How to Frame a Christening Gown

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Things You'll Need

  • Shadow-box frame

  • Screwdriver (optional)

  • Measuring tape

  • Acid-free cardboard

  • Organic fabric, prewashed

  • Scissors

  • Iron (optional)

  • Silk pins

  • Thread, size 100

  • Hand sewing needles

  • Archival tape

  • Glass cleaner

  • Soft cleaning cloth


The frame should be sized to accommodate the flat gown spread to the shape as it would be worn. You may wish to allow space for a bonnet or booties.

Silk pins are slightly longer and finer than regular sewing pins, making them easier and safer to use on fragile fabrics.

When planning the gown placement, fill blank areas by embroidering name, date and other information about the event. Embroider directly on the backing before attaching the gown, or embroider on a separate piece of fabric and sew it to the backing fabric.

Match the fiber content of the gown, the backing fabric and the thread, if possible. For example, use cotton with cotton or silk with silk. Organic fabric has not been treated with toxic agricultural or manufacturing chemicals that may harm textiles in storage.

Choose a shadow box frame with small gaps that allow air circulation to prevent mold, mildew and dry rot. Select non-reflective museum glass that blocks UV rays.


Never use hook-and-loop fasteners on delicate fabrics. The slightest touch against the rough surface can cause irreparable damage to the lace or fabric of an heirloom gown.

Do not allow adhesive to contact the gown. Adhesive causes permanent damage over time.

Use pins only to temporarily hold the gown in place during stitching. Do not leave pins in the mounted gown as they can rust or permanently discolor the fabric.

Preserve a cherished christening gown in a shadow box.
Image Credit: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Whether your christening gown is antique or modern, you can enclose it in a shadow-box frame to preserve and protect it for future generations. Air circulation, an acid-free environment and limited exposure to light help create good storage conditions. With a glass-front shadow box you easily can optimize these conditions in your home. Shadow-box frames and acid-free materials are available at most framing shops or art supply stores.

Step 1

Remove the back from the shadow box. Set aside the front portion of the box frame. Follow the instructions for the box frame.

Step 2

Measure the back and cut acid-free cardboard the same size. Cut organic fabric to cover the acid-free cardboard, making it about 4 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the cardboard. Set aside the back and the cardboard.

Step 3

Press the clean gown carefully or gently steam out wrinkles. You may have the gown professionally cleaned.

Step 4

Spread the organic fabric flat on the work surface with the right side facing up. Place the gown flat on the fabric, arranging it with the gown front facing up and sleeves to the sides, folded at the elbow if desired. Pin the gown to the fabric using as few pins as possible. Place pins at the neckline, shoulders and along seams, as well as at intervals to secure the sleeves and skirt to the backing fabric. To secure a full skirt, you may need to lightly fold it following the natural creases from the gathers, pinning the skirt in place along the gentle folds. Pin the hem area flat to showcase lace or special needlework.

Step 5

Thread a hand needle with fine thread that matches the gown. A regular sharps needle works, but a milliner's needle -- also known as a "straw" needle -- is more slender, longer and offers greater flexibility in small spaces. Tie a small knot at one end of the thread and leave one end free; this allows you to sew tiny, single-thread stitches.

Step 6

Begin sewing tack stitches at the upper part of the display, typically the neck and shoulders of the gown. Each tack stitch should begin and end on the underside of the backing fabric. To create a tack stitch, draw the thread up through the backing, catch in a tiny portion of the gown and pass down through the backing fabric; then make a small backstitch through only the backing fabric to secure the tack stitch. Space the tack stitches 1/2 to 3/4 inch apart, following the neckline, seam allowances, sleeves and hemline so the stitches are hidden as they anchor the heaviest portions of the gown. Continue attaching the gown by tack-stitching around the edges and along pinned areas to secure the gown to the backing fabric. Keep the backing fabric smooth and flat as you work. Remove each pin as soon as the area is stitched to prevent damage.

Step 7

Position the backing fabric with the gown attached over the acid-free cardboard. Fold under the overlapping fabric to the back of the cardboard. Secure the fabric edges to the back of the cardboard with archival tape, making sure the fabric is taut and smooth on the front.

Step 8

Clean the shadow box frame glass inside and out with glass cleaner and a soft, lint-free cloth.

Step 9

Assemble the back of the box frame, the gown mounted on the cardboard and the shadow box frame front. Follow the specific instructions for your frame.

references & resources

Fern Fischer

Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.