Baby's smocked and embroidered romper suit; British, ca.1954
Length: 49.5 cm centre back, crotch unfastened
Museum of Childhood, Babies Gallery
Romper suits first came into use for babies in America in about 1910, but were not readily available in the UK until the end of the First World War. They were one of the twentieth century's main contributions to producing practical, comfortable clothing in which a small child could play and move easily. The colour and weave of this garment are not an obvious choice for babywear (traditionally tending to be made in white or pastel colours), but are likely to be a reflection of the post-war austerity which prevailed at during the early 1950s. The garment is typical of the way older relatives and family friends would make baby garments in the past, primarily of decorative appearance and using traditional or even old-fashioned styles and techniques.
Worn by Phillip Chapple (born 1953), the son of David Chapple and his wife Margaret Joan (née Arnold), of Sutton Coldfield. Phillip (sic) was probably named after Prince Philip, since his mother was pregnant with him when his parents travelled to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II televised on a large screen at Birmingham Town Hall. The garment was made by Mrs. Chapple's mother, Mrs Alice Arnold, a keen amateur needlewoman with a exacting reputation.
Baby's romper suit of celadon green brushed cotton woven in a herringbone pattern. The garment has a round neck, short puffed sleeves gathered into narrow cuffs of self fabric, and a yoke lined with matching plain fabric. The fullness of the body of the romper suit is gathered into the yoke at front and back, and hand worked with honeycomb smocking in rows of white, yellow and mint green embroidery silks; around the neck is worked a line of stylized foliage using stem stitch in green silks and lazy daisy stitch in yellow. The garment fastens with a total of five dark green plastic buttons and hand stitched buttonholes: two at the back of the yoke, and three at the crotch; the legs are loosely elasticated.