February 7, 2023

The Pinafore Dress


There is a playful and child like charm that is associated with the pinafore dress. In the Victorian times the pinafore was used as a form of protection worn over dresses that were worthy to sweet little girls with ringlets in their hair. Maybe this is why John Tenniel originally sketched Alice wearing one as she tumbled head first down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, as a way to protect herself from the magical creatures within.

While the imagery of Alice in the pinafore is a blend of curiosity and innocence, if you picture it upon a Parisian female, over a black dress, with fishnets and a feather duster all innocence is lost and the pinafore is transformed into something seductive. To see this illustrated just look at Marya Timonina dressed deliciously in Agent Provocateur, photographed by Danil Golovkin.

When it comes to dressing up there’s an attraction to the pinafore. There is a tension between the primness and the provocative nature that lies within the pinafore dress that links to a fetish desire that teases the mind. With this it suggests dominance and submission.

Whether it’s for a maid in waiting or school children, the pinafore has always been used as an element of uniform. Uniform has an allure in fashion: traditional, practical and classic, and when it includes the pinafore it immediately becomes feminine. As you tie the pinafore at the back of the dress, the waist is accentuated and the female figure revealed.

In the late 1930s we saw Dorothy wearing a sugary sweet gingham pinafore as she skipped along the yellow brick road. The pinafore was candy cane coloured in the 1940s when worn by the young candy stripers in hospitals. Mary Quant was responsible for turning the pinafore from practical to fashionable in the swinging 60’s with her little grey number.

Meadham Kirchhoff featured pinafore dresses at their Spring/Summer 12 show. Amongst their balloons and ballerinas stood out a ruby red pinafore with an appliquéd teddy bear on the front, very kitsch and cute indeed. The chameleon that is the pinafore dress has returned to the front row of fashion. With open arms we welcome it back as the charmingly prim dress has the ability to be as desirable as it is practical.

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