Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Baby's Long Stay

Back from Colonial Williamsburg and the Threads of Feeling exhibit and symposium!  I must admit it is good to be home, but did enjoy seeing old friends and new ones as well.  The train ride was loooong and I am not sure of another train trip any time soon!

A few questions arose during the conference that sent me back to my visit to the Museum of Childhood  in London and Anne Buck's reference book on children's clothing:

Clothes and the Child: A Handbook of Children's Dress in England, 1500-1900


One of the questions raised by the audience dealt with the items of clothing listed on the intake sheet of the baby to the Foundling Hospital. Some terms are familiar even today, bibb, sleeves, blanket, shirt, clout, cap.  Some not so much.  Biggin, long stay, pilch, forehead cloth are items that are not as easy to visualize as being worn by a baby at all. 

I knew I had a picture of a pretend swaddled baby from my visit to the Museum of Childhood that would answer a few of those questions and dug it up this morning in the archives so to speak!  


Behind glass, so forgive the pic quality, this swaddled baby is wearing some of the listed items from the Foundling Hospital.

Forehead cloth, long stay, and bibb can be seen in this closeup of the picture.


The long stay is worn over the head and pinned down to the shoulder or beyond, over the forehead cloth.  A bibb is sticking out over it all!  According to Anne Buck  long stays are "probably bands which pass over the head and are pinned down on the breast".   Ms. Buck also references a more contemporary source, the Lady's Magazine, c1785, which describes the old fashioned style of swaddling, "in many places they add a stay band or a kind of headdress with two ends which hang down on the side of the head and are fastened to the breast with pins".  

So I think we have a pretty good answer to the question of "What is a long stay?"  What amazed me when I opened up Ms. Buck's book were the many references to the Foundling Hospital.  Even though it was mentioned in her book, with pictures, the true value of the collection did not make the light of day until Mr. Styles published his book:

The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England




I guess it just proves that sometimes an extra spark is needed and in the case of the Foundling Hospital textiles it was the color plates in this book.  

1 comment:

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