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In the world there is vintage wine from Chateau d'Yquem, there are paintings by Manet, and there are emeralds of the finest cut and clarity. There are many fabulous and rare things in the world ...and this is one of those things.
Recently my husband and I visited an antiques show and sale in Paris. There we saw many wonderful things...fine antique French porcelains, 17th and 18th cent. furniture of the highest quality, magnificent antique silver and crystal....a huge array of rare and beautiful things and amongst all that magnificence we found this French Antique Christening gown.
I must say I was truly thrilled to discover such a truly fine creation. This is a Christening gown of Museum Quality but it is also in fine and wearable condition for a real-life ceremony.
This gown likely dates from around the turn of the last century, from about 1890 to perhaps 1920, that era known in France as 'La Belle Epoque.' This gown, which was certainly commissioned by a noble family, would have been enormously expensive when it was originally made as it is Entirely Handmade and Hand Embroidered. This fact one will believe or not...how could this work be done by human hands...but the fact is...this truly remarkable gown was entirely Embroidered by Hand. Embroidery of this level is rare. I have seen examples of comparable fine French embroidery work from time to time over the years but the lavishness and amount of embroidery of such high caliber as embellishes this gown is truly astonishing. Quite often the embroiderers of these fine gowns were cloistered nuns who were trained to work patiently and painstakingly...their exquisite work fashioning these gowns for the sacred ceremony of Baptism was an offering to, and symbolic of, their faith, as well as being a source of income for their convent.
The fabric from which this gown was fashioned is a gossamer 'handkerchief weight' cotton, surely as fine as it is possible for cotton fabric to be woven. The fabric is a pale and elegant shade of champagne. The bodice of this fabulous gown is formed by a 'V' shaped panel of hand embroidery and by deep ruffles of Valenciennes lace which also forms the sleeves. Even the back of the bodice has been detailed with row after row of the tiniest fine pintucks imaginable. It closes with tiny mother-of-pearl buttons.
And then there is the skirt....it is a veritable cascade of superb hand embroidered tiers, all edged down the sides in deep Valenciennes lace ruffles and finished with yards and yards of silk ribbons. At the waist the ribbons have been formed into 'rosettes'. At the hem of the gown there are more rows of tiny pintucks that encircle the entire skirt. This all taken together makes a gown a magnificent lavishness but of great Elegance as well.
As always I would insist that this gown should definitely have a petticoat made to wear under it if it is to be used for an actual Christening. This could be undertaken by any good seamstress and will support and protect the gown, make it opaque when worn, and give it 'body.' This will also help to show the magnificent embroidery to best advantage.
This fabulous gown measures a generous 20 inches around at the raised waist. It measures 39 inches from the shoulder to the hem and a wonderfully full 114 inches around at the bottom edge of embroidery. As well the arm openings are a generous 9 inches in circumference so that the baby inside the gown is able to move her arms freely and the gown is protected from being torn. Because we cannot assign sizes to these vintage items, please check your measurements carefully. We can say that we believe this gown would fit a baby of up to about 12 months and likely a few months beyond according to body type.
Finally this gown is in superbe and exceptional condition for its age but there are several minor issues to point out. At the very top of the bodice front there are some small areas of slight discolouration and there are 2 small areas in the folds of the skirt as well. These areas in the skirt would certainly not be noticable when the gown was worn as they are faint and would be lost in the folds. As well there a very few minor spots in the silk ribbons, but again nothing dramatic. Finally I have noticed on close examination, 3 tiny pinhead sized holes which are underneath the front skirt ruffle where they would not be seen, so again this is not serious and is certainly expected in a gown of this age. This gown has evidently been carefully stored and cared for.
I have debated long and hard as to whether to undertake the cleaning of this gown myself but I concluded that this gown could certainly be worn as it is and would have a truly beautiful appearance. If one wished to have the minor areas of discolouration removed I think this would be best undertaken by a professional antique textiles cleaner. These professionals can be found in almost all large cities.
All in all this is likely the finest and most elegant French Christening gown that I am ever likely to have the privilege of passing through my hands. I was amazed to find such a creation and felt I must have it even at the price we paid...a bit heart-stopping for my husband, I must say! But as I have mentioned before, when I started this business some years ago, I resolved to have examples of the very finest in French linens. Of course there are very fine and beautiful gowns available at a lower price...we have some in our shop...but this is a once-in-a-lifetime treasure and again, it is a privilege to present it here in our shop.
We are just delighted to be able to offer this truly Exceptional French Antique Christening Gown for the baptism of a lovely, and much loved, baby girl. And certainly this gown will be treasured for generations to come as a fine family heirloom.
We are sorry that we can only show 5 photos here. Please ask us for more detailed photos if you wish. I have taken many and in detail. Also please note that because of lighting, the last 2 photos appear more 'white' than the actual colour which is shown in the first 3 photos.
From our FRENCH VINTAGE LINENS AND ANTIQUES shop on ETSY
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Our Etsy #0456
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