Aprons are something that everyone takes for granted. No one stops to think about the origins of such a garment or how it has evolved. Yet, aprons are widely used in different trades and come in different shapes, sizes, designs and makes.
The apron is said to have originated in France and the word is said to be derived from the French word ‘napperon” which means doily or napkin. In some of the Pyramids Egypt, there are ancient paintings where human figures are depicted wearing a garment that closely resembles an apron. In Central America and China, there are sculptures of Gods wearing an apron like garment. Some of this dates back to 2000BC. Even the Bible is said to have references to a garment that resembles the modern day apron. The modern use of the apron can be dated back as far as the twelfth century AD.
It has been said that men were the first to wear the garment as a form of protection when they went about their work. The Masonic apron can be considered as the first precursor of the modern day apron and lamb skin was used to make the aprons. Later, other materials were used to make the garment and its use spread to other trades as well. Mostly white or dark colors were used then by the wearer.
Towards the beginning of the sixteenth century, the garment was more in use and the color of the apron denoted the trade for which it was used. For example, barbers sported checkered aprons while butchers were seen wearing green. It was only towards the eighteenth century that the apron began to make its way into homes. Homemakers started wearing aprons to protect their clothes from getting dirty while carrying out their duties at home. The eighteenth century also saw the appearance of apron dresses mostly worn by school kids.
Women started extensively using aprons of different kinds as a part of their attire and the apron started to be viewed more as a woman’s garment. Various styles like long, short, half, straight line, crocheted aprons, skirt aprons, bib aprons, tuxedo aprons began to gain popularity during the nineteenth century. Cooks began using aprons extensively in their trade as a protective garment as well as to wipe their hands and store things in the pocket. Aprons began appearing in movies, magazines, on celebrities and on the fashion ramp. New materials were used to make aprons in various styles. The apron thus became a household name.
The journey of the apron has been a long and prosperous one. Though viewed as a garment worn solely by women sometime during the eighteenth century, it has now regained its true image. Today you cannot imagine restaurants, stores and factories without aprons. Their popularity has led to specialty stores selling aprons as well as books being written about them. They have become part and parcel of everyday life.