M983.36.2.1 | Christening dress

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Christening dress
About 1860, 19th century
98.8 cm
Gift of Mrs. Pierre H. Belanger
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Dress (85)
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Keys to History

The baptism or christening of a baby is a family celebration in all Christian faiths. It symbolizes the welcoming of the baby into the Communion of the Church.

The grandparents usually provide the baby with the finest possible clothes for this important event. White, a colour that symbolizes innocence, is the traditional colour for baptismal clothes, which are often embroidered with flowers and trimmed with ribbon and lace. A complete ensemble might include a dress with a slip, a bonnet and a coat or cape. Often a christening dress was carefully saved to be worn by subsequent generations, thus becoming a family heirloom.

Christening ensembles have remained almost unchanged in design since the 19th century, something that can be said for very little else in our world.

  • What

    The Christening dress is white, signifying innocence and purity, a theme that is repeated by the use of flowers in the embroidery.

  • Where

    This dress was worn by a baby during his baptism ceremony, around 1860, in the Pointe St. Charles district of Montreal.

  • When

    Between 1840 and 1872, especially in rural Quebec, parish midwives could perform baptisms if it appeared unlikely that the new-born child would live long enough to be baptized by a priest.

  • Who

    This christening dress was worn by A.J.B. Rolland, the infant son of a Pointe St. Charles businessman. The boy grew up to become a medical doctor.