Skip to content

The Plimoth Jacket: A Paradise in Silk and Gold

Start Date 03 September 2011
End Date 08 January 2012
Venue Winterthur Museum
Location Winterthur, Delaware, USA
Trio of images of Exhibition display of dressed mannequins

On loan to Winterthur from Plimoth Plantation in 2011, the Plimoth Jacket is not an exact reproduction. Rather, it was re-created from two examples in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. One was chosen for the cut and construction of the jacket and the other for the design of the embroidery. Both originals date to the 1620s.

In the 1600s this type of embroidery would have been done in professional workshops. The creation of the Plimoth Jacket has led to discoveries about the technology for making threads and spangles as well as about stitching techniques. The project has also resulted in important insights into 17th-century workshop practices, where large numbers of embroiderers (both highly skilled laborers and apprentices learning their trade) would work together to create expensive and decorative clothing like this.

More than 300 people spent over 3,700 hours to create the Plimoth Jacket. Some worked on the silk embroidery and gold plaited braid, while others stitched on the “oes,” the term in use in the 1600s for the round sequins. The project was conceived and managed by Jill Hall, former head of the colonial wardrobe department at Plimoth Plantation. She was aided by a team of experts in embroidery, lace, metal-smithing, and weaving, including Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen, Wendy White, Carolyn Hastings, Mark Atchison, Justin Squizzero, and Denise Lebica.

The sewing, embroidery, and lace were all entirely done by hand. The lace spangles (the tear-drop shaped sequins hanging from the lace) were created using tools made specifically for the project. The tools and techniques replicate those from the 1600s. Even the lining was hand-woven and dyed with natural indigo.

Images courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware, USA