AskDefine | Define pinafore

Dictionary Definition

pinafore n : a sleeveless dress resembling an apron; worn over other clothing [syn: jumper, pinny]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • IPA: /ˈpɪ.nə.ˌfɔɹ/
  • Other 1: (pĭʹnu̇fôrʺ)
  • Other 2: PIH-nuh-for


  1. A sleeveless dress, often similar to an apron, generally worn over other clothes. Most often worn by young girls as an overdress.


Extensive Definition

A pinafore (colloquially pinny in British English) is a sleeveless garment worn as an apron.
Pinafores may be worn by girls as a decorative garment and by both girls and women as a protective apron. The name reflects that the pinafore was formerly pinned (pin) to the front (afore) of a dress.
A related term is pinafore dress, which is British English for what in American English is known as a jumper dress, i.e. a sleeveless dress intended to be worn over a top or blouse. A key difference between a pinafore and a jumper dress is that the pinafore is open in the back. In informal British usage however, a pinafore dress is sometimes referred to as simply a pinafore, which can lead to confusion.


Pinafores are often confused with smocks. Some languages do not differentiate between these different garments. The pinafore differs from a smock in that it does not have sleeves and there is no back to the bodice. Smocks have both sleeves and a full bodice, both front and back.
A pinafore is a full apron with two holes for the arms that is tied or buttoned in the back, usually below the neck. Pinafores have complete front shaped over shoulder while aprons usually have no or smaller bibs. A child's garment to wear at school or for play would be a pinafore.
Further confusion results from foreign languages, which, unlike English, do not have a distinctive term for the pinafore. In German, for example, there is no precise term for pinafore. Schürze means "apron" and thus "Kinderschürze" is used to describe a child's apron or pinafore.
In modern times, the term pinny has taken on the meaning of a double sided short apron, often made of mesh (almost never steel), used to differentiate teams in sporting encounters.


The pinafore was a type of apron that was pinned over the dress and easily removed for washing. Buttons were frequently damaged with lye cleaning products, which was one reason why dresses were not laundered very often. The pinafore had no buttons, was simply "pinned on the front" which led to the term "pinafore."

Pinafores in popular culture

H.M.S. Pinafore, a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, uses the word in its title as a comical name for a warship. Alice, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wore a pinafore over her blue dress in John Tenniel's illustrations.
Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's character Madicken is often portrayed as wearing a pinafore.
pinafore in Swedish: Madickenförkläde
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