Whilst pregnancy and birth were quiet private occasions for the Victorians, the
whole family looked forward to the public occasion of the christening as an event of
celebration. The Church insisted that babies were christened in a white garment,
a symbol of purity and innocence.
Christening robes of the 18th century were made of embroidered and
trimmed silk or satin. However, by the 19th century white embroidery on
fine cotton lawns, or fine linens was the fashionable, tasteful garment of
Large families were popular in the Victorian era, and therefore a mother might make one
very beautiful gown when she had the time whilst awaiting the arrival of her
first born child. Although many women had access to a sewing machine in mid-Victorian England they
preferred to hand-sow the Christening gown. One reason was that because
the gown was small and compact, it could be easily moved around the house from room to room in a
young matron’s needlework bag. Victorian pregnant women, even if barely 18,
would as expectant mothers have been considered to be young matrons.
Once used and admired along with the new baby, the same christening robe would
then be packed away and carefully kept for the next occasion, and would probably
be used for every baby a mother bore. Well made Christening gowns were even handed down through the generations.
The robe as a result, became a family heirloom.
Mid-nineteenth century christening robes were often decorated with fine white
embroidery known as Ayrshire work. Ayrshire work consisted the embroidery
worked with extra needlework fillings and cutwork.
In the mid to late Victorian era the christening gown
skirts were lavishly ornamented with fine pin tucks and lace insertions. The
bodices of this era were also decorated with white embroidery too. Unlike
today, every baby would have worn a cap with the christening gown.
A mother may also have carried the baby to the church using a mantle or
The picture right shows an Edwardian illustration for a cashmere baby cape
which would have been very suitable for such a special church and family gathering.
Right - Baby
Very special christening robes ensured that any baby wearing one looked picture
perfect for the occasion and the event of having a family photograph taken to record
Christening robes are one of the few pieces of costume history that have seemed to survive
across a broad range of society,
probably because they launder well, are small enough to store easily and another
baby may get a one off use for it.
back in time and look toward the future with exquisite, Victorian-style
christening gifts and clothes from a distinctive fashion era.
Alternatively make your own christening robe using a Vogue sewing pattern, a
Butterick, Simplicity or McCalls dress Pattern. All make christening robe
patterns with heirloom sewing techniques.
The Edwardians were lucky enough to be able to buy ready made embroidered yokes
to which they added skirts in fabrics of their choice enabling them to make easy
dresses or gowns. such yokes could also be used as a top fresh cover up
over a dress just like a bib was used for protection. If the baby dribbled food
a fresh yoke could be used over a simple gown.
Edwardian ready made decorative yoke for a baby gown.
Fashion-Era.com looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era. Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also
contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear. These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.
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