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Sewing Vintage-Inspired Baby Clothes

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

vintage baby clothes
Historical, gender-neutral child's clothing

I have never found out the gender of my babies before their birth, and I must say, the historical world was pro when it came to gender-neutral wardrobes for babies and young children.

It makes perfect sense that in a time when families had several children, and the clothes were painstakingly hand sewn, that they would be handed down from child to child, and therefore couldn’t be gender specific. I also love how babies and children of yesteryears were dressed in gowns rather than legged-items, as it makes diapering and pottying much more convenient.

When pregnant with my latest baby, I knew I would need some new gender neutral basics, as I had donated most of my previous ‘stash’.

What’s Wrong with Onesies?

Nothing, of course. But I am simply not a huge fan of them. Since becoming a historically-inspired sewist, I have an aversion to stretchy fabrics (strike #1) and since I practice elimination communication (EC) with my babies, onesies and sleepers are inconvenient (strike #2).

vintage baby clothes sewing pattern project
Edward in his chemise, 8 weeks old

Images of historical babies dressed in beautiful white gowns and chemises danced in my brain. I wanted something inspired by that, but on the simpler side.

The Pattern

After a quick google search, I found a free pattern for a Victorian inspired ‘infant chemise’. Click here for the link.

vintage baby clothes chemise pattern sewing
Tracing the pattern

It was perfect! Simple, utilitarian, but classy. The best part: I found a relatively inexpensive source of organic white linen, ordered a few yards, and I was set!

The pattern was very simple, with a few sizes included, and instructions included on the same page as the tiny pattern. I went for a slightly larger size, so it would last my baby as long as possible, and decided to make five chemises.

The chemise was based on a kimono shape, meaning that the sleeves were in one piece with the body. This made it very quick to cut out and sew together, especially important when sewing five chemises at once.

Sewing the Chemises

vintage baby clothes infant chemise sewing pattern
A couple of the finished infant chemises

First, I prepared enough bias tape for the chemises using my white linen fabric, then cut out my pattern pieces. The side seams and shoulder seams were flat-felled, the neckline trimmed with bias tape, and the centre-front slash finished by folding the edges inward and hand-sewing down. Finally, the buttonhole was created in the bias tape edging at the top, and the sleeves and skirt hemmed. Voila!

My baby, named Edward, has worn his chemises since birth, and we both love them. They are comfy, convenient, and easy to wash. What more could you ask for?

Have you ever sewn historical clothes for children in your life? Let me know in the comments below!

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Teresa OConnor
Teresa OConnor
Feb 11, 2022

These are fabulous! I am going to give one a try for my grandchild expected in May. I think I'll line them to avoid the neck binding and seam finishing. Another thought is a thread loop as a sub for the buttonhole. Thanks for sharing!

Katherine Sewing
Katherine Sewing
Feb 17, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for your comment, Teresa! Congrats on your expected grandchild! I'm sure the chemises will be beautiful! Those are great ideas ☺️

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