I have been fascinated for some time with the style of jacket referred to as the “Jacobean Jacket”. These jackets were worn late in Elizabeth I’s reign and into the reign of her successor, James I. This style of jacket varied in shape, neckline, decoration and trim, but the most recognizable style is a snug-fitting jacket with gussets providing shaping at the waistline, small wings and turned back cuffs. I found these jackets very interesting because, unlike most garments of the time which were re-worked into new styles or handed down to servants, many of these jackets have been preserved intact.

Although several of the examples shown are slightly post-period, dated to 1610 to 1615, others are dated to pre-1600, so I feel these are appropriate for use in the SCA. Elizabeth herself received a “waistcote of white sarsnett, ymbrodered round about with a border of eglantne flowers, and ymbrodered all over with a twist of Venis gold” from the Lady Leyton and “a wastecote of lawne, faire wroughte with Venis gold and black silke” from the Lady Harrington as New Year’s presents in 1589, as well as “one wastecote of white sarcenett, embrothered with flowers of silke of sondry colors” from Baroness Burghley in 1600.1 


One of the most well known examples of this style of jacket is known as the Laton Jacket, since it was worn by Margaret Laton in a portrait painted in 1620, though the jacket was made about a decade earlier. The jacket was kept in the family with the portrait, and now both reside at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The portrait shows the jacket worn in a later fashion, with a skirt worn over the top to give it the appearance of a higher waistline. Originally it was closed with pink silk ribbons, but these were removed and the lace trim was added around 1620.  

 Jacket Front - V  A

Linen jacket embroidered in highly colored silks
and silver and gold thread with sequins, bobbin
lace & spangles, ca 1610. V&A Museum. 


Portrait of Margaret Laton by Marcus Gheeraerts  
the Younger, ca 1620. V&A Museum. 


There are a number of other extant embroidered jackets. Some of them are extremely similar in garment shape and the embroidery. Some have definite variations in style. It is likely that some of the extant garments were modified through the years to the shapes in which they survive today. 

 Jacket Front - Met Museum of Art

Embroidered jacket; British; ca 1616;
Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

 Jacket - MuseumOfBath

Embroidered jacket; English; ca 1620.
Costume Museum of Bath.

 Loose Jacket - V  A

Loose jacket; English; 
ca 1600-1625; V&A Museum. 


 Low Neck Jacket - V  A

Low-necked linen jacket embroidered
with silk and metal thread; English;
early 17th century; V&A Museum. 

While the previous jackets are highly embroidered in colorful silks and golden threads, there are examples of simpler embroidery, using fewer colors and simpler styles. 

 Jacket - ArtInstitute

Jacket; English; 16th century;
Art Institute of Chicago.


 BlackWhite Jacket - V  A

Linen jacket with black silk embroidery;
English; 1620s; V & A Museum.

Over the last several years, the Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts2 took on an effort to recreate one of these highly embroidered jackets. The primary researchers examined a variety of extant garments, finding the finest details for their recreation. They experimented with the specific embroidery stitches that would have been used to ensure that as little of the expensive gold thread was wasted on the back of the fabric. They even had special thread manufactured in their attempt to mimic these originals, and their blue silk lining was hand-died and hand-woven specifically for the project. One of the topics studied was whether a consistent result could be obtained by multiple hands doing the embroidery. These garments were so complex in their decoration that it seems unlikely that an individual could have done the embroidery for a whole jacket. In fact, the researchers found inconsistencies in the embroidery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art jacket that indicated that multiple people had worked on it. It seems most likely that these jackets were professionally made in shops of embroiderers. The Plimouth Plantation Project found that by having people practice on samples until a specific level of expertise was achieved, and then having individual embroiderers work on small sections scattered throughout the garment, the overall appearance was a consistent one. In all, over 250 people were involved in the re-creation work, spending over 4000 hours on embroidery, lace, spangles and construction. The result was unveiled in December, 2009. 


Front view with smock, corset and petticoat.


Detail view of completed jacket.



Work in progress.



Detailed view of embroidery.

My Project
Given that I am one person, who has not as much time as I would like to devote to my costuming, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to hand embroider anything approaching this complexity. The modern equivalent of a shop of embroiderers is a machine to do the embroidery for me. The stylized patterns used on these jackets are not something that can be bought pre-made from current providers of embroidery designs. Therefore, in order to approximate the appearance of this detailed embroidery, I am beginning the effort of manually digitizing the embroidery for use by my computerized embroidery machine. A bodice panel from a jacket of this type was sold at auction in 2005. This panel is useful because it is flat, rather than shaped into a completed garment. I was able to use the patterns of this jacket to create a digitized embroidery design. 

 Jacket Panel - Christies

Bodice panel sold at auction in 2005.



My digitized design of a portion of the panel.

In the meantime, since I like the style of the jacket itself, I have made an initial version to test the fit of the pattern. Janet Arnold had access to at least two of these jackets during her research for Patterns of Fashion – The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1520-1620.3 She includes patterns for these two garments created from actual measurements taken of the extant articles of clothing. One pattern is for the Laton jacket, mentioned previously. The second is for a garment that is housed at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Although this jacket is dated slightly later, at 1615-1618, I used it as my starting point. The overall appearance and styling of the jackets is almost indistinguishable, but the contour of the Burrell jacket pieces are more shaped, providing for a better fit for my modern (curvier) physique. This garment was sized to fit a woman with approximately a 32 inch bust. Since my size is larger, I increased the scale of the pattern. Since I was likely to also be taller than an Elizabethan woman, I scaled it in height as well as width, and then adjusted the fit using a toile. 


Drawing of jacket from Burrell Collection,
from Janet Arnold
Patterns of Fashion.



Pattern of jacket from Burrell Collection,
from Janet Arnold 
Patterns of Fashion.

Once I was satisfied with the fit of my pattern, I made the version you can see here. I found a lovely ivory linen fabric that was embroidered with a black scrolling leaf and flower motif. I felt this was reminiscent of the patterns on some of the extant jackets, especially the one at the Art Institute of Chicago and the black embroidered jacket from the V&A Museum described above. Although Janet Arnold mentions only a lining, I also added an interlining of medium weight cotton to provide some structure. My opinion is that it is probably unneeded in the arms, but may be appropriate through the body, since the jacket might be too light without it. The jacket is lined with a lightweight linen. It is held closed with hooks and eyes, as is described for the Burrell jacket. I also added ribbon ties, which were seen on a number of similar jackets. As this is a “proof of concept”, this jacket was entirely machine sewn. I wear this jacket with a corset, bum roll and corded petticoat. 


I generally wear this jacket with a black tall hat.


Photo taken at the beautiful Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago.


Finally, I wanted to wear this jacket with a lace collar similar to those shown in a number of the portraits of the time. The Laton portrait shows a very large lace collar, which is reflective of a slightly later period style. A portrait of a similar style jacket, this time worn by a man, is seen in the portrait of Peter Saltonstall. His falling band has a lace edging on a linen band, which is darted into the neckline for shaping. A similar cutwork band is shown in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 – The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women, c. 1540-1660.4 Since I am not a lacemaker, I found a currently available lace that approximated the shape of the lace shown in these two examples. I sewed it to a linen band, which I then pleated into the shape I wanted. It is sewn to a band, which I stitched to an existing smock with a plain collar. I starch the collar in order to get it to maintain the desired shape. The cuffs are made in a similar fashion. 

 Peter Saltonstall - Detail

Portrait of Peter Saltonstall. From Thomasina Beck,
The Embroiderer's Story; 1610.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.



Cutwork standing band, ca 1610-1620.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo from
Patterns of Fashion 4.

I am still very interested in pursuing this project. I find this style of jacket to be quite flattering for my shape, and I enjoy wearing it. I plan to continue my work on digitizing the designs found in the highly embroidered jackets and adapting them for use with my embroidery machine. And who knows, maybe some day I’ll have enough free time to attempt a hand-embroidered version! 


1. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth compiled by John Nichols. Available through Google books. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III

2. The Embroiderer’s Story – recreating a 17th century embroidered jacket.

3. Patterns of Fashion – The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. Janet Arnold

4. Patterns of Fashion 4 – The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c1540-1660. Janet Arnold