top of page

The Language of Infant Clothes, c1650-1750 Part Four- The End!

We have given the traditional and early names for many parts of this 'layette', but some descriptions never change:


The collection seems to have 3 different types of sleeve, but I am not sure about one, so let us look at the easy one's first. Sleeves could be attached to the baby shift, or could be separate as these are -

This first little pair are very full and gathered at the wrist to form a flounce with little chain stitches.

This second pair, of little cuff ruffles is most interesting because, as I have tried to show, the upper parts are vertically sectioned with regular gaps. Now we know that 'slashing' was very popular in the 17th Century, but I do not think this is the same! Rather, the gaps are perhaps for ribbons to slot through? Paintings show much use of ribbon on infant clothing at this time.

Finally, we have three of these, two being a pair plus one extra of a slightly different size. Clearly they do look like sleeves. But, unlike the linen used for most of these pieces, they are made of quite a strong, finely ribbed fabric, which does not have much flexibility. Could they be for the legs, I wonder? Each one is bound to all edges, top and bottom. Not very pretty, but interesting!

A Single Mitten!

I was listening to the BBC last night and heard Sandi Toksvig say: 'There is nothing more annoying than losing one glove; throwing the other away, then finding the lost one.'

Apart from making me laugh, who, in the colder parts of this World, has not raised a family without understanding that children's gloves and mittens never stay as a pair for very long!

So here, we have a single mitten. I have examined 18th Century baby mitts in the past and just love them, but they usually have some kind of lace or embroidered trim. This one looks as if it could be a mitten lining, or half of a double layer mitt. Whether it is or not, we can still adore the tiny thumb!

Mysteries & Matches

So, nearly everything has been shown to you now, but there are still a few things that I cannot name or understand. If you know what they are, please tell me!

Here they are:

These are two rectangles of double layer fabric which the family named as 'Baby Binders'. Many of the family labels were not accurate but I think they may have something here. First, these are NOT swaddling bands. Swaddling bands were extremely long and wrapped around the body over and over again from top to toe. But Binders does ring a bell, as I have read that babies often wore a piece that went around the tummy. Interestingly, they are the only pieces that are made from Damask, and I hope that you can see the geometric weave in the fabric.

Sadly, we can see very clearly, as with many other pieces in the set, where open ended pins were used to fasten onto the poor mite. No wonder infant mortality rates were so high.

Next, you will recognise this decoration from the Long Bib. This is a little square of the same design. The family thought it was a collar, but I really don't think so.

And finally, here are the true mysteries - they are shaped like skirt panels, but short. They have lovely stoked pleating in the centre. There are three of them, and each one is edged in lace. But what are they?

Now, we have explored all of the collection, what pieces match?

These images do not need comment,, they are just here to enjoy!

And then, if you care to compare these two photographs to the Cunnington diagram in Part Three, you will find that I have laid out the pieces in just the same way. They are all present.

In my opinion, the study of infant clothing in the 17th to 18th Century would make a superb Masters Degree endeavour.

There is so little detailed information published and if you are younger and more mobile than me, there will be a rich source of primary research in Parish records and the like, where lists of infant clothing will be recorded by families from the past.

In addition, there are 'layettes' such as this one in smaller museums and I am sure the curators would be happy to give permission to examine them in person.

Please note that this is Copyright material, but my writing here is no more than a few weeks work. You will find out so much more from primary sources.! Good luck!

Until next time, Ann of Poppies Cottage

Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page