Adam & Eve wore something similar to today's aprons when they wore fig leaves. Aprons date back to the 10th century according to the Butcher's Guild. Blacksmiths wore them by the 13th century.
By the 17th century, housemaids who typically only owned one dress, found them necessary to keep that dress clean. They were easier to make than an entire dress, and simpler to wash, as well as serving as pot holders for not only holding a pan but also for handling hot fire tools. In the 18th century the Freemasons adopted the apron as it represented the clothing of the stone masons.
Pioneers used aprons as a "tool" of sorts, as we saw Caroline on "Little House on the Prairie" always wearing an apron and used it to carry things in, as well as all the Ingalls girls in either aprons or pinafores. The blacksmith of course wore one too. They weren't just for women.
Aprons were made from fabric scraps and were basically still utilitarian.
1940's Remnant Apron @the Vintage Merchant
By the 50s and 60s, aprons became part of daily dress for TV moms. From Lucy to Donna Reed, Mary Tyler Moore in her Chiffon Cocktail Aprons and June Cleaver in her apron and pearls, the TV moms made them popular and fashionable for all homemakers.