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How to Sew a 1940s Style Apron | Retro DIY Tutorial

You can find more video tutorials on our YouTube channel

Video Notes:

Are you tired of constantly ruining your clothes while cooking or cleaning around the house? Do you want to reduce your environmental impact while still looking stylish and put-together?

Look no further than this DIY project for a 1940s-style apron! Not only is this apron a chic and retro addition to your kitchen or cleaning routine, but it’s also a sustainable way to protect your clothing from spills, stains, and wear and tear. By utilizing grandma’s hack of wearing an apron instead of using disposable or single-use alternatives–such as the suggestion of using a certain plastic wrap that was recently making the rounds on social media, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint and investing in a durable and practical accessory that will last for years to come. So, let’s grab some vintage-inspired fabric, fire up your sewing machine, and create a sustainable and stylish retro apron that you can use and love for years to come! Be sure to watch until the end to see the final reveal and learn how to get the pocket pattern substitution that I created for this project.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Wearing History Apron ePattern #4007 found on Etsy
  • Fabric for the apron (1 1/8 to 1 1/2 yards depending upon size)
  • Coordinating Fabric for the bias binding or 14 yards for premade binding
  • 1″ bias tape maker (optional)
  • Thread
  • Usual sewing supplies (sewing machine, pins, measuring tape, etc.)

In this video:

In this video, I’ll show you how I sewed a beautiful 1940s-style apron, inspired by our grandmothers who were naturally sustainable before we even realized the importance of eco-friendly practices.

But before we dive into the details of this apron project, I want to tell you the motivation behind sharing this project with you. While browsing through social media, I stumbled upon a video where using plastic wrap to protect clothes was suggested as an alternative to aprons. Now, don’t get me wrong, the creator had some creative ideas, but the video and subsequent comments made me realize how many people don’t even own aprons anymore. I knew right then and there that I wanted to create a video that not only highlights the vintage charm of a 1940s-style apron but also emphasizes the sustainable aspects of wearing one.

You see, wearing an apron is not just a practical way to keep your clothes safe from spills and stains, but it’s also an eco-friendly choice. By opting for aprons instead of disposable or single-use alternatives, such as plastic wrap, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, investing in a durable and stylish apron means you won’t have to constantly replace ruined clothes, which saves both money and resources. It’s a win-win situation!

The Vintage Apron Pattern:

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this great project. The vintage pattern I chose for this tutorial is Wearing History’s 1940s apron e-pattern #4007, which can be easily purchased and downloaded on Etsy. What drew me to this specific pattern were the scalloped edges on the neck straps and bottom of the apron – I see this detail on a lot of 1940s-era clothing. Additionally, the skirt piece and front panel are cut from one piece on the bias, resulting in fewer pattern pieces.

If you’re like me and prefer full apron coverage rather than a waist apron, you’ll love this pattern. While half aprons may be cute, I need the practicality and functionality of a full apron to protect my clothes while I’m cooking or cleaning.

Vintage-Inspired Fabric Choices:

Back in the 1940s, women made aprons from flour sacks due to war shortages, repurposing the fabric to create something beautiful. In keeping with this tradition, I visited my local quilt shop because I knew they would have vintage-inspired fabric choices. I chose a green fabric with an all-over pattern of dainty flowers, evoking that “grandma” aesthetic. To add an extra touch of retro charm, I decided to make my own bias tape from purple fabric to beautifully complement the purple hues in the flowers. This not only elevated the overall look of the apron but also gives a nod to the practice of using flower sack fabric for binding. I know I’m biased, but I think the apron I made looks a million times better than store-bought aprons that seem a bit sterile in comparison to this one. I was able to choose the best fabric for my personality and make it my own.

Testing, Adjusting, & Making:

I highly recommend making a mockup of the apron using less expensive fabric. Vintage sizing and techniques can be quite different from modern patterns. Also, as a plus-sized woman, I’ve learned that it’s always beneficial to test the fit before cutting into my final fabric. In my case, I realized I needed to add a few inches to the sides, bib, shoulder straps, and ties to ensure a perfect fit for my body shape.

A downside of this pattern is that the pockets seem to be more for show rather than spacious and utilitarian. I created a handy pockets pattern with a scalloped edge to match the straps, sweetheart neckline, and bottom edge of the apron. The pockets fold over along the top edge and the scalloped flap is held in place with a coordinating button. I originally planned on using the same fabric as the binding but it turned out to be too harsh in appearance. Instead, I opted to use the same fabric as the rest of the apron, which gave it a more cohesive and pleasing look.

Applying bias tape, I must admit, can be a bit challenging. However, in my sewing journey, I discovered a handy tool called a bias tape maker that made a world of difference. This little gadget helps fold and press the bias tape beautifully, saving your fingers from steam burns. If you can’t find it in your local stores, I’ll provide the link below so you can easily purchase it on Amazon. As I mention in the video, I think this is one of those perfect beginner sewing projects if you want to increase your bias binding skill level.

Throughout the video, I guide you through each step of the sewing process, from attaching the bias tape to the pockets to sewing the long straps and back yoke to the main pattern piece. Following along with the instructions and paying attention to the marked dots indicating stitch placements, you’ll be able to create your very own 1940s-style apron that fits like a dream.


Now, as much as I would love to give you all the details here in this blog post, nothing can beat the visual guidance and step-by-step instructions provided by the full tutorial in the video. The final reveal at the end is something you won’t want to miss as I stand next to our little patch of California wildflowers that The Mister planted.

So, grab your vintage-inspired fabric, fire up your sewing machine, and join me in creating a sustainable and stylish retro apron that you’ll cherish for years to come. Remember, by choosing to wear aprons and embrace sustainable practices, we honor the traditions of our grandmothers while making a positive impact on the environment.

More about the MRW YouTube Channel

The Modern Retro Woman YouTube channel is a community for women who have a deep affection for vintage-inspired sewing. I strongly believe every woman should feel fabulous in her clothes, regardless of age. With videos focusing on pattern drafting and sewing techniques, the channel is your go-to resource to help you build a wardrobe rich in timeless elegance for every season of your life. Embrace the joy of sewing, embody the charm of vintage fashion, and always feel fabulous.

Want the Pocket Substitution Pattern?

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