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Stocking stitch waistcoat

Woman's knitted silk jacket, possibly  English, late 16th century

Woman's knitted silk jacket, possibly English, late 16th century

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Woman's bodice or waistcoat knitted in stocking stitch for the main and garter stitch for the borders with beige two-ply silk thread (S twist with two component yarns with little twist) and gold foil spiral wrapped around a yellow silk core revealing part the yellow silk. Pattern worked with plain stitch within the motifs. Fitted body with short flared skirt, formed by the tailoring not the knitting. Pointed edge to the border formed by stretching the knitting, rather than in the knitting itself. Open at front with no fastenings. Full-length sleeves gathered into the shoulder, knitted in the round to the elbow and tapered into the cuff with a seam, fastening with five buttons (now missing). Unlined.

This pretty waistcoat was probably worn by a wealthy woman for additional warmth underneath her main garments. Originally it was made with a straight body, but it was altered later in the century with the bodice cut to curve-in at the waist and neckline lowered and widened. There are other seventeenth knitted waistcoats with two-colour patterns, sometimes known as Florentine jackets, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The jacket was purchased as ‘a very unusual Elizabethan woman’s jacket or bodice’ by Sir William Burrell from the antique collector and dealer John Hunt in 1937.

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