Patricia Diawara is fabulously French and were you to hear her telling of this story, her accent alone would have you captivated. Her apron story begins with a young girl, Annie Collins.
“Born in 1875, Annie 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 and there met and 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).
Annie Collins (1875 – 1943)
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 (where she would tuck a handkerchief).
At this time, girls and women would wear 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.
Le “tablier à bavette” (the bib apron)
Annie bought the blue pin stripe 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 apron still has its tag and has never been worn…except for this picture!!
Mamie Jacqueline (86 years old) in her kitchen with her grand-daughter, Patricia.
Patricia visits her family in France several times a year, and on her last trip, she interviewed Mamie Jacqueline about the history of the two aprons.
To know the provenance of an apron is truly special. Imagine knowing when the fabric was selected, as with le “tablier fleuri,” and to hear your grandmother’s telling of receiving it as a birthday gift at the age of 12…almost 75 years ago!
Aprons truly do not hold us back…they take us back.
Tie One On…an apron, of course!