Rare late Regency silk, puff sleeve baby gown c1820's
Whilst the whole of Regency England was raving over the inflow of fine cottons from across the World, the mama of this infant wanted to dress her baby with a faithful copy of her own fine ballgown!
I have examined a few 18th Century silk infant gowns, I have never before come upon one for a baby in the Regency period. I think this beauty is really quite rare.
Made from true Regency paper silk, with a wonderful glow and drape, it is amazing that this gown has lived through the centuries so cleanly, and in largely good condition.
It has so much to admire, and is quite unlike the robed dresses we consider as christening gowns. If fact, the style of the gown is what makes it so special, and it is completely without fussy decoration.
So, we see the very high waist with a little waistband, [probably to be covered by a sash] the v-shaped seams to the front bodice, the beautifully pleated skirt, leading to tightly stroked gathers to centre back & the square neck leading to wonderfully puffed sleeves. In fact, the sleeves are of a typical design illustrated and described in Heather Toomer's 'Baby Wore White'. [See The Study for full reference]. If you have the book, take a look at page 102. The cotton gown in the book, dating to 1825-35, has robings. But look at the little triangular shape on the shoulder. This is a particular feature of early 19th Century infant gowns and it is exactly the same as this silk gown. Such a lovely find! I have never examined these triangular shaped shoulders before. On my dress, the point of the triangle seperates the puffs of the sleeves to give an appearance of double puffs, which stand out proudly due to the heavy gathering at the triangle edges and into the little cuffs.
This dress also has the original tiny brass hook to fasten, along with the original silk ties.
The piping is tiny and the only decoration. So beautifully sewn.
The fact that it is also lined throughout in fine cotton is also unusual, but helps to make the piece feel very secure and stable. Being paper silk, of course, makes it an heirloom for careful handling.
Do see the condition report below.
Please note that the gown is far too tiny for my baby mannequin, which is why most of the photographs are horizontal!
The gown is amazingly clean and fresh, both inside and out. The silk really glows.
There are two area's of damage. The first is to one side of the skirt, where the silk has 'melted' for about 1" square.
The second is more of a shame, because it is to one of the shoulder triangles, where again, the silk is largely lost.
Both of these weaknesses can be stabalized if you gently sew the silk to the lining with a fine thread. It should prevent the damage becoming any worse.
No other issues at all!
Measurements - High waist width 17". Back neck to waistband depth 3.5". Entire centre back length 39". All measurements are approximate.