Women Bartenders and the Hunt for a Functional, Flattering Apron

A female bartender in an apron making drinks.
Finding the right apron as a female bartender is a challenge. (Photo: AntGor)

Nurses have their scrubs, mechanics have their toolbelts, and bartenders have their aprons. Like other professions, a bartender’s apron is way more than just a uniform, though. They make bartending easier by streamlining the drink making process and help keep you — and your tools — better organized. Finding an apron that’s high quality, utilitarian and comfortable is a challenge.

Female bartenders, in particular, lament the difficulty of finding an apron that checks off both the fit and function categories. The search is hard for good reason … There simply aren’t very many options out there.

“I think bar aprons are made with men in mind, and kitchen aprons are made with women in mind (think lace, frills, pretty fabrics), which is just dumb,” says Kate Gerwin, bartender at Bismark, North Dakota’s Humpback Sally’s tavern. “My ideal apron is durable, easy to wash, has pockets for my crap and still looks cute, or sexy, if possible. It'll be made of nice material (not denim), maybe a sexy leather or suede type, and not look like a box.”

Basically, she says she wants to be able to wear a fully functional, comfortable apron with whatever she has on underneath and look classy — not “like a man in a workshop.” Gerwin isn’t alone in her search for the perfect apron.

a woman in an apron.

Despite women making up a huge portion of the hospitality industry work force, they still tend to be ignored from a uniform perspective, explains Jenny Goodman, chief operating officer and co-founder of Tilit, a company that designs custom aprons for bartenders and chefs. Instead of re-designing with the female form in mind, she says, women typically just get a smaller version of a man’s garment.

Tilit looked at the very obvious body difference between men and women and designed what they call a “wrap apron,” which mimics a wrap dress for a more flattering, comfortable fit (pictured on the left). They also create custom aprons. We asked Goodman — a women with roots in hospitality, herself — what goes into making the perfect bar apron for women.

The bust

Unisex, or men’s, aprons don’t account for a woman’s bust. Look for an apron that is wider at the top to cover your chest, and one that doesn’t gape or bubble due to poor fit.

“I hate that ‘bowed out’ look,” says Goodman. “We put in darts at the chest and moved the straps in a touch to ensure that the bib of our wrap apron lays flat.”

The waist

Men’s and women’s torsos are different, and a unisex apron worn by a woman usually results in the uncomfortable, frustrating — but often necessary — “folding” of fabric at the waist. This hinders movements, requires constant adjustment throughout the day, and can prevent you from utilizing built-in pockets. An apron that fits perfectly won’t require you to channel your origami skills.

The length

You want to be able to walk around comfortably and move easily behind the bar, so an apron that hits between mid-thigh and just above your knees is ideal. If it hits higher than that, it won’t provide enough coverage. If it hits below the knees, it hinders your movement and means you’re reaching down awkwardly to retrieve tools.

Durability and function

An apron that achieves a perfect fit at the bust, waist and skirt will instantly flatter you better than one that doesn’t. In addition to fit, you want to make sure that your product is high quality and improves, instead of obstructs, your workflow.

Let’s talk about fabric, first. A lightweight, but durable fabric that conceals stains is the ultimate goal. Goodman recommends a high-quality cotton canvas, lightweight twill, or waxed cotton. All the above can be laundered easily and are comfortable to wear. Leather is another popular option, but if it’s too thick it can become burdensome, so beware.

“In terms of function, we always include pockets, adjustable straps and a functional color palate,” adds Goodman.

Darker colors conceal stains better, obviously, she explains, and a black, dark gray or other neutral color will likely match with whatever you’re wearing underneath. The adjustable straps will provide a better fit, and pockets are an obvious must.

Sometimes the best route is to purchase an apron that’s custom made for you, or one that creates aprons specifically for the female form. Tilit’s wrap apron is one option, of course, and another that comes recommended is a custom leather apron from Lucio Tailoring. You can also find custom aprons by reputable sellers on Etsy, including Attitude and Apron and KustomDuo.

Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter and photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. From Tel Aviv to Miami, from Prague to NYC, she enjoys sipping on well-crafted cocktails in all corners of the world.

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