Aprons Don’t Hold Us Back, They Take Us Back!

Apron-ology magazine exists because women have a long history of sewing their own aprons. Luckily for those of us who rely on patterns to guide our creative bent, companies like Butterick and McCalls have been selling patterns since the 1860s. When I contacted McCalls to learn about the company’s history, Kathleen Lenn, the company’s senior Vice President, took patience and gracious to a new level when she visited the company’s archive office and copied images for me to share with y’all.  !!!!!
This first image is the cover of an 1886 McCall pattern magazine, THE BAZAR DRESSMAKER, which was established for the purpose of selling apron and fashion patterns through the mail.

This ladies’ pattern is actually classified as a Kitchen Apron – domestic armor, I say! The button at the apron’s bottom would have been sewn with double the thread to the fabric, when you consider the volume of panteloon, petticoat and dress the apron was attempting to squish and contain.

Not as easy to see, but I hope you’ll try – even if it means squinting – is this page of girl’s aprons. Between the button up boots, layered clothing, apron protection and primped hair, girls of the time dressed as a mini-version of their mothers…a reflection of the pattern company’s awareness of society’s expectation of its younger females.

Patterns have always been created to be disposable, so it is lucky for us indeed that Butterick/McCalls donated the majority of the companies’ patterns to COPA, the largest pattern archive in the world. It’s located at the University of Rhode Island, and you can visit it on-line at www.uri.edu.
The apron has always been a great first time sewing project, and to see up close the patterns of over a hundred years ago – aprons don’t hold us back…they take us back, and in the nicest way imaginable.
Tie One On…an apron, of course!


  1. Hey EllynAnne,
    Thank you so very much for sharing these wonderful patterns with us.
    Oh to be able to come across one.
    Love my vast collection of aprons….oh & I just got Mary Malarie’s latest reversable apron pattern which I plan to get stitchen on next week.

  2. What a great post EllynAnne. I made my own apron in the 7th grade when I had cooking. We had to have an apron so I made mine with the help from my mother. The sad thing is I can’t find it anywhere…I never throw anything away so I can’t imagine getting rid of it…sigh.

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