Baptism: Gown Lessons


dress detail

One of the traditional pieces of a baptism that I really wanted to keep hold of was Cub’s gown. Historically the gown was meant for both adults and children to symbolise the new start: they would be baptised/bathed naked and then be given brand new white robes. It is now pretty common to see babies with huge long flowing dresses full of lace and detailing, especially now the UK has a new baby Prince that everyone was cooing over.

Personally, I decided to change a few things about this tradition

for Cub for a number of reasons: firstly, because apparently I like to torture myself and sewing a dress whilst full-time-mama-ing was an obviously intelligent thing to do *face palm*. Secondly, and more seriously because I wanted to hand something to her which was hers, something special she could pass to her children if she wanted to, something with significance. Thirdly, because both sides of our family have baptismal gowns and trying to diplomatically decide which one to use was just too difficult. Fourthly, because (although the traditional gowns are lovely in their way) I wanted something a little more practical, something that she could move in, stand in, and be comfortable. Fifthly (as if anyone has actually ever used this word!), I actually wanted to add a little colour.

So I set about designing a dress. This mainly meant googling, and luckily I found some inspiration. I wanted something feminine but not frilly, something comfortable but still formal enough for a special faith-orientated occasion.

I started off with these sleeves:

Origami sleeves

I thought this would be a lovely little detail for a simple dress. The instructions are relatively simple and it was easier than I expected. However, this was the first lesson:

1. Things work better in general if you have a clear pattern, and it is important to follow instructions closely even if it doesn’t look important.

I had created the main dress pattern myself so working out how to attach these kind of sleeves, what shape to make them, and how that affected the pleating, was difficult (particularly with a sleep-deprived and constantly-interrupted-by-baby schedule). I also missed the bit where I stitched each pleat in place, although not dramatically awful it didn’t give the best clean lines that I hoped for.

I had also appreciated the little v-cut of this design (below), and felt that might also make the dress looser to wear. I personally like a little neck space so it seemed a good idea.

Dress design

Making the pattern wasn’t really a problem. Planning it out on paper, splitting the design into pieces, and then measuring out the paper templates was simple. Even so, here’s another lesson:

2. When it comes to baby clothing always go at least 2cm bigger than your measurements. Did you see that word? Measurements. Do some.

So the dress came into being gradually and didn’t look too bad. I’d used bright soft fabric around the hems to make it as comfortable as possible. I had also used clever strategies to have the stitches secure whilst having as little as possible – again to avoid discomfort. This meant folding fabric together in hems and stitching as the final point, rather than hemming multiple sections, then sewing them together (this sounds simpler in my head!).

The design seemed to be working and was better than anything I’d made from scratch before, and it looked as if it would be a simple pull-over-head thing… it wasn’t. My dear little Cubs head gave me flashbacks to childbirth and was nowhere near going through.


3. Be willing to alter your design, ideally with a clearly mapped out backup plan. It’ll make moving on much easier on your poor frazzled mind.

I’ll skip a step and say that those lovely sleeves also had to come off. Even with a new tied back to give more head space, she did not look comfortable in my oh-so-much-work origami sleeves, and so after much unpicking the dress looked pretty different.

This left me feeling pretty rubbish as I’d spent so long working on this already, juggling a 3 month old and pins isn’t easy, and I’d loved this little detail on an otherwise simple design.


Instead I made it sleeveless, bordered them with the nice blue fabric, and to make me feel happier with all of this cutting up, I used a clever stitch on the sewing machine to add some cute detail make in.

After trying it on for the third time throughout the process we succeeded and prayed that she doesn’t explode in the space between this awesome end point and the actual event. Last lesson:

4. Congratulate yourself. You have worked hard and one day this little gathering of fabric will hold a lot of emotion and memories.

Even though it didn’t go quite as I hoped I still worked hard and this is still something of significance to me, hopefully something Cub will cherish, and even if not perfect I do believe it’s the thought that counts.

(I will be updating this with a final photograph of Cub in her dress soon, so you’ll have to wait and see.)

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