18th Century Women’s Aprons

We have the following description of aprons from The Annals of Philadelphia:

The time was, when the plainest women among the Friends (now so averse to fancy colours) wore their coloured silk aprons, say, of green, blue, &c. This was at a time when the gay wore white aprons. In time, white aprons were disused by the gentry, and then the Friends left off their coloured ones and used the white!

… Very decent women went abroad and to churches with check aprons. I have seen those, who kept their coach in my time to bear them to church, who told me they went on foot with a check apron to the Arch Street Presbyterian meeting in their youth.

Whitework Embroidered Aprons

  • MFA 59.1056, white muslin embroidered with white cotton; New England
  • MFA 46.73, white muslin apron, England (probably Shropshire)
  • Maria Niforos LA-246, an apron with matching shawl, Dresden
  • MFA 43.306, cotton with silk embroidery, made in England in the first half of the 18th century
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-525, semi-sheer cotton embroidered in linen with several designs in darning, chain, drawnwork fillings, c. 1700
  • Met 36.48 (“ANNE/BVLLOCK/HVR/APRON/1715”), Britain
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-524, linen with whitework in cotton, marked “Iane Riggs” and “IR 1719”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-526, linen embroidered with linen, with bib, c. 1720
  • MFA 58.946, white muslin with white linen embroidery and narrow bobbin lace; New England, early 18th century
  • Dresden work apron, England, 1728
  • Apron in cotton with whitework embroidery and bobbin lace edging, England/Flanders, c. 1720-1740
  • Dudmaston National Trust 814614.12, c. 1740-1760
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1952-68, “1740-1775; England or Europe; Cotton embroidered with linen, later waistband”
  • Meg Andrews 7172, c. 1750; “fine muslin with drawstring cords at waist, the lower section with small embroidered leaf sprigs, the hem 4 in or 10 cm deep with a band of drawnwork, a row of slanting ovals with foliage, each with drawnwork, a further row of sprigs flanked by interlocking ovals, the hem with five different infills within undulating or rocky scallops”
  • V&A T.44-1949, (bobbin?) lace worked in linen thread, Brussels, mid-18th century
  • Met 2009.300.1360, Britain, c. 1760-1770
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1953-857, sheer cotton with white needlework in floral spray repeat, England, c. 1760-1780
  • Meg Andrews 8366, embroidered long apron, 1770-1790; “the fine muslin tambour embroidered throughout with rows of white cotton single and double flower sprigs, each 5 cm high, with twelve different designs, the lower corners with stylsied flowerhead surrounded by tendrils and leaves emerging from a drawnthreadwork rocky mound, the borders with gently scalloping with curving flower stems and cartouche infills, gathered onto a silk ribbon.”
  • Dorothy Quincy (Mrs. John Hancock) by John Singleton Copley, c. 1772
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-523, linen embroidery on cotton ground, with ruffle, c. 1780
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-522, semi-sheer cotton corded with linen in the weave and embroidered with cotton, c. 1780
  • PVMA 2000.01.864, an embroidered linen apron, c. 1780-1800
  • Killerton National Trust 1366460, c. 1780-1820; “Apron made from a single rectangular piece of fine cotton muslin, folded at top edge to create a casing. Threaded with narrow cotton tape. Decorated with tambour embroidery in white cotton thread, with a light, trailing design of flowers and leaves (possibly representing honeysuckle or ivy). Hem-line decorated with a tamboured scallop or dot design, with two lines of embroidery above. Marked 'A.F' in cross-stitch in brown thread. Possibly re-made from a gown of the period, but more likely that this piece has always been an apron since selvedge used as one side, no stitch holes apparent.”
  • Met C.I.43.13.16
  • Meg Andrews F313, a fine muslin apron scattered with tamour embroidered leaves, 1790s
  • Met C.I.39.13.122, c. 1799-1821

Polychromatic & Metal-Thread Embroidered Aprons

These are grouped by common shapes and styles.

  • Met C.I.64.34, Britain, first quarter of the 18th century
  • Maria Niforos EI-11, early 18th century
  • Maria Niforos EI-12, early 18th century
  • Dyrham National Trust 454600.1, 454600.2, 454600.3, 454600.4 and 454600.5, c. 1700-1730
  • Met 2009.300.1349, Britain, second quarter of the 18th century
  • Kerry Taylor 269, “An embroidered apron panel, English, circa 1730, the ivory silk ground worked with deep band of exotic blooms and leaves in bright silks, embellished with diapered gold threads, 560 by 98cm”
  • Kerry Taylor 270, “An embroidered ivory silk apron panel, English, circa 1730, finely embroidered with exuberant exotic flowerheads, diapered gold leaves and coiling stems, emanating from gilt embroidered baskets to the lower corners, 50 by 102cm”
  • MFA 41.538, silk figured weave with silk and silver metal embroidery; probably France
  • MFA 38.1189, silk and metal yarns on silk; England, early 18th century
  • Embroidered apron, United Kingdom, first half of the 18th century
  • Chastleton House National Trust 1430610, 1730; “An embroidered cream silk taffeta apron worked with three qualities of gold thread on yellow silk cores and in green, purple, mauve and pale pink silk in a 'rococo' design of flowers including carnationa.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-440, silk with reversable silk needlework, England, c. 1730-1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1989-442, ribbed silk embroidered with silk, primarily in satin stitches with some straight stitches, herringbone stitches, and stem stitches, paper backing/lining, England, c. 1730-1750
  • Manchester 1983.444, England, c. 1730-1750
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-505, white ribbed silk with silk and couched cord embroidery, England, c. 1730-1750
  • Met 64.101.1362, Britain, first quarter of the 18th century
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1985-120, cream silk taffeta embroidered with silk & metallic threads, England, c. 1730-1750
  • LACMA M.2007.211.131, sheer cotton with silk and metallic-thread embroidery, England, c. 1750-1785
  • Met 36.128.1, Britain, early 18th century
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-503, cream ribbed silk embroidered with silk satin stitches in a cornucopia design worked over paper, England, c. 1720-1740
  • CHS 1859.9.0, c. 1730-1740
  • Met C.I.60.26.4, Britain, early 18th century
  • MFA 34.214, silk with silk and metal thread embroidery; England, early 18th century
  • MFA 38.1187, polychrome silk and gilt-silver yarns and spangles on white silk ground; England, first half of the 18th century
  • MFA 38.1191, silk embroidered with metallic threads; England, first half of the 18th century
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-504, ribbed silk embroidered with silk, silver and silver gilt metallic threads, England, c. 1725-1750
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1971-1539, ivory silk taffeta with metallic needlework, England, c. 1730-1740
  • LACMA M.80.190.7, silk with silk embroidery, England, c. 1730-1740
  • LACMA M.59.24.7, silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk taffeta, England, c. 1730-1740
  • Manc 1961.128, cream corded silk embroidered with silks of various shades of mauve and green in satin stitch and with silver threads in raised and couched stitches, Britain, c. 1730-1750
  • Met 1971.95, Britain, c. 1740
  • MFA 43.1042, embroidered silk; France
  • MFA 43.1041, silk satin ground with silk cord lattice, linen bobbin lace, silk ribbon and silk fringe trim; France
  • MRAH, an apron with matching sleeves
  • MFA 52.1338, yellow taffeta with silk embroidery; England
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1967-671, bright yellow silk taffeta with silk and metallic embroidery worked in stem, satin, chain, long-short stitches, and French knots, England, c. 1700-1750
  • Met C.I.64.26.1, America, c. 1728
  • LACMA M.79.96, yellow silk taffeta with silk embroidery and silk fringe trim, England, c. 1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1971-1540, gold silk taffeta embroidered with polychrome silks and couched silver bullion in a pattern of floral meanders, England, c. 1730-1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1971-1541, embroidered green silk taffeta, England, c. 1710-1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-502, brown ribbed silk embroidered with silk floral design, England, c. 1720-1740
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-501, brown ribbed silk embroidered with polychrome silks in a design consisting of strawberries and flowers growing from grassy hills, England, c. 1720-1740
  • Manchester 1929.347, cream silk, embroidered in coloured silks and gold thread in satin, long and short, couching, laid work, fishbone and open fillings, Britain, c. 1770-1800
  • Maria Niforos EI-13, late 18th century
  • Met 44.28.9, cotton with metal thread embroidery, France, late 18th century
  • MFA 38.1190, silk with satin-stitch embroidery and fringe; Italy (?)

Embroidery Designs for Aprons

Lace Aprons

Plain Aprons

Descriptions of Aprons in Runaway Advertisements

The following excerpts from runaway advertisements in 18th century newspapers describe aprons worn and/or stolen by women. (Men also occasionally are listed as having aprons, but these tend to be more occupationally related -- leather aprons for blacksmiths, etc.)

Click on the link to view the complete advertisement.

  • “new Check Apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, August 11, 1757)
  • “white Linen Apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 20, 1758)
  • “three good speckled Aprons, one white Ditto” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 23, 1761)
  • “a check Apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 23, 1762)
  • “a white Apron” (Pretends to be Free, New York Gazette, March 5, 1763)
  • “one white Apron, two Check Ditto” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 7, 1763)
  • “an old flowered Apron, and a Check one” (Pretends to be Free, New York Gazette, February 9, 1764)
  • “check'd linnen Apron” (Runaway Connecticut, Connecticut Gazette, March 30, 1764)
  • “Linen Apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 19, 1764)
  • “2 check aprons” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, November 13, 1766)
  • “three check'd Aprons” (Runaway Connecticut, Connecticut Gazette, June 10, 1768)
  • “a check apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, July 21, 1768)
  • “a check apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, September 15, 1768)
  • “white linen apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, November 3, 1768)
  • “white apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, January 12, 1769)
  • “two check aprons … One of the aprons home made, the other bought; the home made apron remarkable, having a breadth and near a half in width, and the half breadth pieced with about a quarter at top, to make it long enough” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, December 14, 1769)
  • “white linen apron” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, January 3, 1771)
  • “Carried off with her sundry aprons, some blue and white small check linen, and some white” (Runaway Connecticut, Connecticut Courant, July 2, 1771)
  • “a good small check apron, of a bad colour” (Fashion of the Forgotten, October 1771)
  • “a good small check apron, of a bad colour” (Runaway Servant Ads, Pennsylvania Gazette, April 2, 1772)
  • “a check apron” (Pretends to be Free, New York Gazette , January 4, 1773)
  • “a striped tow apron” (Runaway Connecticut, Connecticut Courant, May 12, 1778)
  • “a striped lawn apron” (Documents Relating …, July 11, 1781)
  • “a checked apron” (Virginia Runaways, Virginia Gazette or Weekly Advertiser, June 8, 1782)
  • “an oznaburgh apron” (Virginia Runaways, Alexandria Advertiser and Commercial Intelligencer, February 26, 1802)