History of christening gowns

Updated July 19, 2017

A christening gown is a special garment worn by infants and small children during a Christian baptism or dedication ceremony. White is the traditional colour and the most popular. Both boys and girls wear christening gowns, which are often passed down from one generation to another.

Religious Roots

According to, infant christenings originate from the Jewish bris (circumcision) and zeved habat rituals, in which children are named and dedicated to God. The Christian church adopted a similar custom, baptising babies along with adult converts. All candidates had to wear white clothing to symbolise their "newness of life" in Christ (Romans 6:4).

Victorian Era explains how the typical christening outfit--characterised by elaborate lace and embroidery, long gowns and elegant white material--came to fruition during the 19th century. Bonnets, bibs and bootees completed the christening ensemble. White silk and satin were the fabrics of choice until cotton became more accessible during the Victorian Era.


Although most modern christening outfits are scaled-down versions of Victorian ones, they also come in different colours and styles, especially for boys. Suits, rompers and vests are common substitutes for the traditional gown.


Christening gowns embrace both the family's past and future. For example, a mother uses her wedding dress to make the outfit for her oldest child. Then, that same gown is worn by her other children and grandchildren. The garment may also include symbols specific to the family's cultural background.

Fun Facts

For good luck and health, in Scotland, babies sleep in their christening gowns the night before the ceremony.

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About the Author

Mary Lovee Varni specializes in nonprofit communication. She has over 14 years experience in Catholic ministry, real estate education and the electrical distribution fields. Varni's writing has appeared in "YOU! Magazine," the "Hawaii Catholic Herald," "The Electricial Distributor Magazine" and Express Schools curriculum. Varni has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Culver-Stockton College.