Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apron Strings

Apron: A piece of clothing worn on the front of the body over clothes to keep them from getting dirty.

This is Webster's definition of an apron, but growing up, my sister and I (Kara) had a different definition for the apron. Aprons were the springboard for some amazing fashion pieces that she and I created using the collection of aprons that our grandmother had. To set the stage for how we were able to attempt this next new fashion movement, I should share more about my Grandma Killian.

Grandma Killian lived in St. Joseph for most of her life and had even been a Blossomland queen when she was young. A picture of her as the Blossomland queen is painted on the carousel at Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Alice Merson (my grandmother) at the blessing of the blossoms
Another pageant picture
The Silver Beach Carousel
My grandma when she lived on the Lake

Grandma was a widow during the time I knew her, and during that time she lived in an apartment right on Lake Michigan in St. Joseph, Michigan. We would visit her every summer and spend a few weeks at a time with her, usually without our parents since we lived so far away. She loved living right on the lake and had an impressive collection of beach glass and interesting rocks. (Okay, the interesting rock collection might have been from all the rocks my sister and I brought up from the beach.) 

We loved to visit her for so many reasons. What could be more fun than spending summer days on Lake Michigan? Her apartment complex had a pool and a massive set of steps that led to the beach. My sister and I would spend our days going from the pool to the beach and back again—sometimes with cousins and parents, but most of the time we were on our own.

Shenanigans at the pools
Hanging out with cousins on the diving board
When we were tired of the beach and pool, we would hang out in the apartment and spend time in her spare bedroom where we slept.  The bottom drawer of the dresser in there held a treasure trove of aprons of all sizes, fabrics, and types.  We would create some of the most divine garments (at least in our eyes) and then force any adult present to sit through a fashion show. We spent hours with those aprons. My aunts don't remember that Grandma set out to collect aprons but believe her collection must have just accumulated over time. As the wife of the county prosecuting attorney, entertaining and cocktail parties were part of their daily lives, and during the '40s an '50s, the apron was sometimes a fashion accessory.  My grandfather, as an attorney for the local fruit farmers, was often given fruits and vegetables as payment. My grandma would then can the payment, so some of her aprons were functional as well.

Now I have started a collection of my own aprons. Most of the aprons have been purchased at antique stores or thrift stores. I've tried to vary the types I purchase when it comes to the fabric and the style.

My collection so far
I love the uniqueness of the pockets on this one.
This crocheted beauty probably wasn't very practical, but very sweet nonetheless.
A beautifully embroidered Colonial Lady
In my mind, my grandma's aprons symbolize the carefree weeks we spent with her. She loved us so much and allowed us to make some pretty big messes with those aprons. I don't know if I will have granddaughters who will spend hours playing with my aprons and making memories, but at least they will be there if I do. What do you have that is a special reminder of your grandma?

My drawer full of aprons


  1. Kara, this story is so sweet. Next time I am at Silver Beach, I will have to look for your grandmother on the carousel. I'm happy I stumbled on your blog. :)