apron strings, tied to

To be tied to apron strings is to be controlled by or unduly attached to one’s wife or mother. The phrase dates to 1848, first appearing in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:

Even at his age, he ought not to be always tied to his mother’s apron string.

The metaphor is fairly obvious and the term apron string has been in use in reference to women since the mid-17th century. An apron string hold or apron string tenure referred to property of one’s wife, which was controlled by the husband during her life but which afterwards would revert to her original family.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)

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