Skip to main content

Ayrshire Christening Gown

Curated Submission
Ayrshire, Scotland
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
108 x 103
Materials & techniques
Cotton; Ayrshire embroidery, bobbin lace, drawn thread work, cutwork
Gift of Mrs. T.P. Smith and Mrs. S.R. Stevens
Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library 386.00
This 19th century christening gown is a beautiful example of Ayrshire embroidery, one of the most popular styles of embroidery in Victorian England. Ayrshire is a type of whitework embroidery, characterized by delicate floral patterns stitched on fine muslin with cutwork, satin stitches, and French knots, among other techniques. This type of embroidery emerged in Scotland during the early 19th century and quickly became an important cottage industry that at its peak employed an estimated 80,000 women.
Ayrshire was seemingly developed as a replacement for French lace, which was not available during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15). The exacting work of creating these intricate embroideries was carried out by thousands of poor, rural women in Scotland and Ireland. Not only did these women receive very little compensation for their efforts, but also many of them suffered significant damage to their eyesight after years of performing detailed work by candlelight. The Ayrshire embroidery industry died out after 1855 when machine embroidery began to be imported from Switzerland.
This gown was originally worn by the donors’ grandfather, who was christened in 1852. The christening gown first became popular in the 18th century, and by the Victorian era every well-to-do family was expected to dress their children in a gown decorated with Ayrshire work. These christening gowns became cherished family heirlooms, which were passed down from generation to generation.
Submit a related artifact
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Pinterest Email More...

Main sponsors

  • Logo of the Imperial Oil Foundation with accompanying characteristic oval 'Esso' symbol.

Institutional partners