It's easy to look at the phenomenal craftsmanship of the past and proclaim that it could never be replicated today, as if the skill, training, imagination, talent, and (perhaps most importantly) the patience that created the original item have somehow been bred out of humans.
The embroidered jacket to the left is an excellent example. The pale pink silk taffeta is covered with finely wrought embroidery in thread of silk, gold, and silver, with gold lace to trim the edges and cuffs. While jackets like this one were popular day-wear for affluent, upper-class ladies in late 16th-early 17th c. England, it's almost impossible for us in this era of instant-gratification to imagine the time and effort that went into creating such a garment.
Almost, but not quite.
Under the auspices of Plimoth Plantation, over two hundred skilled needleworkers recently joined together to reproduce a similar jacket. Even with so many able needles, the project took three years to complete, and included not only countless exquisite stitches, but also the recreation of 17th c. style metallic threads and sequins. The result is breathtaking; check out the blog, The Embroiderer's Story, that followed the jacket's progress for photographs of its creation, as well as its debut last week.
Three cheers (and congratulations) for all who were part of this amazing collaboration, and three cheers, too, for bringing history so stunningly to life.
And many thanks to the anonymous reader of this blog who send us the story about the jacket in the Boston Globe.
Above: Portrait of Margaret Laton (1590-1641), c. 1600, Victoria and Albert Museum. The jacket to the left, also in the collection, is the same one worn in the portrait.