Easton woman finds joys, tears in aprons

EASTON, Minn. — This one triggered the collection, Yvonne Cory says, holding up a flowing white half apron.

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Yvonne Cory models an 1800s apron that triggered her apron collection. The collection now numbers more than 800 and still is growing. Some of the aprons in her collection hang beside her.

EASTON, Minn. — This one triggered the collection, Yvonne Cory says, holding up a flowing white half apron.

She found the apron at an estate sale in southern Minnesota in the mid 2000s.

"I didn't know what I had," she said.

It was almost yellow and had carefully mended tears. The apron dates to the late 1800s and is the oldest in her collection that now numbers more than 800 and still is growing.

Cory not only collects aprons, she's an apron curator. She studies aprons, learning all she can and sharing that information in programs given at schools, historical societies and to other groups. She decorates her home with aprons, wears aprons and always compliments people who she sees wearing them. She sews her own in shabby chic style, recycling other garments into aprons.


Aprons tell so many stories, Cory explains. They were worn to protect clothing from getting dirty in an era when most people didn't have many changes of clothes. An apron easily could be washed and hung to dry overnight, ready for the next day of work.

Tradesmen traditionally wore dark-colored aprons to protect themselves and their clothing while doing dirty or dangerous work. Cory has a heavy plastic apron she wore when she worked the sweet corn harvest at Storkley's of Winnebago, which was a dirty job.

Women have worn aprons of many colors, with the fabric changing through the ages. During Civil War time, wool was a popular fabric. After World War II, man-made fibers became popular.

With the advent of easy-to-wash T-shirts, aprons faded from fashion in the 1960s and '70s. They weren't seen for decades, but as of late have reappeared in boutiques and at craft shows.

She points to an apron she recently made from old blue jeans. That's her style, repurposing fabric.

She holds up a black waitress apron with two deep pockets. The acetate rayon apron was worn in the early 1950s.

She plucks another from her assortment and asks what's familiar about the apron. It's the colors.

It's a John Deere apron that was worn by the wife of an implement dealer employee at a customer appreciation meal. The dealership was in southern Minnesota, Cory said, and it was common practice to give aprons to the wives of employees when they helped serve the meal.


"That's a very rare apron to find," she said. "This is one of my joys in my collection."

So it goes, as Cory pulls apron after apron from a rack. Each is unique, but taken together, the aprons weave a story of lives through the years.

They show the skill of a seamstress and the fabric of the time. They are full or half, intricate and simple.

She encourages people to write memories of the loved one who wore a particular apron and pin it in a pocket of the apron so it stays with it, generation to generation.

"There's always a story," Cory said.

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