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Author Topic: White Baby Dresses: What White?  (Read 6167 times)
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Ginger Lane
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« on: May 04, 2015, 10:30:04 AM »

My sister-in-law will be welcoming a little stranger in August. We've got a national event that's reasonably local in September. I'm hoping if I provide Baby Bruno [nickname for now!] with a nice set of clothing, the family will join us at least for the day. Wink

I've made several things for my niece, but she was a big chunk to start with (10.5 pounds) and her first event wasn't until she was at least 6 months.  So she never was in white. What modern material is a good choice for long gowns?  Better working class and upward.  The heirloom stuff seems overkill for everyday stuff.  Modern muslin is so coarse.  Pimatex is pretty dense.  September tends to be very warm here, even though usually not upper 90s.  Both sister-in-law and niece run warm, so it's definitely a goal to not smother Baby Bruno.

And on the not-smothering front: I'm assuming infants don't need to be wearing stockings at this age (and heat).  Are petticoats required, too? Are they as long as the gowns?  I'm thinking Baby Bruno will make his or her debut in nothing more than shirt, gown, nappy, and cap. If it's hotter than that, I suspect they'll just stay home!  And do long-gown infants also wear pinafores?

I have both the gowns and undies patterns; I'm just trying to organize my options. Wink
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Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2015, 11:25:16 AM »

  Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine   1868
   shirts --  lawn or French cambric   (most originals are linen -Period suggestions are to wash linen several times to soften before sewing)

    nightgowns --fine longcloth
    petticoats-    longcloth
    monthly gown--  cambric   muslin
    long flannels-- fine Saxony flannel
    robes(dresses)---fine cambric muslin

1858 American source-
    shirts-fine linen lawn
    dresses-  cambric,  Nansock muslin(In choosing it, prefer a light, rather than a firm, heavy texture.)
    slips- English or American longcloth (a nice , domestic muslin, thinner and lighter than ordinary shirting)

The originals I have are not as heavy as Kona cotton but are heavier than fabrics than I've seen for French hand sewing.           Hope that helps-   Stephanie

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Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2015, 11:43:04 AM »

   Continued....
  Yes all infants wear petticoats cotton and flannel, summer and winter. The density of the wool flannel is the only thing that changes for the seasons.  Infants wear knitted socks, but they are like booties with an extended ankle and ties.

   Diapers are made from diaper cloth with a separate piece of linen for the crotch. Covers/pilches are optional but are made from oilcloth, macintosh, and wool.
 
   flannel petticoats 3/4 of a yard long.
   muslin  petti- A little shorter than the dress
 
  Pinafores or Bibs-YES
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Ginger Lane
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2015, 12:25:33 PM »

Thank you for the quotes on recommended period materials, Stephanie. Do you have any suggested modern equivalents?  I know what is available now; I do not have direct experience with enough originals to connect the two.

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Ginger Lane
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2015, 12:29:04 PM »

  Continued....
  Yes all infants wear petticoats cotton and flannel, summer and winter. The density of the wool flannel is the only thing that changes for the seasons.  Infants wear knitted socks, but they are like booties with an extended ankle and ties.

So a newborn in Texas August summer (highs 100+, lows 80+, often over 90 at midnight) is going to be wearing diaper, shirt, TWO petticoats, one being wool, and a gown?  I really don't want to pull in the modern mindset, but that amount of layering truly seems miserable even for a cool-blooded adult who is adjusted to the climate.  I would be very scared of quickly overheating a baby even at night.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 12:30:43 PM by Ginger Lane » Logged

Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2015, 01:13:13 PM »

  I know it sounds horrible-  
   but here is the evidence-
   1857  Nightdress- a shirt and night gown are usually sufficient, though a petticoat may sometimes be necessary, in addition. The nightgown should be of flannel, thin, or thick, according to the climate; for it is evident that in  Maryland, there will not be the same necessity for warm covering that there is in Maine.
   1838-1839- Georgia Butler's Island the baby's layette consisted of coarse cotton and scarlet flannel
   1869--  France for the poor-- layette consisted of one set of woolen swaddling clothes  and two sets of cotton swaddling clothes
   1850-1865--- The English would not be caught dead without flannel.( my words) sources to numerous to mention
   Records of infant orphans show children to be found in layers of flannel
  
  Flannel is a consistent layer and listing in layettes poor, rich, and otherwise.  The only alternatives I've seen in regards to weather is type of flannel and shortening of clothes.  Wool flannel can actually be pretty light more like a cotton flannel with a more open weave.

   Safety should be first though and dressing down in undergarments is a period solution.

 Hopefully someone who knows modern equivalents of fabric will jump in. I usually go with feel and drape. All white Dimity is a nice light fabric and comes in cross bars , stripes,  and dots.  Petticoats vary in quality. Some are heavier muslin closer to a pima but others are thin enough to see the outline of  your hand through.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 01:42:36 PM by Stephanie Brennan » Logged
Ginger Lane
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2015, 01:37:23 PM »

  I know it sounds horrible- 
   but here is the evidence-
   1857  Nightdress- a shirt and night gown are usually sufficient, though a petticoat may sometimes be necessary, in addition. The nightgown should be of flannel, thin, or thick, according to the climate; for it is evident that in  Maryland, there will not be the same necessity for warm covering that there is in Maine.
   1838-1839- Georgia Butler's island the baby's layette consisted of coarse cotton and scarlet flannel
   1869--  France for the poor-- layette consisted of one set of woolen swaddling clothes  and two sets of cotton swaddling clothes
   1850-1865--- The English would not be caught dead without flannel.( my words)
   Records of infant orphans show children to be found in layers of flannel
 
  Flannel is a consistent layer and listing in layettes poor, rich, and otherwise.  The only alternatives I've seen in regards to weather is type of flannel and shortening of clothes.  Wool flannel can actually be pretty light more like a cotton flannel with a more open weave.

   Safety should be first though and dressing down in undergarments is a period solution.

No, it does not sound horrible. I'm not questioning that flannel garments were usually part of a baby's wardrobe.  What I am seriously questioning is whether all of those garments were actually worn, simultaneously, year 'round, and regardless of climate. There is no comparison between an English summer and a Texas summer.  It may be a moot point because I know my sister-in-law won't even consider wool anything for Baby Bruno until it's truly cold (which definitely also happens here). I tend to be skeptical of "always" statements anyway Smiley and in a non-average climate, the average answer isn't necessarily the best one.

And bumping for my original questions:

* Were infant petticoats long like the dresses?
* What are modern equivalents to longcloth and cambric, as compared to original garments?
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MCBurbage
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2015, 02:35:46 PM »

I think the closest we find to cambric now is lightly starched lawn or batiste, and the only antique baby dresses I've handled (which were not dated by the museum I saw them at) felt about the weight of lawn and were embroidered in white.  Those were in Virginia, which of course has nothing like the heat of Texas. 

I wish I had some very southern documentation for what an infant should wear.  Does anyone know of any periodicals or books written/published in Atlanta, New Orleans, etc. that has these sort of recommendations?
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Mary Burbage
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2015, 04:18:17 PM »

Fine long cloth: the lighter pimatex cloths, not as heavy as pimatex broadcloth. White shirting can work really well for petticoats and for dresses.

Lawn, dimity, shirting for everyday dresses in white.

Petticoats are as long as the dress, generally (well, just a titch shorter!)

Bibs/pinafores are useful.

Flannel can be extremely fine; I know what you mean about it not being something you're going to use with this particular baby. Cheesy

Here's what I'd do: little combo underwaist/petticoat as one, so the baby can be stripped down if needed; little dress; a couple of bibs. Bare toes under the dress. If they'll be out in early morning/evening and it's going to get chilly, little stockings and a cap, and a fine wool shawl to use as a wrap.

However: you're not limited to white gowns, even for a tiny baby. The smallest print baby gown, in long skirts, that I've seen was sized with a 13" waist, which is quite little newborn... about 5-6 pounds, weight-wise. It was a double-pink print, long enough to cover a newborn's feet by a good foot.

So, my opinion: white gowns are very practical for bitty tiny ones, because they can be laundered to get rid of milk and drool. But, there's enough evidence for print dresses that you could easily choose that route, too--perhaps nice fine pima batiste for unders, and a fine shirting print for a dress, for instance. Very light layers.
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Elizabeth
Ginger Lane
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2015, 06:08:07 PM »

Mary, thanks so much for that comparison. I can definitely visualize lightly starched lawn/batiste. Smiley

Elizabeth, thank you! I saw that Farmhouse has something intriguing called "Pimalene"; how you worked with it? It sounds like a lighter pimatex.  Shirting is brilliant, too.  I just made a dress out of one of the FFC ones and it was a delight to work with.

I love fine wools myself, so it would be fun for late fall events; but first up is hot weather.

Thanks for the advice! Definitely it does not get chilly until October at the earliest, barring an unusual real cold front. It's typically 95 degrees at 10 PM. The coolest part of the day is sunrise, and that's maybe 78, and humid.  One summer I tried going for a run around the neighborhood at that hour, because it was "cool" - silly me! :p

Does the underwaist petticoat combine stays and petticoat, or shirt and petticoat?  Definitely the fewer layers the cooler. Smiley

I like the idea of small prints, too.  Since I'm going to have to buy for Baby Bruno anyway, it's nice to have the option.
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Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2015, 07:33:05 PM »

1854 American
  dress waist- 6 inches long; 7 inches if the belt is included. skirt one yard in length , this allows for a hem of two -three inches.
Opinions vary to proper length a graceful one 1 1/4 yd in length; embroidered 1 1/2 yd length  Some feel this injurious to a child's feet and limbs and do not allow more than 3/4 of a yard
    Godey's 1854 The daughter made her baby's dresses 1 1/2 yds long. I thought my mother's old fashioned rule 3/4, looked skimping.

Another option you may want to consider is a morning gown or bed gown worn till approx. 6 weeks A loose fitting gown with 3 inch sleeves and a draw string neck with some gathering at the front waist and a sash on either side. It leaves a lot of room for adjustability and you can untie the waist to let air flow.  
 example  flip through extra pics-
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Excellent-Embroidered-ANTIQUE-Baby-Christening-Dress-English-Farmhouse-/271859077734?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f4c105266

I like this one for the corded shirring at the waist
http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-CHRISTENING-BABY-DRESS-ITEMNO-6-/111659042318?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item19ff65c60e
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 03:16:01 AM by Stephanie Brennan » Logged
Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2015, 01:18:41 PM »

Needle and Thread carries Pima cotton batiste and Pima cotton lawn.
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Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
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Ginger Lane
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« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2015, 01:19:47 PM »

Phone ordering just isn't going to work for me, but thank you!
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Heidi Hollister
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« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2015, 03:28:28 AM »

This is a somewhat older thread, but I wanted to throw my two cents in. 

As infants, my twins wore lawn shirts, pimatex underpetticoats, and a cotton lawn dresses.  Oh, and sometimes a bonnet made of lawn as well to protect the poor bald heads from sunburn.  If I needed any clothing protection, I had bibs made up from an original godey's pattern for each of them.  I don't know that it compares to Texas summers, but I can testify that they did fine in 90+ degree heat. They did not wear socks.  They did wear modern diapers after the first event or two.

Fabric.com got me the cotton lawn I used for them.  I believe they also carry pimatex, or they did a while ago anyhow.
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