Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Edwardian Advice on Baby's First Clothes

I recently acquired several antique magazines and found the advice contained in this article interesting. It seems trivial, but several of my friends who are first-time parents have found themselves in all-out marital war over baby's clothes. Mother wants to dress baby up in all the cute, ruffly, patterned, and themed outfits she can find. Father insists the most basic multi-packs of onesies from Walmart and a few swaddling blankets will be more than sufficient since baby is just going to poop and pee on everything before quickly out-growing it anyway.

Mary Bentley offered the following compromise in Delineator Magazine in June, 1907.

"How to make her first baby's clothes is the most vital problem which confronts the young mother. The advice of well-meaning friends is confusing because it is so contradictory. What shall she she do?

This I will endeavor to tell her in the clearest and most concise manner possible, and she may follow the directions with certainty that she will make ample provision for the baby's needs. 

First, a few of the "Don'ts".

Don't buy poor material, for baby's clothes are often soiled and often washed, and should be strong enough to look well after frequent launderings. (sic)

Don't make elaborate, fussy garments which make the baby look like an animated pillow-sham. They make hard work for the laundress, much trouble for the mother and a great deal of discomfort for the baby.

Don't make more articles than are really needed. Baby grows very quickly and needs larger clothes every few months.

Briefly then - get good materials, make neat, simple styles and get just the needful quantities. An ample list will include:

Six night slips, six day slips, one fine robe, six barriecoats (pinning blankets), three flannel skirts, three white skirts, three pairs bootees, thirty-six diapers, and three flannel bands, three knit wool shirts with long sleeves, seven bibs."

You will notice that the advice is gender-neutral and seems to offer a fairly sound compromise between the desire to try to make baby into a doll and acting more practically. Also, anyone inclined to use cloth diapers due to health or environmental reasons will  now know how many cloth diapers to buy which is helpful.  However, I'm not sure I'd agree that baby's clothes are the most vital problems which confronts the young mother...

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(In Case Mrs. Bentley Convinced You)

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