Annie Collins (1875 – 1943) grew up in London and worked as a maid for the Harris family (Canadian manufacturer of agricultural machinery and co-founder of the Massey Harris Company, later Massey Ferguson).
She moved to Paris to follow the Harris family. She married Jean Brass (valet de chambre for the Harris family). Annie and Jean followed their employers when they returned to Canada. The couple stayed in Canada for two years and decided to come back to France because the winters were too cold.
In 1924, Annie and Jean bought a house in a small village, Millery, located in Lorraine (northeastern France). They lived there with their only son, Francis Brass, their daughter-in-law, Adèle Brass, and grand-daughter, Jacqueline Brass (Mamie Jacqueline).
Le “tablier fleuri” (the flower apron)
Annie bought the fabric in 1937 from a store in Pont-à-Mousson, Lorraine. She made the apron herself and gave it to her only grand-daughter, Jacqueline Brass (Mamie Jacqueline), for her 12th birthday. Jacqueline was very pleased with this gift because it was a brand new apron (most aprons were made out of used cotton dresses). The pockets are a very important feature (used to put handkerchiefs).
At this time, girls and women would wore aprons not only to cook but also to read, sew, play cards, or go to the flea market. The most “fancy” aprons were worn to protect the “Sunday” clothes. Girls and boys would wear black or dark-colored long-sleeved aprons for school. Once used, these aprons were worn at home to do the chores. Recycling, recycling!!
Le “tablier à bavette” (the bib apron)
Annie Collins bought the bib apron in 1940 from a peddler (or itinerant merchant) for 10 Francs. It is the kind of solid 100% cotton apron that was used daily for cooking or housecleaning. This one has never been worn (except for the picture!!).
Patricia Diawara – France
My great-grandmother Ester lived up in the northern part of Sweden. It was very poor there and an especially hard life for women. The nearest food store was 36km (approximately 22 miles) away, and Judith, her daughter (and my grandmother) walked 12km (7 miles) to school.
My grandmother was a little girl in the 1930s, and when she needed an apron, Great-Grandmother Ester sewed one that would grow with Judith for some years. Fabrics were hard to get and, on top of that, expensive, so an apron such as this was a smashing idea. Decades later, my grandmother found her little apron and showed it to me. Redesigned and named the Ruuthie, this children’s apron is one that I now make and sell.
We live in a time that make us be extra careful with what we already have, so I re-cycle old fabrics and give them a new life in the form of my Ruuthie aprons. The apron is handmade on request in Sweden in 2 sizes and many styles.
I just love aprons!
Malin Lidén – Uppsala, Sweden
In 1936, the family had the chance to attend the Berlin Olympics. Everyone went, except for my mother, who was pregnant with me. In those days, pregnant women did not go out, so mother was pretty much housebound. Had it been winter, she could have worn a large coat, but there was no such camouflage in the summer. So she stayed home, and never really forgave me for it.
Marianne Katte – Berlin, Germany
Snapshot of woman with baby
Mother (Eva Erika Ilse Katte, nee Lehrmann, at age 21) worked very hard to be the perfect housewife; she even ironed my diapers. In this photo, she is wearing a kittelschuerze – a full apron – to protect her clothing while bathing me. Berlin, 1937
Snapshot of 2 little girls wearing aprons
My cousin Sigrid and me, dressed in dirndls and aprons. Berlin, 1938. I was so blond that I had practically no hair showing, and it was a trial for me because I also wanted to have such a wonderful bow in my hair.
While housecleaning, I found an apron I’d bought in 1965 when I was 21. I was traveling home from a four-month tour of Europe and local vendors came aboard in Lisbon, Portugal, to sell their wares. The apron I bought was hand-embroidered, and too sweet to ever use. Two years later, I bought an apron in Austria, one adult sized and one child sized. I’d packed the aprons away, forgetting about them until they were discovered during the housecleaning. Now my kids are in their thirties and they never saw the aprons or got to use them. They look like they just stepped out of a fairy tale – that cute little pattern of alpine people and hearts and stuff.
Letitia Harper – USA