Aprons and Hankies: Time, Ties and Trends

Aprons and hankies. What is it about these vintage textiles that makes our hearts go pitty-pat like they do?

Is it the memories of our mothers, our grandmothers? I don't know. Grandma was a fan of the housecoat, and my dear mom was more inclined to find flour on her jeans than she was on any apron. And hankies, well, Mom received one each year as a gift from a beloved family friend. These remained squirreled away in a drawer for safe-keeping for a day that would never come. They were too precious to use, she said. Too important to tuck into a sleeve, to dare touch a nose in need. They existed entombed wood and in mothballs, waiting for some curious archaeologist to break them free some day. They belonged in a museum, not in daily life.

Well, maybe it's the texture. The soft, gentle feel of a handkerchief against the cheek. The starched, crispness of a crepey apron.

Perhaps it the color. Vibrant shades that call to mind the joy of culinary exploration. Of the smart reuse in a casserole. Of the order and art of a Jell-O mold.

Or maybe it's the patterns. A garden of flowers abound, and a year of holidays is celebrated, all in this fabric of the past.

But most likely, it's all of these, and more. As the years have passed, aprons and hankies have become symbols-- not of our oppression as wives, mothers, and career women and home-makers-- but of a gentler time. Of some idealized place in our minds and hearts where there's always something baking in the kitchen, and where good manners still exist, inviting you in to have a seat and a cup of tea. In a world that may feel cold, harsh and entirely too busy, aprons and hankies are tangible representations of the little niceties that bring comfort and stability, femininity and love.

It's probably a place that never really quite existed. The standards are just too high.

I still see Mom with the flour on her jeans, a box of Puffs in the kitchen. But as I make her Crock-pot potroast this morning, to simmer all day, the scent wafting through the house the way I did the home in which I grew up three decades ago, the aprons and hankies still somehow say what needs to be said. Here's me, cooking in my pajamas, of all things. Not bothering to style my hair first. To put on heels. To tie that apron to my waist. But the hankies adorn a table top. An apron might serve as a valance.

They make me happy to see because they say the niceties are still here. With us. Ready to make home a place worth coming back to. They're just a little bit different now.

Well, that's all for today. If you missed my Wednesday feature "Good Books and New Blogs" you might want to click here to check that out. That has a fun little tag, as well as an announcement about new bloggy goodness. And maybe I'll see you THIS Wednesday as we have another "Treasure Box" feature which showcases some finds uncovered in the South Hills. (Yes, I actually wasn't snowed on and made it out to the thrifts this week!) Take care, my nice invisible friends. Thanks for being there.


Michelle said...

Love hankies too! I don't have many aprons~I like to curtain idea! Might have to use that :)


white o'morn cottage said...

What a lovely collection of hankies and aprons. I am going to start to wear my apron collection and pick up a few more...for all the reasons you outlined. Fabulous piece. Thanks...Pam

Rosemary said...

Hi Jenn,
My mom had a whole collection of hankies in a triangle shaped box. I use to go through all of them once in awhile just for fun, when I was a young girl. I will have to see if she still has them.
Hope you are having a nice Sunday!!

Lidian said...

What a brilliant idea, to use that apron as a curtain - just lovely!

My mom collected old linen for just the reasons you describe so perfectly - I am going to have a look at them this week (I have them stored away), thanks to you!

Looking forward to Wednesday...!

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Thanks, ladies! The valence is held in place with a couple of clear pushpins. It's easy, plus it adds a little something there. Especially since looking out into the backyard is pretty grim at the moment. :)

CharmaineZoe said...

Thanks for reigniting the memories, particularly of my Gran, she had a great collection of hankies she kept in a drawer and your pictures were so reminiscent of hers it just brought the memories of her flooding back. Great post :-)

Donna said...

I love hankies and aprons! In fact I always carry a hankie with me, something my mother and grandmother did. And the aprons that were passed down to me, I wear one when I cook a holiday dinner!
Your collection is beautiful!

Karen said...

I recently started collecting old linens which came from inheriting my grandmothers big collection. I love checking out others collections. Very nice!

Anonymous said...

I've always been drawn to beautiful old hankies, as well. I love the texture and I love imagining the women who used them. I just never know quite what to do with them. You have some beautiful ones here!

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Donna- I love that you still carry a hankie with you and that the apron comes out for holidays. I suspect that will be a fond memory of you for some of your guests someday.

Karen- it's wonderful you were able to inherit your grandmother's collection. And nice it was able to stay in the family, too!

Kinichi River- you're right-- that element of history and curiosity about the past owners is what makes some of these things so nice. Thank you for the visit.

Greg said...

You've made me remember my grandma this morning, who always had an array of aprons I remember her wearing for cooking (or over-cooking, depending on who you speak to)of the Sunday roast.

Lovely table linens always made the days a little sweeter. And I just love the floral work.

She was modern enough that it was a tissue or paper towel, not a hanky, discreetly stuffed into her sleeve for easy access...but I remember the aprons!

Julie said...

I have so many of those tatted and crochet hankies and pillow cases. My great great grandmother use to do this craft to pass the time while being bedridden from a stroke.