Saturday, February 15, 2014

The 18th Century Baby

 A c1740 Fine Linen Christening set

   It is extremely difficult to try and research early baby clothes~ especially undergarments~ of practically any point in history.....they were used and used and then turned to rags and thrown out. We have a plethora of period paintings that show the outer garments...but what the heck did baby wear underneath?  Above is just part of an extremely precious and rare near complete original c1740 Christening suite, or set of clothing.  Yes, it is very fine, and obviously aristocratic in nature, but the pieces are still a good example of the layers of clothing worn. A lower class baby would have worn the same, but of less fine materials, and without the lace insertions.
Clockwise from the top ~ Chemise or shirt, bonnet, forehead cloth, pair of mitts and muff.
   All made of very fine linen edged in handmade lace with insertions in all of Hollie point lace with flower and crown designs.  The chemise is front opening that would have been pined closed.   We mostly only see these garments displayed very statically, lying flat or pasted up on a wall behind glass....again, flat and lifeless. It is hard to picture how the clothing moved and draped on the child
  Which is where my little helper, Livy, comes to the rescue.  And I must say here, before all of you go emailing me, Livy is a mannequin. I would never and will never condone dressing a wiggly spritley drooling baby in such important rare apparel!
  The forehead cloth is a curious triangle of fabric with ties on each end that was worn under the cap. It held babys hair away from the face, as well as protected the cap from and hair oils. It could also be worn indoors by itself....very informally, but baby still had the head covered.  It's purpose was not to protect the 'soft spot' on baby's head, as it was also worn by adults.
  The lace cuffs have little eyelet holes on each end for a set of sleeve links to connect
   Very fine Hollie point needle lace over each shoulder matches design on all pieces

    I left this larger so you can click on to see the design~ flowers and crowns for a privileged little one
  For modestly a modern time's sake, Livy is wearing a modern diaper. An 18th c baby would be wearing a square of  linen pined on underneath the gown.  At this time in the mid 18th c there were new ideas blossoming of how and how not to dress baby~ they were becoming more relaxed with swaddling fading out of fashion. Babies were certainly dressed still in layer upon layer upon layer of clothing, but I have no doubt that at home, in the privacy of ones own, many a babe were dressed in underthings.....
  And having experience of four children of my own, most likely went about in no clothing at all

1 comment:

Keith H. Burgess said...

Excellent, thanks for posting.
Regards, Keith.