The unofficial uniform of the Southern lady…
Granny had a uniform of sorts. She always wore an apron. ALWAYS. Even when old age and ill health prevented her from cooking or doing other household tasks, her daily uniform consisted of a dress made by Aunt Ruby, stockings rolled to her knees, clunky old-lady shoes, and a bib-style apron. The ones I remember were printed fabrics, and they had pockets. I thought that was the best thing ever. I still do. All garments should have pockets.
The apron has fallen into and out of favor and fashion over the years, for numerous reasons. But its function cannot be disputed. Whether it is a purely utilitarian model or a frilly ruffled number, the apron still serves the purpose of protecting the wearer’s clothing from kitchen and household spills, cleaning solvents, dirt and messes of all kinds, from sticky little-kid handprints to paint spatters when that furniture refinishing project goes a little sideways.
But there’s more. For me, an apron represents comfort. The fabric of Granny’s apron was always well-worn, soft and gentle against my cheek when she used it to wipe away a smudge, or a tear, from my face. And those pockets held all kinds of wonders…tissues, a tiny pencil, random rubber bands or pieces of string, a piece of butterscotch candy.
Decades after Granny had died, when Aunt Martha passed away, we were going through her belongings to decide what should go into the estate sale and what should be distributed among family members. Stowed in a drawer, in their original packaging, were two old-fashioned bib-style aprons, no doubt from Granny’s belongings when she died in 1973. Those treasures found a home with me. I don’t bake or cook as often as I would like, but when I dive into a messy kitchen project, I don The Uniform like Granny did before me. And I use her sifter and rolling pin, tools that passed from her, to Mama, to me. And I give thanks.