Dressing Like an Adult: the Page I took from the Midcentury Housewife’s Book

I know our generation has been trained to recoil at anything 1950s and domestic, but hear me out. There was some serious genius there…called the apron. “The apron principle” is how I was finally able to dress like an adult at home.


For those of you who have read earlier posts in this series on dressing like an adult, Lee and I feel strongly for many reasons that feeling put together at home (or any other location full-time parenting takes us) elevates all our activities. Several years ago we first started chatting about this then vague idea that we felt better when we changed out of our sweats, but didn’t know how to accomplish it without our babies and toddlers ruining our clothes—or at least stressing the whole day that they could potentially ruin our clothes. We spent many hours brainstorming and years testing our theories to bring you this series and the apron principle is what turned things around for me personally.

Elizabeth Taylor and her mother, 1947
1952 plastics ad


Take a look at these images from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Sure, some of them are advertising, sure, they represent the ideal, but the principle is there and it felt like a light bulb over my head the day I recognized it. I was asking Lee how our grandmothers, with a much smaller wardrobe and much higher standards for dress, managed children and all that work. After I put my career on hold and stopped leaving the house for work and stopped wearing my tailored clothing (still chatting with Lee here), I really missed feeling like I looked good and wanted that feeling back. Then I suddenly put the two together: our grandmothers could wear their few, good quality clothes around the house and on weekdays (of course a dress or two were reserved for Sundays and special occasions) because they put aprons over them! Maybe I’m the slowest person on the planet, but I finally put that together. THAT is how I could look and (more importantly) feel nice every day without ruining my clothes.

I absolutely still have days I stay in my sweats. In fact, I have a favorite pair of pants that my husband calls my “fancy sweats” because they’re wool and I can still get away with wearing them out of the house. I highly recommend the Wool City Jogger Pant by Athleta! But I digress….

If you’re like me, you like this idea of dressing like an adult at home, but just can’t get past that ingrained habit of wearing your ugliest tee today because “I’m not going anywhere and I don’t care what the toddlers do to it.” Resist it, fight it. Put that favorite outfit on and simply throw an apron over it. Honestly, taking the apron off is a lot easier than changing outfits when you suddenly need to go out for milk or a friend drops by unannounced.

Also, less laundry. Less laundry!

I’m sure you already have an apron or two at home, but I decided to invest a bit in some “hip” aprons so I didn’t, ironically, look too much like my grandma. Have some fun with fitting one to your personality!

If you’re oh so feminine and glow with domestic goddess-ness, there are of course the delightful Anthropologie ones like this:

Anthro aprons here

Target and TJ Maxx have great Anthro copycats if you don’t need one made of gold (surely that’s how Anthropologie is justifying their prices):


My husband actually requested this super manly apron for Father’s Day and he wears it all the time! He thinks it gives him special meat smoking powers.


Or make one! I’m no seamstress, but I had a very plain, linen look in mind and couldn’t find one to purchase, so I found this great tutorial online. As always, I refuse to reinvent the wheel, so I’m not posting my step-by-step of how I made my apron; Brown Eyes Plus Blue did it for me so check it out! Bonus, she also designed a little girl’s pattern for your mini me.

Tutorial here.

I’m thrilled with my results and not even the arsenal of “weapons” in my house can hurt my favorite outfits. Which I wear WAY more often now.

Armed and ready for anything.

Domesticate on, friends!

Also in the Dressing Like an Adult series…

  1. Why
  2. Demystifying & Simplifying the Capsule Wardrobe
  3. Solutions to Get Ready for the Day Faster
  4. Care & Keeping Solutions
  5. Shopping Strategies + Personal Style Development
  6. Quality Matters + The Flatter Factor
  7. BONUS: The Page I took from the Midcentury Housewife’s Book



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