These pieces once formed part of a woman’s jacket and are beautiful examples of the splendour of British embroidery between 1600 and 1620. The foundation pattern in plaited braid stitch with silver-gilt thread is strapwork, a design also used in other decorative arts of this period. The leaves and flowers are filled in with a detached buttonhole stitch in a variety of coloured silks. The grapes have been worked over thick padding to give them an almost three-dimensional shape.
Parts of the linen ground of the jacket were once completely covered with spangles, each topped with a tiny bead. This may have been a later addition to the original embroidery. The jacket may have been used as part of a costume for a masque (masked ball), with the additional spangles and beads added to make the jacket gleam in the candlelight. The British philosopher and writer Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote an essay, ‘Of Masques and Triumphs’, in 1594, advising on the colours and decorations most effective for masque costume. He recommended spangles, ‘as they are of no great cost, so they are of most glory. As for rich embroidery, it is lost, and not discerned.’