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Stories of Cloth


Linda: An English Birth


An English Birth

In my family we have a treasured heirloom, which we keep carefully wrapped up and protected. It’s a christening gown, made by my English great-grandmother in the mid 19th century. It is made of white fine cotton lawn, typically Victorian in style, with broderie Anglaise, pin-tucks and tiny hand-stitched buttons and button holes.

This little gown has been worn by six generations of my family, boys and girls alike, including my children, my grandchild and myself. You can see the word ‘Peacock’ delicately written at the bottom. This is my great grandmother’s maiden name, and on close inspection you can see small repairs where previous generations have carefully mended little tears.

I have been brought up in Britain and my family has followed the Christian tradition of Christening or baptizing infants to welcome them into the church. When the baby is about three months old, the family attends a ceremony in their church. The baby is taken to the font (a special water container), and water is sprinkled on the head three times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The parents and godparents make promises to God that they will bring up their child in the Christian faith and the child is formally named. The baby often wears a family gown and is wrapped in a white shawl. The gown is traditionally long and white and intricately embroidered. After the service, a party is usually held for family and friends to welcome the new child, and the baby is given gifts like silver spoons and china plates.

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