Handmade christening gown is a family tradition

A handmade christening gown crafted from spare lace in 1958 has gotten more than the usual number of wears. So far, about 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren have worn it for their christenings. Now the first great-great-grandchild is ready to wear the gown.

Dee Worozilcak of Milford is the official keeper of the family christening gown for now. It’s kept in a box, with its matching cap and little jacket.

The gown is all cleaned and ready to be worn again, this time by one of Milford’s newest residents, Izelle Bujara, who was born Feb. 9 and will be baptized in May at St. Gabriel’s Church.

Worozilcak said her mother made the christening gown in 1958 when her first grandchild was born.

Worozilcak’s mother, Lucy Godbout, was a seamstress and she was always sewing.

“I assumed that she really liked to sew,” Worozilcak said. "But then one day it dawned on me that we were poor,” she added with a laugh.

So Mom used to make clothing from material she salvaged, and the children often had new outfits.

Lucy Godbout worked then at the Warner Brothers factory in Bridgeport, which produced corsets and bras. Worozilcak was only 10 years old at the time, but she recalls that her mother got the lace — which would have been bra lace — from the factory to make the exterior of the gown. She sewed a slip for the piece and a matching jacket and cap.

Lynne Lofgren of Milford, Lucy’s first grandchild and Worozilcak’s niece, was the first baby to be christened in the gown, and since then another 24 babies have worn it. Lofgren’s mother kept a list of the children and the year they were christened on a slip of paper that the family keeps with the gown.

The births were fairly steady over the years as Lucy’s children and grandchildren had babies. Lofgren looked at the hand-written list and noted there were a number of christenings in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Worozilcak cautions that there may be one or two names on the list of babies who did not wear the gown for their christening.

But most did wear the traditional-style gown. Lofgren said that when her son wore it, she “boyed it up” by having him wear little basketball shoes.

Lofgren, the daughter of George Onda and the late Patricia Onda of Shelton, was the first grandchild to wear the gown. Her daughter Erika Lofgren was the first great-grandchild to wear it, and now Erika’s daughter, Izelle, will be the first great-great grandchild to wear it.

The gown is still in good shape, and Worozilcak said that’s because the bra lace is easily washed.

“It will last years,” she said.

The “keeper of the gown” has changed over the years, depending on whose children were expecting children of their own.

As the keeper of the gown in these later years, Worozilcak said, she wonders how important the gown tradition is to the family.

Erika answered that question.

“It means something to us,” she said, speaking for her generation. “It’s special that my daughter is wearing the same gown that her grandmother wore.”

Izelle, the newest gown wearer, is officially Izelle Helen Nkwanzi Bujara, daughter of Erika Lofgren and Doug Bujara. She was born Feb. 9 at Bridgeport Hospital, weighing in at 7 pounds, 5 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long.

Lynne Lofgren looked at the gown that she was the first to wear and then at the granddaughter who will wear it next.

“I think it’s a very special tradition,” Lynne said.