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.
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
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
#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