The comprehensive apron guide
We immediately associate an apron with working in the kitchen… but that’s not the whole story.
People in various industries use aprons: welders, woodcutters, florists, gardeners, barbers, butchers, cleaners, chefs, catering staff and the rest of us all need an apron at some time or another. These handy garments keep one protected – from food, heavy metals, and everything else... we're sure you get the message!
Here we give you the lowdown on everything related to aprons – from the history of the apron to the different types of aprons available, and fabrics that work for each type of apron. Check it out…
The history of aprons
The word ‘apron’ comes from a 17th century French word – ‘naperon’. It translates to ‘small tablecloth’. People used to mistakenly pronounce the word as ‘apron’ in Medieval times, and that’s how the ‘apron’ meaning came about.
There have been many iterations of the apron over the years – we used it as part of certain uniforms, and we even used it as decorative wear in the time of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. We also used them as kitchen wear for centuries, and sometimes even consider them as a fashion garment.
But this garment's main purpose is to protect your jackets, shirts, trousers, dresses or other clothing, whether it’s in a work environment, hospital, schoolroom or regular kitchen aprons.
In the 1940s, we often used to show aprons in adverts, worn by a housewife in a cosy kitchen delighting her family with delicious home meals. After that, American housewives donned these items for screen and on TV, wearing them whilst baking cookies, removing steaming meals from the oven and calling the family to come and enjoy dinner.
Then, in the 1960s, emancipation of women put a stop to the idyllic housewife role, and aprons became taboo. These days, they’re back with a vengeance, not just an apron for women, or mens apron, but unisex ones instead – functional, no-nonsense items. Also, the popularity of home-made food and accessories has given this fabric item a chance to make a comeback.
The apron through history
1. The Bib:
This is what people call a full apron, which we have worn for various purposes since the late 19th century.
This apron covers the body either to mid-thigh, or longer and has a number of pockets. It has a bib and one puts it on by slipping the adjustable bib part over one’s neck and tying the apron at the waist.
Initially it was a black and white apron, but now it comes in various colours, styles and materials. It’s still a very popular choice to this day, particularly in the hospitality industry.
Similar to one with a bib, cross-back aprons cross over your back from the shoulders, which eases strain on the neck. These straps are available in either leather or fabric and on some aprons, they are removable.
These don’t feature a bib, only the bottom part of the apron. They’re not as long as s either, and usually end above the knee. They usually have pockets to keep tools handy. Commonly used by barbers, hairdressers, florists and waiters.
This is a type of waist apron, but they’re usually a little longer. Often used by butchers and a restaurant chef, and in café’s.
Regularly used in restaurant kitchens by the chef and kitchen staff, they protect one’s clothing and also protect the worker from hot surfaces and spilling. Chef apron kitchen wear is usually black, white or have black and white stripes, and can be either a bib apron or a waist apron.
You’ll usually find a 100% canvas weave cotton apron, or ones in linen, denim or leather – see fabric details below for more info.
Classic pinafores or ‘smock aprons’ have been part of fashion as well as kids wear for ages. If it’s a kid’s apron, it could include decorate ruffles. Initially of Japanese origin, they are easy to slip over the head and offer excellent coverage.
This type of apron, which people wore from the Middle Ages onwards, covers both your front and back. We fasten it with ties at the side or around the waist . Monks and shoe cobblers often wore these garments. Today, bakers, food retailers and nurses still wear them.
8. Bungalow Apron
This apron style was very popular in the early 20th century, the quintessential apron for housewives. People actually designed it to wear on its own as ‘workwear’; it was a cross between a housecoat and a nightie.
Interestingly enough, the colour of the apron also signified different things over time. For example, bishops donned purple aprons, white aprons were the uniform for stonemasons, cobblers worked in black aprons, barbers chose checked aprons and butchers preferred blue and white stripes.
The benefits of using an apron
This depends on what work you’ll be doing when you wear it. But let’s check out some of its benefits…
- to protect your clothes from different materials
- for added protection from specific materials and chemicals when doing artwork or art projects, gardening, printing on fabric, working with food, etc
- to offer handy storage in pockets for various tools and items like pens, notebooks, tablets and phones
- to give the wearer a professional look in a business, eg for cooking baking kitchen wear and front of house staff.
Apron fabric choices
Buy the fabric depending on what you intend using the apron for. If you are doing heavy duty work, you’ll need a more hard-wearing fabric than if you’re cooking dinner in the kitchen. Decide what the function of the apron is and what protection you need when wearing it.
When choosing the fabric, take the style of apron into account. Think about your movements when you’re wearing the apron and what you need it for. If you’re running around, you want something lightweight, perhaps one with a short bib that won’t restrict your movements. If you need accessories or tools on hand, then pockets are vital.
· Cotton is the most common material used to make aprons. The fabric is lightweight, easy to clean and comfortable to wear.
· Denim is another popular choice because of its durability. However, because people use them so often, their colour would fade over time. They’re popular because they’re modern and comfortable.
· Linen is another lightweight material; it also fades after many washes, although it is reasonably hard wearing.
· Polyester, viscose and cotton and blends are also very hard wearing, and they’re also don’t wash out or fade as easily.
· Linens are lightweight and naturally soft but also fade over time.
· Leather aprons are usually made for those doing industrial tasks, who need to be protected against harmful substances.
· PVC and nylon are ideal for more hard wearing protection. These materials are also waterproof and thus resistant to spills, which makes them ideal for restaurant staff working in the kitchen. They are easy to clean – just wipe off with a damp cloth.
Caring for your apron
* You can wash most apron fabrics in the washing machine.
* Handwash linen aprons.
* For waterproof nylon and PVC, just wipe with a sponge you've soaked in warm soapy water.
* If there are any stains on the apron, remove them with a special stain remover.
* Wash dark fabrics separately to stop them running.
If you’re ordering an apron online, you’ll receive a set of measurements showing the size of the apron.
Shop ready-made aprons
At maakeHome, we offer 2 sizes – adult and child.
Size: 48 x 65 cm. Perfect for 4-8 year olds. The younger the child, the longer it will be on them.
Size: 68 x 85cm
These are available in various designs, and you can also personalise these aprons – see below
Make your own
Fabric to make your own: To make an apron you will need a piece of fabric approximately 91.44 x 152.4cm, plus another piece, 30 x 91cm for the ties, as well as a little extra if you wish to add a pocket.
Choices: personalized and ready-made
Perhaps you want a special apron to serve Christmas dinner with, or would like to give a newlywed couple his-and-hers aprons to cook in? There are several ways of personalizing an apron, for business or for personal use.
Businesses often personalize aprons for branding – eg restaurant aprons. They add logos and names by using embroidery or printing the logo and name in a specific color. You can also design a special pattern or design to print on fabric (that’s where maake comes in!).
You can also choose your favorite designs and patterns from our extensive selection of exclusive fabric designs and patterns to make up a unique apron. The choices are as endless as the possibilities…
Shop maake’s personalized apron selection
We offer various services to help you create an exclusive apron for a gift, for yourself, or for your business.
You start by choosing the fabric you want to make the apron out of (see some examples below). Then you can either design your own fabric pattern, or browse our extensive list of 15,300+ stunning designs created by independent artists. If you choose one of those designs, we pay the independent artist who created the design.
Make your own: shop maake’s apron fabrics
Optic White Cotton Drill fabric: Versatile 100% cotton fabric, ideal for homewares and accessories, including aprons.
Cotton Denim: Heavyweight 100% cotton fabric that is extremely hard wearing, ideal for accessories like aprons.
Calico Plain Cotton: Lightweight 100% cotton fabric that is perfect for aprons.
Avio Cotton Mix: 95% polyester and 5% cotton blend. Ultra-lightweight material ideal for aprons and other home accessories.