Mauri Lewis is a retired social studies teacher, but you’d swear she’s been in sales all her life.
She designs a line of funky vintage-style aprons and this woman could talk you into wearing one even if you never do more than boil water in the kitchen.
She uses old patterns for inspiration, works on antique Singer machines and stitches her personality into everything she makes. She calls her aprons her “soul children.”
Lewis pulls style after style off the rack in her home workroom, referring to them in the feminine.
“This is ‘Dinner at Aunt Nettie’s,’ ” she said, showing off a black-and-white number with a bold houndstooth pattern.
“She embodies the warmth of the ’40s, coming over for dinner, that favorite aunt. Before you even get to the door, the scents coming out of the kitchen hit you. But there’s a sophistication about her, too. She can be romantic. She can be saucy. She can be sexy.”
Check out Sistahs Vintage Aprons
Visit Mauri Lewis’ table at the Schenectady Greenmarket,
email [email protected] or call 621-6472.
She slipped on a 1960s-inspired triple-tier cocktail apron in a tiger print.
“The boys really like it. I mean really like it. Add a string of beads and a pair of slides and there’s the evening,” she cackled.
There’s a whole lot of sexy in the aprons Lewis creates.
“Sexy utilitarian, I call it,” she amended. “And why not look cute while you’re going about your chores? I’ll tell you, it goes by a lot faster. You feel like you’re freakin’ Wonder Woman. Who can’t want that? And at the end of the day, your clothes are still lookin’ good.”
Four dozen at a time
Lewis comes from four generations of seamstresses. She works alone, out of her Albany home, cutting out four dozen aprons at a time. She calls her enterprise Sistahs Vintage Aprons.
She started peddling her creations at craft shows back in 2007. Now, one of her main outlets is the Schenectady Greenmarket. Local fashion shows have also helped put her avant garde aprons on the radar.
She’s working on a new website, puzzling about how to translate her lively in-person sales pitch into an equally entrancing web presence.
She said there’s nobody in the area who does what she does.
Lewis said her business is growing, despite the fact that not too many people spend their days in the kitchen June Cleaver-style anymore.
“People still want to be cute. It’s about ego. We’re marketing ego here,” she explained. “Even if you’ve got a single audience or multiples, you still want people thinking, ‘Man, that was a great dinner party and she looked good, too.’ ”
Aprons aren’t just for cooks, she pointed out. She’s also sold them to dog walkers and gardeners.
“A lot of the younger girls that are starting to catch on to the whole, ‘I’m going to protect my clothes’ thing are into doing something a little funky and these sort of answer that,” she said.
Lewis’ target market is women ages 21 to 55, but men sometimes buy her aprons, too. They typically go for something in denim, she noted.
Prices range from $25, to $75 for a high-end apron like the 1950s-inspired “I Love Lucy,” where festive fruit prints and ginghams are reined in with red trim.
A history lesson is included with each purchase at no extra charge, and so is some Lewis-style self confidence.
“You strap on one of these babies and it’s a given. There’s a boatload of confidence in that little pocket,” she promised.
Accessories, however, are extra.
“I always tell the boys when they buy aprons for their gals, ‘Get a strand of beads, baby, get a strand of beads.’ ”