Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In Earnest

The cover of the new Piecework magazine features an apron. Aprons are Hot. Oprah featured these aprons recently. Daily Candy features these aprons. Is it a new domesticity? A longing to return to the "simpler" June Cleaver lifestyle? (That bitch was so swallowing valium!) How far back will we go?

With any luck, we will not turn back the clocks so far as to revive the apron "style show." There is a report in Piecework on the "style shows" of Evelina Grimes. She had a collection of aprons that audience members would model while she read poetry or history. For example, she would read the poem from the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...") while someone modeled her New York apron. She had aprons for all 50 states, several foreign countries, all stages of the lifecycle, and even one for Father's Day for dear old Dad. As I understand it, this was supposed to be some sort of entertainment. While you may think that these shows flourished in, say, the nineteenth century, people--I'm guessing women--attended these shows as late as 1988.

The only thing I can really compare them to are Charles Phoenix's slide shows--a sort of live cultural anthropology show. Only he's loving the kitsch factor. Grimes was earnest. And that is even more difficult for me to understand. (Even when I was a kid and I used to go tap-dance in the old folks homes (really) I used to think, "this is entertainment?") Her collection of handmade aprons now resides at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Iowa. May they rest in peace.


Lee said...
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Lee said...

I work really hard for special occasion meals, and if it's a special occasion, I'm usually dressed nicely and don't want to mess up my clothes....but I look like a dork in those big cook's aprons. So, even though I didn't know they were "hot", I've always looked for old-style aprons at yard sales, St. Vincent DePaul, etc. You can't even find patterns to sew the older style aprons.

That being said, I like the one on the cover of Piecework. But the ones from the Oprah show are pretty nasty. The models are wearing the waist bands around their hips - hello? Why? In case food falls on your crotch?

The smock style aprons are all cut weird - my hips would look gigantic and I certainly don't need any help with that.

So it looks like I'm still headed to Goodwill and church sales.

Anna van Schurman said...

Aprons are fantastic for doing a job, no doubt about it. But I get the feeling a lot of the new apron wearing isn't about keeping your clothes clean--as you point out those models aren't wearing them in a useful way. Even wearing them ironically is fine. I had a friend whose job was, as she saw it, part hostess and she wore this glitzy vintage apron as part of her outfit--black jersey, black skirt, black motorcycle boots, and too-little sequined apron. But it was an ironic statement. It's the ones who are reclaiming the apron who worry me. You know?

jo said...

I read the Piecework article in the bookstore (nothing in that issue called out for me to buy it.)

These small aprons are hostess aprons. The hostess would take off her larger, now presumably dirtied apron and replace with one of these cute, little ones.

A friend and I did a presentation to our book group last year on 1950s cookbooks and she had a large collection of these aprons. We all wore one. Was fun!

Emily said...

I'm looking for more info on Evelina Grimes and found your post. I'm surprised at your disdain for her (although i shouldn't be considering your blog title). Do you realize she was in her 60's by the time she put on these shows? She was born in 1900. How (and why) would you expect her to be an ironic hipster dripping with detached contempt for her own creative efforts? Her shows WERE revolutionary, in their own way considering the time period. Too bad you can't see that.