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The Christening Gown: A Quick History

article by Sarah McGallan

Up until the seventeenth century, young babies were tightly wrapped in swaddling clothes and carried to the font in a “bearing cloth”. This was a large square piece of silk, edged with trimmings of gold lace and braid.

The Christening robe, as we know it today, evolved in the mid-eighteenth century when babies were freed of swaddling at an earlier age. In white silk, the earliest surviving examples have a front opening which was either fastened with ribbon ties or left open to show a petticoat beneath. The decorative curving lines of braid are similar to those applied to women’s gowns of the period.

Made in the same style as every day eighteenth century boys and girls, the first Christening robes wore worn by both boys and girls. Boys and girls wore “slip” dresses; these dresses had a very long flowing skirt which fell from a short bodice and a low neck and short sleeves. Other items such as bonnets and bootees could be made to go with the robe. A number of exquisite Christening sets survived from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, these included bibs, mittens, pincushion covers, head bands and handkerchiefs in embroidered linen.

Victorian babies were dressed in gowns which were beautifully decorated with Ayrshire work. Ayrshire is an exquisite form of white-on-white embroidery that originated in the Scottish Lowlands.

Pinning a piece of shortbread to the Christening robe was an old Scottish custom and was to be worn throughout the ceremony. If an unmarried girl was to eat the shortbread afterwards, she was thought to dream of her future husband that very night. It was also vital that the baby was to sleep in its Christening robe for the night of the baptism; this was to bring luck and good health into the baby’s future.

An ageless tradition

Over the years, the same fashion for Christenings has remained popular. This is partly due to the fact that Christening robes are traditionally handed down from one generation to the next, so Christening robes may be worn by dozens of babies over many years.

If your family has no tradition of an antique gown, you can begin this tradition for future generations with a gown from our range of traditionally made gowns, composed of fine natural pure silk and embellished with exquisite embroidery and tucking.

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One Response to “The Christening Gown: A Quick History”

  1. A photo a week: White | decocraftsdigicrafts Says:

    […] http://theholystory.com/the-christening-gown-a-quick-history.html […]

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