Embroidery sample for a man's suit by Unknown

...Just from this picture alone, you can see that this is a truly spectacular piece of craftsmanship. The detailed embroidery renders exquisitely detailed flowers as the main motif, and the white border features tiny and meticulous stitches which resemble lace. But just a picture doesn't tell the full story of this textile.

Look closely at the textile on which the embroidery is done. The pattern is made from three colors: a deep purple background surrounding flowers of orange and a lighter purple. What's difficult to see in the picture is that the deep purple background is actually a rich silk velvet. The flowers have been created while the textile was still on the loom. As it was being woven, small sections were woven without any pile (pile is what makes velvet fuzzy), revealing the base fabric underneath. This type of velvet is called voided velvet. The weave of this textile is incredibly complex, and clearly took a great deal of skill to manufacture. And on top of what is already an extraordinary piece of work, the detailed embroidery is added.

Note the dimensionality this mix of textures adds. The lustrous silk embroidery seems to float over the matte velvet. And the soft texture of the velvet contrasts with the slightly ridged pattern of the weave underneath, making the small orange and purple flower shapes pop. I have never run my fingers over this textile, but I imagine the mix of textures would be interesting to the touch as well.

I don't know if a full suit was ever created based on the design featured in this sample (If it had it would have been extremely expensive and luxurious!). Fortunately for all of us, at least this small sample has survived. It, and others like it, show us not only the luxury of menswear in the 18th and early 19th centuries, but also the extraordinary talent, creativity, and ingenuity of textile manufacturers in history. Many of their names are not known today, but their work lives on and is honored through the study and exhibiting of textiles such as these.
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This artwork is in 1 room