Friday, September 28, 2012

Once Apron A Time

I was in Murwillumbah yesterday, which is a treat in itself.  Ornate Victorian, Edwardian and unspoiled Art Deco shopfronts stand shoulder to shoulder with later, stranger, examples of architecture like kids in a school photo taken on mufti day. My dear husband came out of the St Vincent de Paul Society op-shop, telling me that there were no cricket bats to be found there that day (and therefore, implicitly, it was barely worthwhile going in).  Somehow he had walked right by the front window and managed to avoid being struck motionless with awe.  

The entire, massive window was garlanded with vintage aprons.  It was a sunshiny morning so please excuse the reflections, but you get the idea - winsome florals with complementary or contrasting plain pockets and ties, gingham decorated with embroidery and threadwork, unapologetically psychedelic prints and - the one which held me transfixed - a mid-century apron printed with sailboats.

Now, the sad fact with which I had to come to terms, is that the aprons weren't for sale that day - but they would be available for sale in a couple of weeks time.  To someone else :(   

So I took some photos to remember them by, and gave more thought to aprons than I ever have before, pondering the hypothesis that, like dreams, aprons may sometimes work by contraries.

When I left the beachside village where I grew up, friends sent me gifts of kitchen textiles printed with shells and lighthouses which seemed to bring subtle breaths of sea air to the humid hinterland galley where I hung them.  So I wondered about the women who had worn these aprons when they were new - did the hands which worked these butterflies in green thread have the chance to tend a flower garden and watch the butterflies drift through it, or was keeping moths away from the cabbages as close as they came?

And my soul sister, whoever you were, keeping this beauty immaculately for so many decades - did you wake confused from dreams of the water, only to find yourself interminably becalmed in an inland life?  Was this apron the antidote to years of drought and a landscape without where ripples of blue never relieved the endless dusty brown or cloying claustrophobia of green?

I hope of course that I'm quite wrong, and that their lives were as colourful, charming and fascinating as their aprons.  I also hope that whoever is fortunate enough to be in town when these are offered for sale will appreciate them just as they are, and for what they are - which is, perfectly lovely.


  1. Do you think all printed fabric is somehow aspirational, in the best possible way? "Wear me, be me." It's a chance to have a cupboard full of different outlooks, moods, personalities. Imagine a kitchen full of ladies in these aprons, it would be absolutely singing :)

    Thanks for documenting this lovely Murwillumbah event, and congratulations to the people who curated it. Hope you get a second chance at purchase!

  2. Mmmm, I like your take on it :) Perhaps a CWA hall bustling with aspirational aprons, at once the heart and backbone of the town.

  3. Delightful post! I too am pining away for those aprons. What a clever display!

  4. I was so sad to see this January that this op-shop has been completely refurbished - no more mouth-watering picture windows of vintage wonderment, I fear.


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