The cotton prints we see in mid-20th-century quilts were common for fashionable clothing, but later generations remember them primarily as aprons or house dresses, the everyday work clothing women wore before a pair of blue jeans became the smart choice for housecleaning.
Vintage aprons on display at the Vinland Fair last week.
Check out the Vinland Fair blog by clicking here:
Vinland Fair about 1950
People sometimes call these pastel florals "Apron Prints" or "Housedress Prints"
The page for "Housewear" in the 1935 Sears catalog offered several variations of inexpensive dresses that "launder easily."
Among the frocks, smocks, coverall aprons and coat dresses are three "Hooverettes", a term that seems forgotten.
Dorothea Lange portrait of a woman in a California camp in the 1930s.
Library of Congress.
We empathize with her homelessness,
but she'd probably like to be remembered
as neatly dressed in cotton clothes fashionable at the time.
"Hoover buggies" were old cars so broken down they were pulled by horses; "Hoovervilles" were camps for the homeless and "Hoover hog" was a main dish of rabbit or armadillo.
Hooverette as a name for a dress costing 47 cents might thus reflect depression frugality. However, the Dictionary of American Region English defines "Hoover Apron" as slang for a coverall or housedress with an overlapping reversible front, a name reflecting Hoover's earlier career as an effective administrator of post-WWI-relief in Europe. The wrap-front dress could be worn until the bodice was dirty and then the overlap reversed to reveal a clean area. The name Hooverette or Hoover Apron alludes to an efficient work dress.
Women photographed in the 1930s. On the back of the photo is a note: "These are the girls (maids) I work with."
Two of the women (back row left and right) seem to be wearing Hooverettes, wrap garments that can be overlapped in the other direction to show a clean dress.
For more about fabrics and quilt style from the 1930s and 1940s see my book Making History: Quilts & Fabrics 1890-1970.
Click here to see several of the pages in a Google Preview:
Another woman in a migrant labor camp in the 1930s,
Picture from the Library of Congress