Have you guessed the object? It is a pinafore! A pinafore according to Merriam-Webster is a sleeveless usually low-necked garment fastened in the back and worn as an apron or dress.
Originally pinafores had a very functional use and were worn mainly by young girls, but could also be worn by young boys. The girls would wear a pinafore over their dress for school or play as it helped keep the dress clean. If the pinafore got dirty it was easy to remove, clean, bleach and then iron; which is why many of the early pinafores were white. Boys might also wear a pinafore if they were helping with chores around the house; again this kept their clothes clean. Over the years the pinafore went from being something worn over a dress, to being the dress itself. Instead of being white, pinafores now used colorful patterns and designs much like this pinafore from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum.
When worn by women, the pinafore was worn as an apron. The use was the same as the young girls originally; to keep the dress clean. Housekeepers or cooks would wear the pinafore to keep their dresses clean as they went about their work. Well off Viking women would wear pinafores as well. To learn more about Viking clothing click here. Famous figures that have worn pinafores include Walt Disney’s animated version of Alice from Alice in Wonderland and the doll Raggedy Ann.
Here at the High Plains Museum we have two pinafores and 17 aprons in our collection. The first pinafore, seen at the
top left, is a sleeveless low-necked garment that fastened in the back circa 1950. It is cream colored and belonged to Betty Keeran. Betty was the daughter of John A. Keeran, the land man in Goodland from 1887 until roughly 1975. John Keeran was also helped manage farms and ranches for absent owners and Betty might have worn her pinafore to help out her father. She would have worn it over her dresses for chores around the house and when she played. The second pinafore we have in our collection can be seen on the right and is a white pinafore that is 27 inches long and 16 inches wide.
Pinafores were usually worn by young girls to keep their dresses clean, although not every boy escaped wearing one. Originally it covered the dress to the girl could go about her business, but as the years went by the pinafore became the dress. This is an example of an object that changed with the times and stayed relevant for a time. While pinafores are not worn much anymore, aprons still are used and one only has to look back 50 years to discover a whole new wardrobe with your apron.