June Cleaver, eat your heart out.
Once associated with '50s housewives, aprons are as much a fashion statement as they are a way of keeping food off your clothes.
"I think they've come back around where it's okay for women to love to cook and be in the kitchen. Nowadays, we don't feel like we have to be there. We want to be there," says Karyn Bardes, who sells homemade aprons at fatorangecat.etsy.com. "I love to cook, and it's not because my man expects dinner on the table. To me cooking is an art."
Besides being cute and functional, aprons are an ideal project for beginning crafters. Bardes, 30, of Davis Islands, makes reversible half-aprons with vintage-style polka dots and pleats. Her mom taught her basics of sewing, and she designs her own patterns.
"As long as you can sew a straight line, you can make an apron," says Melissa Helms, co-owner of Keep Me in Stitches sewing centers in Carrollwood and South Tampa. Helms says her stores' apron classes attract a "younger, more progressive crowd" who find the crafts to be a perfect one-size-fits-all hostess gift. Half-aprons are preferred over the bib style, says Helms, who notes that the trend has yet to catch on with men.
Fun fabrics are also helping the resurgence. With easy-to-cooridnate patterns, Granville, Ohio, designer Amy Butler (amybutlerdesign.com) is the rock star of the fabric world. Also popular is London artist Kaffe Fassett (gloriouspatchwork.com), who specializes in flowery, psychedelic prints.
Even nonsewers are getting in on the apron trend, thanks to stores like Mandalay Mist (mandalayboutique.com) on Oakfield Drive in Brandon. The boutique carries bib aprons by Jessie Steele, a vintage label that's has been featured in Vogue, Lucky and of course on Oprah. Designs include cupcakes ($32.95) and leopard print with pink trim ($32.95).
Urban Outfitters (urbanoutfitters.com) at Centro Ybor also stocks several varieties, including a T-shirt-style apron with black and white apples ($24) and a colorful mod-style full apron ($24) that could pass for a party dress. Anthropologie (anthropologie.com) at Old Hyde Park Village in South Tampa carries a handful of half-aprons including cherries ($28) and pastel patchwork floral ($38). Customers purchasing a cookbook are encouraged to add an apron to make a gift set.
"They are such an easy gift, because you don't have to know somebody's style or even their size," says Bardes, the Etsy.com seamstress. "I think it's a really sweet, meaningful gift."