I grew up with a mother who never, NEVER, bought herself anything new. She wore her clothes until they literally wore out; we used towels until they were frayed and nearly threadbare, wooden spoons until the handles were too short to grip, and pillows until their pancake-like qualities could no longer be ignored. From my wonderful, thrifty mother, I learned never to get rid of something that might still have a use somewhere. I learned that for different (but equally admirable) reasons, my friends Lis and Maryanne also like to save things that might one day be useful. Lis likes to save things (like old measuring cups and piles of her grandmother’s aprons) that she knows she can reuse or repurpose later. Maryanne loves to save fabrics of all kinds. She frequents a tiny antique store near her home to purchase anything that might be reusable later, like old buttons.
We are women who want style that we can’t always afford, and we want to make the most out of the sometimes-sentimental things we hold on to. You’ve heard the expression, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, we are mothers of necessity and invention.
It was really a pile of Grandma Lula’s aprons that inspired this article. When Lis and her husband were cleaning out his grandmother’s home not long after she had passed away, they came across this bag of aprons and fabric that was in the pile of things headed for the charity bin. Lis recognized them as a treasure, worth more than just to be used as aprons. So she rescued them (and quite a few other amazing vintage items) from the give-to-charity pile. And then a few weeks ago, Lis and Maryanne were looking at the variety of aprons, realizing that what Grandma Lula had been doing was perfecting her apron design each time she made a new one, and based on the different neck yokes and ties, we guessed that she was annoyed by things sitting right on her neck. When Lis talked to her mother in law (Grandma Lula’s daughter,) she found out that Lula had actually developed back problems and didn’t like things hanging around her neck. (Just as we had guessed from our study of her apron designs!) But another thing we guessed from the multiple designs was that Lula was looking for something more than just comfortable protection for her clothes while cooking. It seemed she wanted to create something that was unique and stylish at the time, (the 1950s.)
Looking at all of those aprons was actually quite a moving experience, thinking about the time and effort that she had put into creating just the right one: the tiny piping details and hidden pockets and the variety of necks and ties. And suddenly it dawned on Lis – the project for which she had kept all of these aprons was a chance for her to (re)create the perfect Grandma Lula apron, even using some of her vintage fabrics she found among the apron pile. And what an exciting project it was to work on!
For this Vintage and Baby Couture issue of KNACK Magazine, we’ve spent a little time learning more about what vintage means and how we can create new, stylish items from existing materials already in our homes. We’ve also enjoyed exploring just a little bit of our family histories, finding new reasons to cherish the everyday items that we’ve saved. And as mothers, we used the necessity of finding creative outlets to invent (or at least reinvent) some really great new pieces with vintage items.