Thursday, August 13, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Christening Gown

This christening gown is my family’s most precious heirloom. It’s been in our possession for eighty-eight years, ever since my father Maurice wore it at his baptism on 9 August 1927. (I wrote about that event in Church Record Sunday: Maurice Belair’s Baptism Record.)


Belair family christening gown
Christening gown (top dress)

Dress Specifications

Provenance:

The gown and its original pieces were store-bought by my paternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair or given to her as a gift before the birth of her first child. She and my grandfather Fred lived in Ottawa, Ontario in the 1920s, so it’s reasonable to think that the gown was purchased in that city. There aren’t any labels or tags to identify the retailer or manufacturer. My father, his sisters and his brother were baptised in the gown. Later, Dad’s sister Joan used the gown for her children and some of her grandchildren. I wore it, too, and so did my sister and my brother. My sister, who used it for her children, sent me the gown in the late 1980s. After my son’s baptism in 1992, I took the gown to a professional cleaner in Vancouver, British Columbia, who cleaned it and placed it in an heirloom box. In February 2006, I lent the gown to my nephew for his son’s baptism. The gown has been stored in my home since that time.

Fabric:

The gown’s lightweight fabric appears to be fine cotton, voile, or gauze. The heavier-weight cape or cloak might be batiste, muslin, or linen.

Condition:

All the pieces are in good, but delicate condition. There is some slight yellowing at the neckline of the gown’s top dress, with a very small spot of what might be rust just below the left sleeve of the top dress.


Belair family christening gown
Christening gown (top dress), detail

Components:

I think I have all the gown’s original components. The full-length gown (what I call a top dress) features a high waist, round neckline, short sleeves, a deep scalloped hem, and a button-back closure. Next is a sleeveless slip (or liner or under-dress) with sections of insertion lace, a scalloped hem, and two small white buttons on the back. There’s also a little cap or bonnet, possibly in satin, in ivory or champagne colour. The last piece is a full-length cape or cloak in off-white with a ruffled attached collar and a self-tie at the neckline. In 1958, my Mom added a white knit baby shawl. I bought a new cap in 1992 (the original one was too fragile to wear) and a white eyelet cushion on which to carry my son.


Nicholas at his christening

Beautiful memories of a treasured heirloom.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

2 comments:

  1. Forgive me for taking so long before I finally was able to share this comment. I wanted to say who beautiful this dress is. What a treasure. But also, I wanted to say good job on taking the photos. They are so clear and crisp. I love the full gown photo and the close up with all the details. And I love the added gem of the baby in the gown! Great post and lovely job behind the camera.

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    Replies
    1. I love your comment and appreciate that you took time to write, Devon!

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