Aprons and safeguards were two garments women used to protect their elaborate gowns. An apron was a panel of fabric worn at the front of a skirt, while a safeguard was a full outer skirt meant to protect the wearer from the weather. The garments were endlessly flexible in their form and their quality, allowing them to be worn by all classes of women.
For the poorest women, who might only have one nice skirt, an apron was worn to protect the skirts while working. A crude apron might be made of plain wool or cotton. Wealthy women wore aprons more for decoration than for protection. Their aprons could be made of luxurious fabrics like silk or velvet, and their patterns were chosen to complement the skirt. Fancy aprons were trimmed out in decorative lace and might be embroidered with intricate patterns. Aprons attached at the waist with a tie.
Safeguards were generally worn by wealthy women seeking to protect their expensive gowns. While these outer skirts were worn for protection, a stylish woman would have her safeguard made to match her outfit.