How The Christening Gown Came To Be
Until the seventeenth century, young babies were carried to the font in a "bearing cloth"; a large square piece of silk, edged with trimmings of gold lace and braid and wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes.
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.
An old Scottish custom was to pin a piece of shortbread to the Christening robe and was to be worn for the duration of the ceremony. Afterwards, if an unmarried girl ate the shortbread, she was sure to dream of her future husband that very night. It was also deemed necessary that the baby sleep in its Christening robe for the first night after the baptism in order to bring good luck and good health in the future.
An ageless tradition
The same fashion has remained popular for Christenings ever since. This is partly due to the tradition of handling Christening robes down from one generation to the next, so that dozens of babies may wear the same gown 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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