older woman wearing apron and mixing batter in the kitchen

I’ll always remember Grandma Rose wearing an apron. It would have a large pocket in front to carry her handkerchiefs and was as standard to her daily attire as her house dress was. Grandma was a skilled seamstress, so it was easy for her to sew them herself. She liked to use fabric she already had on hand, such as old sheets and couch covers. The apron kept the clothes beneath clean to avoid extra laundry, which was always a good thing.

While my mom never wore an apron, her friend Hannah did — and she always starched her aprons. She did this both to keep their shape and to help prevent stains. I don’t know if many people use starch that way anymore, but I think it’s a neat trick.

I find that an apron that repels liquids is essential to my cooking routine, especially on weekends when I prepare meals for the coming week. And because most of the stains on my clothing come from messy foods like curry, I sometimes wear an apron when I eat at home. I got this idea from Mom, who used this trick for keeping Hannah’s dress clean when she came for dinner.

A smock is another article of clothing that protects what you wear underneath it. While smocks are generally shorter than aprons, they can be more comfortable because they don’t tie around your waist. I have an old worn-out shirt that serves me well as a smock. With bright multicolored flowers on a black background, the fabric is great at hiding stains. And it’s also a great way to get more use out of a shirt that is too stained or worn out to donate.

I think it makes sense to wear an apron or smock when we’re doing messy work — or eating messy food. Such a simple solution to protect our clothing so it lasts longer!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.