18th Century Women’s Aprons

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

The Annals of Philadelphia provides the following description of aprons:

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.

There are also notebook pages focused on specific types of aprons, including bibbed aprons, blue aprons, button-top aprons, checked aprons, pinner aprons, and pocket aprons, as well as aprons from the 14th-17th centuries.

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
  • FAMSF 55007, “Apron of fine cotton or linen with whitework embroidery and drawn work: satin, seed, and punch work embroidery in design of flowers and leaves; apron skirt gathered into narrow waist; rolled hem.”
  • 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
  • An Evenings Invitation; with a Wink from the Bagnio, 1773
  • 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
  • Meg Andrews 8613, a fine muslin apron with scalloped sides and embroideries of sprays of leaves and a vermicular band, 1790s
  • Met C.I.39.13.122, c. 1799-1821

Polychromatic & Metal-Thread Embroidered Aprons

These are grouped by common shapes and styles.

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)