The Ultimate Baby Gift!
Among the most treasured family heirlooms are christening clothes: the long dresses also called robes (although they're lightweight and lacy) and the heavier capes or mantles worn over them to keep the new baby warm enough. This English mantle is a spectacular example of the latter, most likely 19th century Victorian and certainly no later than Edwardian. Although at least 100 years old, it's in marvelous condition -- clear testament to how greatly it was prized.
Christening mantles have been fashioned since the 18th century, when they replaced enormous "bearing cloths" so long and heavy with sumptuous decoration that it took a team of ladies to carry them into the church. The attendants followed along behind the godmother, who held the child wrapped in one end of it. Although that custom ended, the desire to dress the baby like a prince or princess didn't. Parents wanted their precious little ones to make their debuts before God and society in the most lavish mantles they could afford.
This one meets all the traditional criteria for excellence: luxuriously soft white and off-white fabrics, meticulous hand-stitching and beautiful embellishments. Fine embroidery adorns both its large scalloped cape collar and the smaller one at the neck, and two rows of pintucked pleats add dimension all around the voluminous hemline. The cape is almost as lovely inside as out, lined with whiter material including long gores of shimmering shantung silk just inside the front opening. The same lining treatment also appears on the reverse of both collars. I'm not certain what the fabrics other than shantung are -- perhaps heavier silk; they're tightly woven and as soft as a caress. There are a few very faint spots (mainly inside), which any skilled dry cleaner should be able to remove easily, and you may want to add ribbon ties at the throat. Alternatively, you could fasten it with a 'beauty pin' as was done in Victorian times. We have several antique bar pins that would be suitable.
Total length of the garment is 38 inches and it's so wide that I once wore it as an evening cape (to great acclaim), so keep this in mind if you'd like to get some extra use from it between family christenings. It would be stunning also as a wrap for a small bride having a cool-weather wedding.
This is a truly remarkable piece of history, with lots more history to make.
There's no charge for insured U.S. shipping, with an equivalent discount on international delivery, and gift-wrap is always free on request. Please e-mail to confirm availability, order or request more photos. Thanks for looking!