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A 1900s inspired apron for Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Alice’

Some of you asked about the apron that I made for the Katherine Mansfield photoshoot, so I thought I’d share a little construction info, and some photos.

1900s Apron - A photoshoot at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum thedreamstress.com

My main inspiration was this apron (the one on the right) from the Girls Own Paper:

Girl's Own Paper, 1906, thedreamstress.com

The low tying apron, either with a waist tie, or on its own as the only tie, was a particular vogue seen from 1900-1910.  It kept the focus on the back-emphasis of the S-curve, even in a practical garment, and kept the slightly narrower flat-fronted aprons fashionable at the time (again, to highlight the S-curve) well wrapped around the skirts, so they stayed protected even without a large volume of fabric.

Beka (the model) is playing Alice, the maid in the Beauchamp (Mansfield) household.  Alice did cooking, and household chores, so her apron would need to be quite practical – not quite the frilly convection of the fashion plate.  However, there is a fantastic scene in By the Bay describing Alice’s (rather outré) outfit, and I get the feeling Alice might have liked a fashionable twist to her apron – hence the very trendy (sorry, I couldn’t think of a better word) double tied apron, rather than a more old-fashioned full-skirted apron.

Apron at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum thedreamstress.com6

I originally designed and made the apron with a round neck and straps, as shown in the fashion plate, but at the last minute decided that it hid too much of the blouse and didn’t work aesthetically, so I hacked off the top, hemmed it, and turned it into a pinner apron (sometimes called a breton bib).

1900s Apron - A photoshoot at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum thedreamstress.com

I’m pleased with the finished result, and it is accurate: there is a memento mori photograph of Mansfield’s grandmother (who lived with them) in a pinned apron, bending over Mansfield’s deceased baby sister.

1900s Apron - A photoshoot at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum thedreamstress.com

And yes, Beka as Alice got to do actual work in the apron!  I made a 1,2,3,4 Cake (the recipe dates to at least 1851) and Beka filled it with lemon curd, made a lemon glaze icing, and frosted it.

1900s Apron - A photoshoot at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum thedreamstress.com

And at the end of the day, we had our own little Garden party and ate it.  And it was delicious…

2 Comments

  1. Lynne says

    Perfect! Thank you for the background on the double tie. I hadn’t seen one quite like it.

    At some stage (1920s? 1930s?) there used to be aprons whose ties were placed about half way between the waist and the lower tie on your apron. They didn’t have a pulled in look – just joined the dress in ignoring the waist.

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