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Christening linens

  • Place of origin:

    Belgium (lace, made)
    England (assembled)

  • Date:

    1650-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bobbin lace and linen

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Rev. R. Brooke

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 2 []

Object Type
This is a set of lace intended for a swaddled baby. The swaddling of babies - wrapping them firmly in strips of cloth - was once the prevailing custom in many parts of the world, including this country. The custom dates from ancient times, and is protective in origin. A swaddled baby would be warm, and its lack of movement kept it safe from accidents such as falling out of the cradle or into the fire. Swaddling was also thought to prevent the limbs from growing crooked. Swaddling bands were usually undecorated. The baby could be dressed for a special occasions by laying lace over the bands.

Materials & Making
The lace has been made up into a set, probably at home from lengths of lace that had been purchased. The lower layer of the bib is composed of a piece of lace of different pattern and quality, which has been patched in. This was to fit around the neck, and would not normally be clearly visible. In contrast, the visible areas have been carefully finished, particularly the mittens. These have deep cuffs, in imitation of adult style. The linen to enclose the fingers and thumb is immaculately constructed and stitched, with a geometric pattern stamped onto it. Babies were often swaddled with their arms bound to their sides and enclosed within the bundle, but the mittens indicate that in this case the baby's arms would have been allowed to remain outside. Covering the baby's head was considered crucial for its warmth and therefore health. It may have worn an inner cap underneath this one, as well as the forehead cloth.

Ownership & Use
In the second half of the 17th century both men and women increasingly used the wearing of extravagant displays of lace as a mark of wealth and status, as well as of fashionable taste. Christening sets such as this show how its use extended even to the adornment of babies.

Physical description

Baby clothing, linen with lace trimming. Christening cap, bib, mittens, headpiece and forehead cloth

Place of Origin

Belgium (lace, made)
England (assembled)


1650-1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Bobbin lace and linen


Height: 12.5 cm, Width: 22.5 cm, Length: 56.5 cm, Width: 19.5 cm, Height: 12.5 cm, Width: 12.5 cm, Length: 38.6 cm, Width: 8.7 cm, Height: 11.5 cm, Width: 22.5 cm

Object history note

Lace made in Flanders (now Belgium); made up in England

Descriptive line

Infant's christening linens, 1650-1700, linen, trimmed with Flemish bobbin lace

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Women made special sets of clothes for christenings. It was thought very important to keep a baby's head warm and a triangular forehead cloth was worn under the baby's lace cap. The long lace bib was worn over swaddling bands. This set included mittens that allowed the baby to have its hands free from the swaddling. [27/03/2003]

Production Note





Lace making


Lace; Christianity; Europeana Fashion Project; Children & Childhood; Children's clothes


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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