Almost a quarter-century ago, I had this conversation with my mother:
“Let me get this straight. You want Rebecca baptized so you can make a baptismal gown?”
“That is not theologically sound.”
My mom went on to make many other beautiful clothes for my daughter, and then my son. My daughter was baptized as a teenager, like many in the Baptist church. And now this Baptist grandmother is making a baptismal gown for a christening in the Catholic Church. I think my mom would approve.
I chose Simplicity 5813, which I chose partly because it used less fabric. I was hoping to make most of the gown out of scraps of the dupioni silk I had used for my daughter’s wedding dress. But the scraps were much scrappier than I had remembered, so the bodice is made of silk, the skirt of muslin-lined eyelet.
The baby’s mother likes the scalloped edge. But at first, it looked like an oddly-shaped pillow case:
Usually when gathers are called for I cheat, and make pleats, usually re-pinning about three times to make everything even. But I wanted a softer baby look, this time I tried the technique of basting in one long thread, and pulling on the ends for ruffles. Then you just stitch it down. My ruffles aren’t even, but they are symmetrical.
The back opening is to a me a classic example of how Simplicity makes dressmaking more complicated than it needs to be. I compounded this by not having enough fabric to cut the back as directed, with the tabs for the facing and interfacing. You know those warnings about extra fabric needed for one-way layout, etc.? It is also true when you want use the scalloped edge as your hem.
I think I would have an easier time with Simplicity if the directions weren’t written like some GPS program, sending you hurtling into the unknown, taking steps blindly on faith until you reach your destination. A summary saying, “here’s why we’re going to do this” would take a lot of the worry out.
So I cobbled together the back facings and came up with a opening big enough for a cocktail dress. Working on this reminded me of the observation about a vicar’s wife in a P.D. James novel: “It was not… that she was unaware of the frayed and ragged edges of life. She would merely iron them out with a firm hand and neatly hem them down.”
The pattern calls for buttons, and I thought I would brave that, but seeing how the almost-finished product looked big enough for a toddler, and remembering being very proud of my new button-up-the-back top, and then going on a mini-roller coaster and having the buttons slammed into me at every turn, I am taking my grandmother’s (the baby’s great-great-grandmother’s) collection of hooks and eyes and snaps to sew on after a pre-christening fitting.
Then it was time for the collar. Simplicity called for attaching the collar to bias tape, and attaching the bias tape to the bodice, which seemed nuts, but I tried it and it really is a useful technique.