Thursday 21 April 2016

1926 Baby Outfits

Today is the Queen's 90th birthday, so I thought I would show you what a 1926 baby might have worn,  (I had that thought before I broke my wrists, so fortunately had already scanned the images for this post.)

Beehive Knitting Booklet No. 27

In the mid-1920s, babies were dressed in several layers of woolliness, at least according to the spinners of knitting wool.  (Possibly a biassed view.)  The Beehive booklet illustrated, for a 'Knitted Outfit for Baby' was I think issued in 1925.  (Although Patons and Baldwins had merged in 1920, the two parts of the company continued with their separate series of Beehive Knitting Booklets (Baldwins) and Helps to Knitters (Patons) for several years after that.)

The baby on the cover is (visibly) wearing a bonnet, a coat, mittens with thumbs, and a garment covering everything below its waist - 'overall drawers'.  There would be at least one more layer of wool underneath the visible layer.

Altogether, the booklet has patterns for 15 garments:  a vest; a 'knicker pilch' (to go over the nappy); a petticoat; bootees and gaiters; three coats; a Dutch bonnet and a cap; mittens, with and without thumbs; overall  drawers; a shawl and a pram cover.

I assume that the booklet was intended to cater for both boy and girl babies, and I think that all the garments are intended for either, except that possibly the Dutch bonnet is for a girl and the cap for a boy.

Pram Cover

And every single thing, apart from the shawl, is trimmed and fastened with ribbons, which would now be considered a strangling hazard, surely?

Most baby photos back then were taken indoors, often in a studio, and the baby was in a dress or wrapped in a shawl.  So we don't usually see the full range of baby clothes that they would be put into to go out in the pram, say.  But we can try to imagine 90 year olds, such as the Queen, David Attenborough (90 next month), and my aunt Beryl, as tiny babies all those years ago, and being dressed in an outfit like the one in the Beehive booklet.  Perhaps not quite so much woolliness, most of the time, except outdoors in winter.        


  1. In some parts of the US, as late as the '60s, people were still knitting and using full layette sets.

    This was back in the baby carriage (pram) era, before the rise of the stroller set. Taking baby out for a long walk in chilly weather, all bundled in hand knits was thought to be healthful for the child, and good recovery exercise for the new mother. Display of course was part of it, with coordinated sets being especially prized (along with fancy clips to hold the blanket down in the breeze - silver for the well-heeled, lesser metals for us peasants).

    When my own spawn were born in the '90s, I dusted off my mom's old booklets and knit blanket, pullover, hat and booties sets for visiting, but I am a late-bearing child of my '50s/'60s upbringing, and by then my friends considered my matching sets a bit of a precious affectation. :)

    1. You're right that layettes didn't disappear with the 1920s: there are lots of later layette patterns in the Guild collection. And in fact I wrote previously about a layette pattern issued in 1982 when Prince William was born. ( Babies often got parked outside in their prams in all weathers, because the fresh air was thought to be good for them - it wasn't just a matter of exercise for the mother. .

  2. My sisters and I were dressed in a lot of hand-knitted garments. I did the same with my daughter and earned a telling-off from my health visitor who told me that babies are allergic to wool. Really??

    1. My mother knitted a beautiful shawl and some vests for my daughter when she was born. We still have the shawl, but the vests weren't a success - I shrank them. But you're right - before the advent of synthetics, babies would have worn wool, most of the time.


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