What are Some Different Styles of Aprons?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The word apron, a corruption of the older word napron, refers to a garment that comes in numerous styles and may serve as a part of a uniform, a way to keep clothes clean, and something of a fashion statement. Aprons tend to be separated into a few groups or styles. These include the waist apron, bib apron, and cobbler apron.

A bib apron is worn to protect clothing.
A bib apron is worn to protect clothing.

Waist aprons are the simplest of aprons, but can be worn in a number of contexts. These might be worn by a chef or a home cook, and are often made of canvas that ties at the waist. It can protect the pants or skirt from any spills of food. You can find these in simple or complex designs and in a variety of fabrics.

Lead aprons are worn to protect people from radiation during x-rays.
Lead aprons are worn to protect people from radiation during x-rays.

Metal and stone workers, and blacksmiths might wear specialized leather waist aprons. If you have an X-ray, you’ll likely wear a lead waist apron to protect you from radiation exposure to your reproductive organs. You can also use a towel, or any piece of cloth at hand to make waist aprons, but just be sure that you don’t use anything too long or flowing if you’re working near a stove or fire.

Bib aprons provide additional protection to clothing since they cover the upper body, at least in the front. These frequently have straps over the shoulders and will cover the chest, the stomach and the waist. Simple attachments for bib aprons may merely be a tie in the back. You might see bib aprons worn by people working in a variety of fields. For instance waiters and waitresses often wear canvas bib aprons.

Especially prior to the advent of the washing machine, women who were cooking or cleaning donned bib aprons to keep clothes from getting soiled. They remain popular so that housework or cooking doesn’t necessitate a change of clothing. Today bib aprons are worn by men and women alike and may feature whimsical designs.

The bib apron might not have ties, and instead fit over the head offering significantly more clothing coverage. This style was frequently called the full-length apron, and you can see styles of this type, and even find old patterns for full-length aprons dating back to the early 20th century. Nurses or women who cleaned houses often wore full-length bib aprons to protect a greater amount of clothing while doing messy work.

A cobbler apron is usually a bib apron that covers front and back of clothing. You can find these in a number of styles, colors and lengths. Instead of attaching in the back, cobbler aprons are normally tied on each side of the garment. Most commonly, people working in retail establishments today may wear cobbler aprons, and they are frequently short, only covering clothing to mid-thigh. Cobbler aprons in the past might have been full-length.

Other apron styles include the pinafore, sometimes a garment worn more for dress purposes than for utility. The name derives from this apron, often with frilly sleeves being pinned onto the dress. Again the pinafore could serve the purpose of protecting clothing, and might either be buttoned, pinned or tied in the back. You often see pictures of the women and especially little girls wearing pinafores in 19th and early 20th centuries. Unlike other aprons, pinafores were almost exclusively worn by women.

An alternative to aprons is the housecoat, which became popular in the 1940s and 50s. The housecoat was a garment with short sleeves that could be worn as a robe, and conveniently attached in front. Housecoats normally are knee or calf length and cover both upper and lower clothing. You can still find housecoats in some stores, but they are now considered unfashionable and you may have to do some looking or Internet ordering to find different styles.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I got tired of ruining my shirts. Found this neat item at a craft fair. Ibought four for my family. Called apringz --funny name. But man, they work. Friends keep borrowing. I need more.


Aprons went through different styles just as the rest of the fashion did. It seems that each decade had its own style of apron.

From frilly and lacy to practical and sturdy, but aprons do serve a good purpose regardless of style.


Any idea where can I purchase a sleeveless wrap housecoat?

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