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Baby Shower Gifts

Baby Showers: Then and Now

How Much Has Really Changed?

By Nicki Harper

When Mom passed away, I found two lovely organza aprons tucked away in her linen closet. Oh, the memories they brought back!

The Fab Fifties:
In the 1950’s, wash and wear clothing had yet to be invented and stain removal relied heavily on lemon juice. Every woman wore aprons for cooking and cleaning. For entertaining though, fancy aprons were meant to be beautiful, not just functional. Mom wore organza aprons at cocktail parties, birthday parties for adults, and showers.

Baby showers were big events for suburban housewives. Guests received a written invitation and came dressed in their Sunday best - dress, pumps, nylons, hat, white gloves.

Most baby showers were held on a weekday afternoon in the home of the hostess. Usually, no more than ten guests were invited, so a woman might have one baby shower with her own friends, another in her old neighborhood, and a third with relatives. In rural areas, showers were often held in the church basement and all the women in the community might be invited.

Since most baby showers were given before the baby was born, green, yellow, and white decorations were typical. Often a big bow was attached to the ceiling and streamers were hung from it and fastened to the chair set aside for the mother-to-be. Crepe paper was used for the bow and the streamers. Crepe paper flowers often decorated the food table, unless the hostess had fresh flowers from her garden. Storks were often present - made of paper or papier mache.

Games were always played. Most of the games were meant to be played while sitting down. Word games, such as scrambled baby-related terms, were popular. Lots of games involved diapers, from trying to use a facial tissue to diaper a small doll to diapering a doll while blindfolded. A memory game was often included - a tray filled with fifty or so household items like a screw, a diaper pin, a rubber band, was passed around and the person who remembered the most items won.

Gifts were generally not expensive - a set of bibs, a onesie, a crib blanket. Usually the grandmothers-to-be gave the more important gifts, such as a layette set. Since sewing and knitting skills were still prized, handmade gifts were very common.

The food at suburban showers was “tea party” fare. Little sandwiches were typical. Coffee and punch were the typical beverages. When dehydrated onion soup came on the market, it was quickly used with sour cream as a dip. Cake was always served, sometimes in the shape of a stork. In rural areas, casseroles were popular. Often each guest brought a dish to share.

After the food came the stories. Without exception, they involved the pains and dangers of childbirth. When I listened as a pre-teen, it seemed every woman present had faced days of pain and life-threatening complications. I never did get my turn to tell such a story, since by the time I was guest of honor at a baby shower, those stories were no longer part of the “entertainment”. Thank goodness!

The Late Sixties & Seventies:
By the late 60’s and early 70’s, people wore jeans and tie-died shirts to baby showers. Games fell out of favor, along with crepe paper decorations and organza aprons. More women were working outside the home, so showers were more often held in the evening or on weekends.

Food changed, too. Platters of fruits and vegetables with dips and a cheese tray with crackers were popular. Cocktails joined coffee and punch.

Gifts were more expensive, as babies seemed to need ever more and more equipment. At the same time, increasing prosperity meant that people were no longer willing to use “hand-me-downs”.

The Late Seventies & Eighties:
In the late 70’s and 80’s, baby showers seemed to become more a social “chore” rather than a welcome occasion. Gifts had become even more expensive (perhaps too expensive). Food was more and more elaborate as gourmet cooking became popular and once-exotic ingredients were now in every supermarket. Wine and coffee were the usual beverages.

Baby showers usually had a theme, centered around the food, that dictated the colors of the decorations, the now mostly disposable paper and plastic products such as plates, cups, cutlery and so on.

The Nineties:
By the 90’s, women were very aware of the dangers of smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy, so wine and cocktails were banished. If a guest smoked, she smoked outdoors. Natural fibers once more gained in popularity, but wash and wear fabrics were still common.

Games made a comeback in the 90’s as people seemed to relax and enjoy the occasion more and more. Hostesses still served rather elaborate food, but without trying to out-do one another (as much).

The New Millennium:
I helped with a baby shower for my daughter in 2006. The food was varied and elaborate, including a wild rice, cranberry and onion salad, a fruit salad, breads and cheeses. Invitations were sent via email.

But the biggest change was in the guest list. It included men! In earlier years, the father-to-be would appear at the end of the shower to help load the loot into the car. Otherwise, no men allowed!

Since the guest list included so many people who didn’t know each other, we set up two craft stations. At one, people used a variety of supplies to make a scrapbook page for the baby. At another, they used beads and wire to make identifying bangles for wine glasses. (We served sparkling cider in the wine glasses—no alcohol.) One shy fellow ended up with a dozen bangled wine glasses. He only moved from that craft table to eat!

It was a far cry from the baby shower of the 1950’s, but the essentials were the same. We all had a terrific time, and baby got a great start in clothes and gear. Mom would have enjoyed it thoroughly!

Editor's Summary ...

Well After ... the New Millennium:
There are really only two fundamental things that are still the same today with regard to baby showers. Women still have babies (though often with greater fore-thought), and we all still like to party once in a while. Everything else is essentially up for grabs. Every decade from the last half of the previous century has already had a revival (however short-lived). Written invitations are now quaint, but technically unnecessary in the age of 'Social Media'. Many of today's youth are probably looking forward to a day when they can have their phone made into a cerebral implant, just for the convenience ... and all this while climate, privacy, piracy and terrorism dominate the news of the day.

The only thing that matters ... is that it's your baby shower. Do it the way you want it!

Make the most of the wealth of tradition and information available, with products to make any theme you can imagine possible. Take a look around. We've put in a lot of work over the last years to save you time ... Enjoy!


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