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Children's Bedchamber - - A BLESSED EVENT

For most of their married lives, women were pregnant, nursing or caring for their very young children. The new mother, with a few days of rest from her usual household duties, would recieve visitors in her room, enjoying the congratulations on another happy addition to the family.


The affluent, as well as the working classes, used jackets for informal comfort. Fabric, decoration and fit were the main differentiating factors.

This nanny wears a style identified as a bed-gown (or "manteau-de-lit"). Its main characteristics are its length (relatively long for a jacket), loose fit and crossed-over front held closed by an apron or cord. The crossed-over front gives it a characteristic "V" neckline as opposed to the more popular scooped neckline. This example, in red striped wool with linen petticoat, is made from sturdy and warm working class fabrics.

Wool, a commonly availble textile, was also a smart choice for working around fire. Wool tends to smolder rather than flame and is considered "self extinguishing", a great safety factor.The jacket was created from a period pattern in Description des Arts et Metiers, Paris 1769 by M. Garsault. ST

c. Mid 18th Century

As babies grew, their next garment was a less constricting "slip dress". Both boys and girls wore dresses during their toddler years. This was quite practical since it was easier to change a diaper under a dress and perform alterations as the child grew. On the other hand, breeches and coats for boys are almost impossible to enlarge due to their complicated construction.

The back lacing dress could be either one or two piece. Quite often the ribbons that hang down the back of the dress are confused with "lead strings". These "ribbons of childhood" are a decorative symbol of childhood (found even on teenager's dress), sewn into the armhole. The lead strings are functional and are usually sewn to the upper shoulder. They were used to hold up the child when he/she was learning to walk. A way to denote boy from girl was often in the hat worn.The cap was made using a "Period Impressions" pattern.

Documentation for both "lead strings"and "ribbons of childhood" can be found in an engraving "the Industrious Mother", from about 1720, engraved after a Watteau painting. ST


#23 GIRL'S FORMAL DRESS c.1755-1770


As the old adage goes, "children should be seen and not heard". Although upper class children were often ensconced in a world of their own, separated from their parent's social situations and dressed in child specific styles, occasions did arise where the child would need a fancy dress.

Occasionally this would take the form of the "miniature adult". This example of a girl's formal dress is constructed from a less costly silk fille with self-fabric decoration in a sack back style similar to an adult's.

The pattern is based on several existing examples of adult dress. ST

#24 UPPER CLASS BED GOWN c.1760-1780

The quilted silk fabric for this bed gown definitely relegates this to an upper class garment. It would not be used for heavy work although it is cut from the same pattern as the working class bed-gown (#21). Instead, its function relates closely to its name. This is a garment used for modesty when receiving visitors in bed, as this new mother is doing.

Although by 1750 the practice had become questionable, new born babies were still put in washable linen swaddling clothes for their first few months of life. The first layer was a shirt over which the abdomen supporting "bellyband" was wrapped. The "napkin" of "diaper" weave cloth was added as well as a cap. Next came the first official layer of swaddling clothes consisting of the "bed"; a large rectangle of linen which enveloped the body to hold the arms straight, and was pinned with straight pins into place.

The next layer, often omitted by this date, was a long two inch strip of linen known as the "swaddling band" wrapped around from neck to toe. The final piece was the "stayband". This was a strip of linen which went over the head and was pinned to the shoulders to keep the head straight. A "long stay" was an extended stayband framing the front of the baby's body. This new baby, wrapped like a sausage, has a particularly fancy bib of sturdy lace.

Both infant boys and girls might have worn a comfortable "slip dress" over their chemise and diaper. This practical garment, usually made out of washable fabrics, was tied up the back and often had a skirt, which extended way past the child's feet. This design provided easy access for diaper changes.The pattern for the baby dress was based on observation of originals and period paintings.ST


By the 1780's the pet-en-l'air had been shortened to hip length. (Compare with #27) This pink damask example has a "compere" stomacher front attached to the dress and hook and eyed together. Decoration, as well as fabric has become light and fussy. Her hat is of the popular style derived from early milkmaid's hats, an example of fashion moving up the social scale. By this late date panniers are out of style (except for formal occasions) and stuffed pads produce the back and hip fullness.

Her embroidered silk mitts have the points folded back as was then considered fashionable. The pattern for this pet-en-l'air was adapted from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1 (pgs. 30, 32, 33), and the decora

tion is taken from a period fashion plate. The hat is based on period illustrations and paintings and the mitts based upon a pattern in Diderot's Encyclopedie (1751-1772). ST

#26 CHILD'S SUIT c.1760's

This suit for an upper class boy typifies the "miniature adult" concept of the early and mid 18th century. The coat and breeches are made from blue wool, lined with silk and decorated with gold buttons. A multicolored brocaded waistcoat and lace edged neck cloth complete the outfit.

A young upper class boy was not expected to play, but rather conduct himself with adult decorum and attend to his studies.

The suit was made from a pattern taken from an original garment that appears in The Cut Of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 by Norah Waugh (diagram XXI). ST


The pet-en-l'air (or short sack) was usually, but not always, constructed with a matching petticoat. The beauty and practicality of a jacket, was that it could be paired with the petticoat of a damaged or worn out gown.

It was considered upper class informal wear. Early pet-en-l'airs were long (thigh to knee length) as shown here and laced over a stomacher.

The pattern for this pet-en-l'air was adapted from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1 (pgs. 30, 32, 33). Details of cuffs, trim and stomacher were taken from a period painting. ST

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