during that era, such is life I suppose.
    Great stuff, nevertheless, very interesting blog, really worth reading and perusing. I have added it to my favourites.

  62. I have a 1920s pattern for a "Hooverette" which was an apron worn while one did the "hoovering." Think about it, this Hooverette apron was a celebration of a device which must have thrilled women accustomed to hauling a nasty heavy rug out to the clothesline and beating the crap out of it with bamboo wands. It must have been so much more pleasant to put on a pretty apron and plug in the Hoover.

    Until the late 20s or early 30s, many girls wore aprons as part of their daily dress, not to train them in housework, but for ease in laundering. When laundry was a backbreaking chore, and children always playful and often messy, a plain white apron which could be easily cleaned made a lot of sense. Think of all the iconic images of girls prior to the 1930s, Alice in Wonderland, Kate Greenaway, Anne of Green Gables..... Pinafores were a big part of how little girls dressed. They made practical sense.

    Old pattern catalogs reference "wash clothes". These were cotton garments which could be washed. Mens' shirts came with separate collars for ease in washing. Underwear had china buttons tied on with tape, so the buttons could come off for washing. Even in the 50s and 60s, Nurse, maid and waitress uniforms had removable buttons so they could be easily washed and ironed. We are no longer even aware of these things that made wash day easy for our grandmothers.

    Textiles were more valuable than they are now, and preserving them, as well as minimizing the labor involved in cleaning them, was not only practical, but also economic. Even in the 50s many women still had wringer type washers and did not have clothes dryers. The 50s were also pre "permanent press". There was a lot more ironing to do. We forget how much work it was to maintain clothes. Aprons eased the burden.

    Having lived in France and Spain, I am well aware of the extra work when one has a small washer which takes 2 hours to do a load and then each sock, towel and sheet must be hung to dry....and then it's stiff as a board when it's dry and must be ironed. Wearing an apron is hardly oppressive when it takes a day to do laundry. It's much easier to keep one's clothes clean with an apron.

    I think the wedding dress is very typical of the late 70s Laura Ashley style which referenced and romanticized turn-of-the-century looks. I remember, at that time, my British MIL asking me if American girls were all wearing "Pinnies." This style was a nostalgic fashion reference just as women geared up full bore to enter the workforce in new numbers.

    I went to a boarding school where we were required to do an hour of domestic work a day, in addition to keeping our rooms clean enough to pass inspection. Our brother school had the same work requirements. We were required to wear a full 1930s type double breasted cotton dress with cap when we worked. I think this gave us, the children of priviledge, a lifelong respect for domestic work. I wish some of these Hills type shows with their spoiled wastrels would go away. Somebody has to do the housework! And whoever does it, deserves respect.

    Personally, I would sooner bake, garden, sew and entertain than slog away at accounting like my SIL. She would say the exact opposite. I am thrilled we both have a choice.

    Above all, to me it seems wasteful, disrespectful and less than environmentally green to ruin one's clothes. I, for one, adore wearing aprons and have never considered them oppressive.

    Gertie, I love that you broached this subject. Don't shrink back, this is a great discussion!

  63. Gertie, I didn't think of your post as snarky at all! It was just fun looking at how these particular patterns were marketed in terms of illustration and such. For a modern stay at home wives, the marketing strategy probably would look a bit different, and in fifty years there will be a blog post (if blogs still exist) about that. And our grand daughters hopefully will laugh at it.

    I certainly hope you're not discouraged to write exactly what you like (I mean it's your blog!) even though everybody doesn't get it all the time.

  64. i love that this blog raises so much fascinating discussion - it's so much more than the work of one person, although you're responsible for bringing everyone together in the first place.

    great stuff :)

  65. Maybe I'm just messier than women in the 40s, but does anyone else notice that their oven mitts get really dirty really quickly? Mine gets washed every few days because it's got bits of whatever I've been taking out of the oven all over it... and I would not like that attached to whatever I'm wearing, regardless of whether it's a housedress, apron or jeans and a t shirt... bleurgh! Crumbs!

  66. Is there some over-sensitivity going on in the comments here? I just re-read this post to try and work out why some readers should take offence and think Gertie's poking fun at their lifestyles but seems to me it's really about the clothes from 50 years ago...

    Since I do almost all of the cooking in my house, I'd love to see a pair of jeans or maybe a belt with the ingenious design feature of an oven mitt attached - I'm always losing my silicon trivets. In fact, as someone who has attached elastic to her gloves (as an adult), I think I might try the attached oven mitt. Thanks for this post, you've given me ideas!

  67. Steph, I see you deleted your own comment! I wasn't going to, I swear. But seriously, if my blog so upsets you, maybe it's not the place for you? I won't be offended if you don't visit anymore. Life is too short, you know?

    Thanks again for the lively conversation, ladies!

  68. After reading this blog and comments last night, I decided to go searching for some feminist blogs. Did you know yesterday was equal pay day? By working all of 2009 until yesterday, women had finally made what men made in 2009.

    Today is jeans day as part of sexual assault week. Carrying on a protest of Italian women who wore jeans to work the day after a rapist was found not-guilty after he showed that his victims jeans were too tight (so tight that the young victim had to help her 44-year old rapist remove them). So wear your jeans to work today ladies.

  69. I love that you created a place for such lively discussion, Gertie. Thank you!
    About the topic at hand: like Casey pointed, the important thing is nowadays we have choice. That being a homemaker is as valid a choice as deciding to work (and vice versa). The problem is, women did not always have that, and those patterns convey that.
    By the way, my grandmother still thinks it's not okay to wear "outside clothes" at home, and has a whole set of housedresses. No mittens or aprons attached, though – they look more like long jersey dresses, often black and made of velvet knit.

  70. This post doesn't criticize modern day stay at home moms; it criticizes the "one size fits all" gender roles of the 1950's.

    A few things that may interest/entertain you to know: many 1950's mothers worked; they just had crappy jobs. Read "The Way We Never Were" by Stephanie Coontz. In many ways, designs like this were intended for an "ideal housewife" who didn't exist.

    Also, scientific time use studies indicate that modern SAHMs spend more time interacting with their kids and less time on housework than their 1950's counterparts.

  71. Oh my gosh! Do not apologize at all Gertie! This post has turned into the most thought provoking and stimulating in all of blogland!

    What I would say has already been expressed here and very well. I agree with the vein of thought by Clare and centrallyisolated as well as some others. I also see that the prepetuated ideal of what the perfect woman should be was also not the reality of that time either.

    I also see the point of view of "why not have clothes for working at home that are beautiful and stunning?!"

    I think we are all grateful the times have changed in that we have more freedom to choose how to make our lives meaningful. It is when we are denied that choice that we feel like we are in servitude whether it be in the home or at the office.

  72. Sarah, I gotta say I'm a little upset at your portrayal of men and money because that hasn't been my experience. Rarely do I come across a man that feels that he can keep most of "his" income away from a SAHM to play.

    I know in my little family my husband works hard at a job that drains him (night shift and everything) so I have the opportunity to stay home with our children. Are there days I don't want to stay at home? You betcha. But I know he has days where he would rather spend time with our quickly-maturing children than sleep all day to work a job at night.

    I've always said that we are a two-career family when it comes to money: he makes the money and I save it.

  73. Thank you for your comment, Krista. I can see how it would be upsetting to hear men being put down for something that the men in your life don't do. I hope that through discussion all men can be educated to behave like the men you are referring to. I would just like to say that I'm not making it up - I have definitely seen this behaviour in men that I know, starting with my own husband, whom I am trying with very good success to educate. But in order to that I had to first get educated - when I first had my daughter, I was "young and stupid" and I didn't realize what was fair or unfair - that's why I mention talking to teenage girls so that they know what to look for in a spouse.

    It's okay for us to disagree on how men are - but I hope we can agree on how they should be - giving their spouses voices in financial matters and equal access to the family income.

  74. I'm coming into this late, but I have to agree with the person who commented that the dress at the top was fab. I'm a SAHM/housewife/whatever you want to call it, and most of the time I don't bother putting any thought into my outfits because I'm constantly running around doing work around the house, etc. So I end up wearing t-shirts, jeans and a pullover sweatshirt. It's frustrating. If I actually had a dress like the top one, I would actually feel it's worth putting that extra effort into how I look. And to be honest, I'm quite sure my husband would love to see me even a little dressed up from time to time, though he would never say such a thing. He insists I look great no matter what. :-P

  75. Sarah, thank you for your kind words. I do agree that we need to educate our teenagers, both male and female. They need to know how to stand up for what they need in life and how to make that choice. I'm glad that your husband's "education" is going well. :) And hurrah for all the good guys!

  76. wow, what a mixed bunch of comments. I am at work but just wanted to sneak in a quick word that i love the blog and think all these opinions are valid. i liked the post and thought it was just a bit of a laugh really. i work 9-5 also but dont look down on other lifestyle choices. it would be so boring if we were all the same wouldnt it! anywho, have a nice day ladies, its always nice to read these thought provoking comments :-)

  77. I almost posted yesterday, but decided to wait and read where this went. I stay home with 4 kids, college educated, but it is a wash if I work, after day care and other expenses, I can't earn enough to make much more than my husband earns now with me home and being frugal. I do not see aprons or housedresses as chains, rather practical items to keep good clothes clean. Kids aprons are also for painting, artwork, etc. My mom and grandma wore housedresses at home so the good clothes stayed nice longer. I have at home clothes and clothes for going out of the house. Gertie, your blog is always so interesting, even though your readers come from different points of view.

  78. I didn't have time to read all of the comments, but just adding my 2 cents :) I think it's really a show of practicality. Women made meals from scratch & didn't want to change their clothes to go out for errands or to visit or what-have-you. When hosting dinner parties it's really a practical idea to have an apron that matches your dress. My grandmother could never understand why modern women didn't wear aprons when cooking, instead sacrificing potentially nice clothing or "it will come out in the wash".

  79. Ooops, one more thing, my grandmother worked, she taught school and shared cooking w/ my grandfather. However, I believe she did much of the housework, but he had his own chores, too. Yes, it was a different time.

  80. Oh for the love of sewing, can anyone read the comments above them before commenting? Gertie has not only apologised once but twice. She clearly meant no harm and now that's all cleared up maybe you "2 cents" people can read some more of her posts which are inspiring. Yes Gertie is human like the rest of us and sometimes things don't come out the way we intended. Build a bridge and get over it. Maybe if we women weren't so hard on ourselves we wouldn't feel the need to justify ourselves to each other, whether we be stay at home moms or head honcho career women! I appreciate the women who commented early and gave a different point of view but aren't we now just flogging a dead horse? I swear sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

  81. Once somebody unearths a cache of 1950s patterns for men's outfits with built-in oven mitts and matching aprons, I'll be happy to add my voice to the calls for a more reverent attitude to the message these patterns and designs represent. Meanwhile, Gertie, thanks for the post and for the salutary reminder that the 50s wasn't all fun and games.

  82. Gertie, I am a time-stressed working mom and I wear an apron every day. In fact, some days, I forget to take my apron off as I head out the house to my paid job.

    It would be so awesome to have a matching dress/jacket/apron combo.

    I did make my daughter some aprons in the (vain) hope that she would wipe her hands on them instead of on her clothes. (See pix in the link above.)

    You know why my aprons need to have really large pockets? So I can stuff clothespins in them. That really speeds up hanging clothes out on the line.

    (I am a PhD holding physicist and I stress about global warming both at home and at work. Thus, I obsess about the carbon footprint of our family's lifestyle.)

    I love, love, love the Claire McCardell. The quilted pocket reminds me of Japanese traditional work clothing. If my potholders were buttoned to my apron, perhaps my husband wouldn't walk off with them all the time.

    I don't think it is a gender thing; it's habit and personal preference. My husband cooks and does the dishes most evenings, but he won't wear an apron. His grad school roommate, a 6'5" Iowa farm boy, used to sew his own flowered cowboy shirts and aprons. He wore them all the time.

    BTW, I posted a free apron pattern here.

  83. I've heard all of the arguments for or against aprons, whether they're feminist or anti-feminist or oppressive or empowering. I get that aprons are practical and can even be fashionable; really I do. And in theory I don't see anything wrong with them. A cute little overskirt could be the perfect addition to some outfits.

    However I still can't bring myself to embrace the apron trend. See, my mother (70s do-it-all working cooking cleaning sewing supermom that she was/is) had a fabulous collection of pinafore-type aprons which she had, of course, made herself - including little matching aprons in each style for us three daughters (which really are adorable, and are still in use by her grandchildren).

    Every venture into the kitchen, cooking or crafting or mealtime, was prefaced by "Put on an apron." As a kid I resented it. Aprons to me have always meant "You're sloppy and clumsy and can't be trusted not to spill on yourself." Apron equals bib, you big messy baby.

    Obviously I have issues and have way over-thought this matter.

    The POCKETS on those patterns, though! I crave those pockets. There are far too few pockets in women's wear nowadays. Maybe we should discuss how concerns about body image have taken precedence over practicality - we mustn't be able to carry any necessary items that might ruin the line of the dress!

    Recently I saw an old photo of two women and a young girl (3 generations of a family, probably) wearing traditional dress including skirts (aprons?) that, when held out in front, turned into a capacious built-in carrying basket. How ingenious! I'd love to see someone bring those back into style.

  84. Does that apron "thingy" go all the way around or just in front, because my stepmother had a dress with a peplum that was also in back.

  85. In defense of apron and pot holder use: I am 66, living with son, 2 grandsons, girl friend of one, and baby. I cook a lot from scratch, as I always have for 2 reasons. I am very frugal by inclination [I remember meal planning when we were broke, when I was 5; my mother was inept in the kitchen.]and one can stretch the food dollars a lot further by cooking from raw material. Second, I'm nutrition conscious and I like to know what's in my food and use healthy ingredients.

    That said, I'm messy in the kitchen. I'll have carrot peels on the floor for missing the garbage
    basket, flour on my clothes, oil on the stove and so on. I do try to clean as I go, but I still need to scrub the kitchen down when I'm done, but I can throw down a meal in a hurry for a hungry crew. I need and use pot holders, and rags, and towels. I don't use paper towels, just cloth [to wash].

    Women needed that stuff. If I get
    cranky about cooking or dishes, I'll just make a general announcement, I'm not cooking today, doing dishes today, etc.
    That would not have flown well years ago, but oh, well. However cooking remains an untidy venture for the most part, fraught with peril: hot stoves, sharp knives, flying flour.

  86. Forgot something: re aprons. In the days when women wore them, washing was sometimes done in old wringer washers, or hung out to dry, time and labor intensive activities. Then they had to be gathered, sprinkled, left to thoroughly dampen in pillowcase in refridgerator [yes], and ironed on ironing day. All of which is incentive to keep your dress clean to last the week. Most women had 2, or at most 3 housedresses. They had to last more than one day.

  87. I have a slightly different perspective on what women did in those days and how they worked.
    I _choose_ to be the Work at Home mother of 3 children under 10, daughter of a nurse who worked all the time I was growing up. My grandfather wanted (and pressured) my mother to become a Dr like him, but she chose to get her RN degree (in the early 50's) instead.
    I am also the granddaughter of a nurse and the great-grandaughter of a single mother who worked her @ss off in the oil fields out by Wetherford Tx doing whatever she could find that paid a legal wage to support all my great-aunts and uncles. All my great aunts went into professions as young women (Teacher, Nurse, ect.) in the teens and 20's BTW.
    I think we read the novels and see the "TV version" of what life was like in the first half of the 20th century, and mistakenly think that was reality. Work, especially rural work was back-breakingly hard on both sexes just to make a subsistence living. The TV image especially of 40's and 50's femininity in her dress and pearls or life in Mayberry is on par with the image of today's botoxed trophy wife rather than in step with the rank and file.
    Yes women were oppressed, but many women are still as oppressed today. Domestic violence is still with us, as is mental abuse and controlling authority figures. The difference is that now women have legal recourse.
    Feminism has made great strides in that a woman now has the chance to make (almost) as much as a man in the same job, but women worked before the movement. Indeed, we owe Feminism for gaining womens' equal treatment under the law. From listening to my aunties and my own mother however, there were choices as far as careers to be made if women were strong enough to buck societal peer pressure and go for them, just as there are pressures today against homemaking.
    All that said;
    Personally I LOVE the apron with attached oven mitts. I want one, not just for it's fetishwear appeal, but for its utility.
    I also intend to sew some leashes on our current mitts for my husband who is always complaining about not being able to find one of the darn things when he wants it. I can tether it to his belt!

  88. I don't think there is a clear understanding of what a pinafore is on a girl's dress. First of all, it is a charming accessory that would give more than one wear to the same hard working dress. The dress was darker and serviceable so as not to show stains easily. Children get dirty very easily and they all had chores back then. If this is an "apron" why are they included on fancy church dress or on a wedding dress? Vintage sewers and heirloom sewers need to meet sometime because it is like two distinct cultures.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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