Christening Gown Or Dress: What Should A Baby Girl Wear For Baptism?


So you’ve decided to get your beautiful baby girl baptised/christened. Now comes the decision of what your baby girl should wear to her christening? Exciting!

Traditionally a white christening gown is worn by baby girls for their baptism/christening. The christening gown may be handed down from grandparents or it may be bought new. Another option is to wear a white christening dress which is a little shorter. Both are beautiful choices.

There are lots of beautiful options to choose from if you decide to buy a new christening gown or dress. We’ll look into these further below.

Please note that a christening and baptism are mostly the same thing. Different groups of people use different names. Churches are more likely to use the word baptism and the general public often use the word christening. I’ll use these words interchangeably. For a more detailed explanation see here.

Let’s look further into different choices and factors to consider when choosing what your baby girl will wear for her special christening day.

Christening Gown Or Dress?

So your baby girl will be front and centre in church during her baptism. It is natural that you will want her to look her best.

Most baby girls will wear either a white christening gown or dress for their baptism.

A christening gown is longer and will cover the babies feet and then flow down. A traditional christening gown is around 60-90cm (23-36 inches) long. If your baby girl is baptised around 3 months old, then she will be around 60cm (23.5inches) long on average (head to toe), which means that the gown will drape down around 10-40cm (8-16 inches) past your baby girl’s feet. This looks beautiful when the baby is being held during the service and for photos.

A christening dress on the other hand is shorter and will go down to your babies knee or mid-calf. This makes it a better choice if your child is crawling or toddling as they won’t get all caught up in the long gown.

Both christening gowns and christening dresses will often have short capped sleeves and either lace or embroidery detail.

Christening Gown
Christening Dress

The christening gown pictured above is probably on the shorter end of christening gowns. Both of my daughters wore this gown at their baptism as did I and my sister. It was bought by my Nan when my older sister was baptised as a baby. It was quite special to have our children wear a christening gown that I wore as a child.

Maybe check with your parents if there is a christening gown in you family that you could borrow. Or you may want to start your own tradition and buy a beautiful christening gown that can be handed down to your grandchildren one day.

It’s interesting to note that the English Royal christening gown which was first worn for a royal christening by Princess Victoria in 1841 was handed down through the generations and worn by 62 royal babies over 163 years! That’s a long time! The christening gown is now retired for preservation purposes, but a replica has been made and worn by Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and baby Archie.

To see some really long christening gowns – just look at some of the royal christenings. They can get really long! See the royal christening gown here. Don’t worry, most christening gowns are a lot shorter and easier to manage.

Material Used for a Christening Dress/Gown

The royal christening gown was made from silk. This is very beautiful and luxurious and also very expensive.

Christening gowns can also be made from cotton, linen, wool or polyester. A polyester gown will normally be cheaper but doesn’t “breathe” like cotton, linen, wool and to a certain extent silk.

All fabrics have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve summarised the made pros and cons for each material type below:

MaterialProsConsPrice
SilkSoft & light,
warm in Winter
Expensive$$$$
CottonBreathable,
cool in Summer
Can wrinkle$$
LinenBreathable,
cool in Summer
Wrinkles easily$$
WoolBreathable,
cool in Summer,
warm in Winter
May be itchy$$
PolyesterCheap, soft,
doesn’t wrinkle easily
Doesn’t “breathe”$

Christening gowns can also be made with satin and lace. Satin and lace are a type of weave made from other materials.

Satin is traditionally made from silk but today is often made from polyester. It should say in the online product description or tag what the satin is made from. Lace is traditionally made from silk, but more commonly made from cotton, linen and synthetic yarns (polyester, nylon).

Wool gowns are harder to find online, but wool christening gown patterns can be bought online, so if your mum or grandmother likes to knit this could be a good option. Wool will be less itchy/scratchy if made from superfine merino wool. This type of wool will feel soft against baby’s skin. I have a pair of merino leggings and they are so super comfortable.

If you are looking to buy a beautiful gown or dress there are some really cute gowns at a reasonable price that you can order online here. You can view the gowns by material type.

The christening gown our girls wore in Spring was made from polyester (see picture above). I honestly couldn’t tell from looking at it that it was made from polyester and they seemed comfortable in it.

Our son wore a christening gown made from wool, hand-knitted by his great-grandmother. Again he seemed happy enough in it. We put a singlet underneath to make sure it wasn’t too itchy.

Another idea is to use your wedding dress to get remade into a christening gown like some people do. Again – another quite pricey option unless you’re handy with the sewing machine!!

History of the Christening Gown

Christening gowns haven’t always been worn for baby baptisms. Historically swaddling bands or cloth was used to wrap a baby for baptism. It wasn’t until the 1700’s that christening gowns began to be used to dress a baby for baptism. The christening gown was designed based on the fashion at the time; a high waist and long skirt. Christening gowns were often decorated with lace and embroidery.

Similar christening gowns are still used today. I think a lot of this stems from the royal tradition of long, intricate christening gowns that we see the royal babies wear for their christenings.

However, these days it is also common for a baby girl to wear a shorter christening dress and for baby boys to wear a christening outfit including pants and shirt/top and maybe vest. Usually these are still white or light in colour.

The significance of wearing white for baptism is that it symbolises being washed clean with the waters of baptism.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Christening Wear for a Baby

There are a number of things to consider when choosing between a christening gown or dress and what material is used.

Comfort

We want a content baby when we need them to be calm and quiet in church for an hour or more. Let’s give them the best chance to be content by making them as comfortable as possible.

A christening gown almost certainly won’t be as comfortable as their normal onesie, but we can help by choosing a material that isn’t too scratchy like cotton or silk and also adding a soft slip or singlet underneath to help prevent any irritation.

Ease of changing nappy/diaper

The fact is that babies poo and wee a lot. Chances are you will need to change their nappy/diaper while they are wearing their christening gown.

The christening gown my children wore had a big split up the back which made nappy changes way easier as it was easier to pull the gown up. A good thing to double check beforehand.

Weather

Weather is something we don’t have much control of. Our son was baptised in February which is the middle of Summer in Australia. The forecast for his christening day was HOT!

The pastor even considered moving the church service to an auditorium that had air-conditioning as there wasn’t any air-conditioning in the church. However, it was decided to keep the service at the church. As soon as the actual baptism part of the service was over we removed his christening gown so that he was cooler and happier. In hindsight I probably would’ve dressed him in cute little light coloured boy pants and top.

So, take into account the time of year that the baptism day is scheduled for – middle of Summer or not. And if the church has airconditioning or not.

If the baptism is scheduled for winter it is easier to rug them up with extra layers underneath their christening gown and wrap them in a white blanket. Or if they are a little older a white cardigan/jacket.

I believe most churches warm the baptism water so it isn’t too much of a cold shock on their little heads.

Travelling in the Car

Travelling to the church was something we hadn’t thought much about when our first child was baptised. It was a little difficult to buckle her into her baby capsule for the trip to the church and to do it in a way that wouldn’t crease her christening gown.

For our next two children we dressed them in normal clothes for the car ride and took the christening gown with separately. We made sure we got to church early so we could put the christening gown on them when we arrived.

This may not work for everyone, but it’s good to think about before the day and have a plan worked out.

Tradition

In some families it may be expected by the grandparents or other family members that your child will wear a christening gown that will be handed down to them.

If you like the christening gown then that’s great – go for it.

But I also know that as a new mum it is sometimes easy to be pushed into things that we don’t really want, but feel like we don’t have much of a choice. I want to support and encourage you to know that this is your child you are bringing for baptism. You are the ones that will be standing at the front of the church and stating your faith on behalf of your child and your intention to raise your child with faith in God. Your choices matter.

You should have a say in what your child wears for baptism. Sometimes we have to pick our battles and it’s not worth the fight, but sometimes it’s good to stand up for what we think is best.

Christening Blanket

A christening blanket is a beautiful addition to the christening gown especially if your child is being baptised in the cooler months and will need something extra to keep them warm.

Our children were baptised in Spring and Summer and didn’t really use the christening blanket for warmth, but we did use it to lie the baby on for photos (see blanket in christening gown photo above).

Christening blankets are usually white in colour and are traditionally knitted or crocheted. They can be made from cotton, wool, cashmere and have satin ribbon or lace detail around the edge. However, any white blanket will be fine.

A good choice for a christening blanket is one that is soft and comfortable against your baby’s skin.

Christening Booties or Socks or Bare Feet?

What do you put on your baby’s feet for the christening? So many choices to make!

The choices are:

  • white booties/slippers
  • white socks
  • bare feet
  • white shoes if the child can walk/toddle.
Baptism white baby booties
White Booties/Slippers
White baby socks
White Socks with Lace

Personally I didn’t really consider this much before the baptism day. Being a first time mum my head was still working out feeds and trying to get enough sleep to function properly. I didn’t think about my child’s feet until the baptism day.

I think it really comes down to whether your baby needs somethings on their feet to keep them warm or not.

My son had bare feet for his baptism as it was a hot day. My 2 girls were baptised in Spring and they both wore white socks. You can get cute white socks with lace at the top to make it a bit more special.

I think there are some really cute booties around, but it will be an extra cost that most people won’t really see if the baby is wearing a long christening gown. If your child is wearing a dress that is shorter and you can see their feet then some cute booties are a great idea. Just try to find ones that will stay on their feet and not kick straight off.

If your baby is now toddling around she will probably need little white shoes with a soft sole.

What Does A Baby Wear Under a Baptism Gown?

In cold weather it’s definitely a good idea to put a white singlet, slip or body suit underneath your babies christening gown to keep them warm. This will also help to keep them comfortable and keep their skin from rubbing on their christening gown. Some christening gowns come with an additional white slip.

If you do choose to put something underneath your babies christening gown make sure you try it on baby together with the christening gown before the day to make sure it doesn’t show. You don’t want to be doing multiple clothes changes on the day of the baptism. It’s good to get it sorted beforehand so that everything runs as smoothly as possible on the morning of the baptism.

Does Baby Have to Wear White for her Baptism?

Traditionally white is worn for a christening to symbolize being made clean and pure through baptism. Washing away our selfish life and being made right with God.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we won’t sin or do anything wrong again, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven whenever we acknowledge our wrongdoing before God and ask for forgiveness.

Baptism is the start of an ongoing relationship with Jesus. This is a beautiful thing.

Some people wear soft pastel colours instead of white.

All the baptisms I’ve been to the baby has worn either white or soft pastel colours, mostly white though.

But if you would rather your baby wear a different colour I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that.

God looks at your heart not at what clothes you wear, so I can’t imagine that God would mind what your child wears.

Maybe double check with your church though just to be safe though.

Head Wear for Baby Girl Christening

There are a couple different options if you would like your baby girl to wear something on their head for her christening:

  • bonnet: A lot of christening gowns come with a separate bonnet to put on your baby’s head. Most are made of the same material that the christening gown is made from, but I’ve also seen some made entirely from lace, which looks beautiful. The christening gown my girls wore came with a bonnet, but they didn’t wear it. It comes down to personal choice really and if they need it for extra warmth.
  • headband: a white headband is a really cute way to distinguish a baby girl from a baby boy. I used to like putting a headband on my girls when they were a baby cause it made them look like a girl even though they had hardly any hair. However, my girls didn’t wear a headband for their christening. Headbands for babies are commonly made from elastic and lace or cotton and maybe some ribbon.
christening baby bonnet
Christening Bonnet
baby christening headband
Christening Headband

Two factors to consider when deciding whether to put a headband or bonnet on your baby girl for her christening is:

  • will she pull it off? Babies over around 6 months often don’t like things on their head and will try to pull them off. Under 6 months you should be fine – they can’t really reach up to their heads yet anyway
  • will it need to be taken off for the actual baptism? The pastor will sprinkle/pour water on the top of your baby’s head when she is lying flat. The bonnet will need to be taken off for this. Will the headband need to be taken off, I’m not sure. It could probably stay on. This is something you might want to discuss with the pastor beforehand.

Other Accessories You May Need

The fact of the matter is that babies throw up a lot, well all 3 of my children did anyway. And it’s best to be prepared, especially when they are wearing a beautiful white christening gown and will be centre stage in many photos. Normally you can just change baby into another outfit if they get their clothes messy, but not this time. Be prepared.

Some things other accessories you may want to take with are:

  • bib – a white bib to match colour with their christening gown and not stick out. You baby won’t wear this when up the front of the church but maybe during the other parts of the service depending on your baby. There are little christening bibs you can buy but I personally wouldn’t bother and just grab any white bib.
  • burp cloth – any white burp cloth will do. Just something to catch those unexpected baby throw ups.
  • spare nappies/diapers, wipes and change mat
  • chew toy or other silent toy if you baby is teething or a little older.

It’s good to work out your baby’s feeds and make sure they are well fed and full before the church service.

Another accessory that may be nice is a bracelet. My mum gave my daughter a little chain locket bracelet just before her baptism day. I went to put it on her on the morning of her baptism just before we were due to leave, but couldn’t get the clasp to stay shut. I fiddled with it for a while, but ended up leaving it home as I couldn’t get it to work and didn’t want to be late to church.

The lesson here is to make sure you try the bracelet on your baby before her baptism day. Make sure it fits and that the clasp works. The clasp I couldn’t get to work just needed a little adjusting and it worked fine, so it was a little disappointing that I couldn’t get it on her on the day. Hindsight is a great thing!

Outfit for After Christening Service

Some babies may wear their christening gown or dress most of the day. We changed our babies out of their christening gown and into different clothes after the church service. We had a small gathering with family at our house for lunch after the church service

If your baby girl is wearing a christening dress then you may want to leave her in it. A christening dress is a bit shorter and easier to manage than a christening gown.

If you are planning to change your baby after the church service it’s a good idea to pre plan what outfit you will put on your baby. It just makes the day easier.

Whatever you choose to dress your baby girl in for her christening please remember that it is the outer garments that people see and look at, but God looks at the heart. A content and thankful heart is what he loves.

Ruth Dommenz

I'm the owner of thepuregift.com. I'm also a mum of 3 kids enjoying life in country South Australia.

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