Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baby Ren Faire costume

I know it's only March, but I am SO looking forward to summer.

And if you couldn't tell by previous posts, I am obsessed with the Renaissance Faire. This year I have a new attendee, my son! I did the math (ick scary math) and he will be about 8 months at Faire. I went a-researching on the interwebs and guess what I found? Damn near nothing. It took a whole lot of reading and a lot more looking at historical portraits to figure out a viable period costume for him.

I'm still not totally sure what to make, but at least I have an idea.

Here is what I found (forgive my lack of references please):
Up till about 6 months (or even one year according to some) babies were pretty much constantly swaddled to keep them from plucking out their eyes and to promote straight limbs. This was usually done with strips of linen wound around their bodies. Their heads were covered, but it is unclear whether that would be done by the swaddle or by a separate head covering, like a "bonnet" (coif). There are some paintings that show what looks like a solid piece of material used for the swaddle. Some of them were then wrapped with criss crossing bands to hold it in place.

Since little man will be over 6 months, it will be hot, and I don't want to have to unwind a swaddle for each diaper change, this option was out. But it's simplicity can't be argued with!

The next stage of clothing reminds me of a christening gown. The upper classes would dress babies, male and female, in ruffly dresses that often loosely resembled the mother's attire. Middle and lower classes had more simplistic gowns in class appropriate colors for the time. Some images show small children in just an undershirt or chemise, but this was always in the home, not in public, so I think it was a more casual "snapshot" of life, and nothing that would be seen outside. I mean, we've all run nude through the house as toddlers, right?

Yep thats a boy, although this is from 1610 or so.
Finally, I did see some paintings of babies in what can only be called "mini me" outfits. Typically in portraits, these outfits were worn by princes, princesses, and children of other gentry, and often were exact duplicates of what the parents wore. My assumption is that these were special occasion outfits and weren't your typical everyday clothes any more than your modern Christmas outfit resembles play clothes. However, for the queen on progress I don't think it would be a huge stretch that parents would dress children in their very best, but a full corset and hoops on a little girl or a doublet and ruffs on a little boy may not be all that practical by today's standards.

note the littlest one in a "christening gown" type outfit.  The one with the sword is a boy, not yet breeched

So I think I will make my little man a nice gown :). The upside is that it can be used by either gender. Boys didn't get "breeched" until potty training at the very earliest (some not until nearly 10), so if you make it generously sized, it can last 2 faires or more. And what ease of diaper changing! Of all the ridiculous clothing styles of the Elizabethan period, they sure had a smart idea when it came to children!

Stay tuned for more on this. Not only do I need to sketch and mock up a style for him, I have to figure out a way to breast feed in a corset?! Or do I...?

Read more about this project here and here!

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