Cocktail Aprons and Free Apron Patterns

I just saw cocktail aprons for the first time. I’ve attached three pictures below from the Metropolitan Museum of Art via my Pinterest account. However, I haven’t found a definition for what they are. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have anything on them! That’s rare, even though I know they’re not that rare of a thing.

Maybe they’re aprons worn at cocktail dress themed cocktail parties?

I know one thing, though. I like them! Looks more like a craft than a sewing project to make, though. There are links to a variety of free apron patterns here if you like, one of which is a cocktail apron supposedly, but it doesn’t look anything like the ones here. Probably that’s why it’s not in the MET!

Simplicity had one in 1956, apparently. 🙂

I say just buy something close, or get a dress skirt like it and custom modify.



6 thoughts on “Cocktail Aprons and Free Apron Patterns”

  1. Hi Minh. Cocktail aprons were those fancy aprons worn by the lady of the house that was having a cocktail party. They were useless little nods to the fact that she was serving, but at that party time she didn’t require any further protection of her clothing from all the hors d’oeuvre preparation she spent the rest of the day doing. Popular in the 50’s.


    1. Thanks, Kathleen! I will include this and some other info sent in my next post also about aprons. Those ones look a lot more functional! 🙂



  2. Yes, cocktail aprons came about with the rise of the middle class and the demise of maids for what were now considered ‘fancy’ parties. The hostess did not want to be seen wearing an apron, because aprons were for servants, but she needed to protect her clothing from just what Kathleen said. The solution became the cocktail apron. In some cases they were worn on a dress the same way a hat might be worn with a coat – as a feature accent. Less ambitious women wore them without all that much fuss, but even then the fashion was to make them feminine and pretty. You’ll note that a good number of them have an teeny flair outward that’s reminiscent of a peplum. Any self respecting domestic goddess had a couple in her toolkit.


  3. Oh, and btw, there would not have been such a thing as a cocktail ‘themed’ party. Hard liquor ‘cocktails’ became popular with the more affluent and stylish set in the 1920’s, and stayed popular during WWII, providing you could get hard liquor due to rationing. During the post war financial boom of the 50’s, the middle class did very well for themselves, and hosting a cocktail party became the thing to do. People smoked more, drank more, and didn’t worryn about pesky little details like drunk driving, alcoholism, sclerosis of liver or seatbelts. You ALWAYS served cocktails, at parties, at dinners and even at lunch. Since the middle class did not go in for gowns (highly impractical, far too expensive and an unwanted symbol of upper class privilege), the mid-calf cocktail dress became the norm for evening socializing. (Think the first season of ‘MadMen’ and you have it in a nutshell.) I kinda miss the days when people made more time for style. Nowadays it’s all disposable clothing, poorly made from cheap fabric, but isn’t that why many of us sew? All hail the mighty sewing machine! 🙂


  4. One MORE thing (sorry, but fashion history fascinates me!): As you rightly guessed, the aprons shown are mostly not cocktail aprons. Cocktail aprons are short, flared or full and always at least a bit fussy: If they are made of plain fabric they would be ornamented by embroidery, fabric flowers, ruffles or some such feminine detail. Wearers would aspire to match their dresses.

    As your pictures show, the style influenced everyday ‘kitchen’ aprons, too. Straight, functional aprons signified that you were poor or that you worked too hard (same thing, really). Like long, painted fingernails, a fussy, well ironed and feminine kitchen apron meant you had ‘made it’ and didn’t have to break a sweat domestically. The ideal housewife of the era channeled Glinda the Good Witch. She waved a magic wand and starched hubby’s shirts (and the sheets), raised perfect children, kept a perfect house, made perfect suppers, grew a beautiful flowers in her perfect garden, planned and executed flawless parties and still had enough steam left to shine beautifully as she greeted her tired hubby at the door at the end of the day. “How was your day, Dear. Would you like a martini before dinner?”

    To assist with her goals of safe, standardized middle class perfection, companies artfully retooled now useless wartime factories and turned out loads of ‘instant’ food and tons of tools to make her life easier. Although Glinda the goodwife still new how to turn out a perfect cake, canned and packaged food became increasingly more fashionable than homemade. (Don’t get me started on the demise of hand work!) If you’ve never seen ‘Pleasantville, I highly recommend it: Youtube: DOT com/watch?v=p_RfD-xTnV8

    The cocktail apron is a perfect symbol for a period in history that ended with rise of the far less affluent and innocent period that was the 1960’s, but despite the best efforts of the hippies, our society is only now starting to value handmade again. We regularly want our clothes to look like they were born in a factory, even though most ‘off the rack’ clothes are poorly made from cheap fabrics. I say ‘Be handmade and be PROUD!” LOL

    Wouldn’t it be fun to have a cocktail apron sewing contest? I’d volunteer to make a few contemporary (aka realistic for 2014) drink party menus for folks who participate. Wine and cheese, anyone?


    1. Thank you SO much for all of your very informative comments! They’ll be a great supplement to a rather info lacking post that I did! Much appreciated! 🙂


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