HENRY POOLE & CO., London (tailor)
Privy councillor’s uniform 1939 (detail)

The Privy councillor’s uniform was commissioned in 1939 for The Right Honourable Richard Gardner Casey (who later became our first Australian born Governor General). The search for information on this garment led to a firm in Savile Row, London and to the original tailor and embroiderers at Hand and Lock, a firm providing exquisite and exemplary embroidery in London since 1767.

Hand and Lock keep detailed records of all their past commissions and have archives available to all customers for reproduction work.

The jacket, embroidered in metal thread work is of the most excellent quality. It is completed by hand over vellum templates of oak using a variety of Admiralty (specified 2% gold exterior) purls and passing thread. Three types of gold wire purls of varying sizes are used displaying a matt, bright, and a check or faceted finish for most of the outfit.

In execution, each purl is cut individually from a length of fine wire coiled into a hollow spring allowing it to be attached as a flexible bead and laid perfectly side by side with no stitching showing whatsoever.

Borders or edges for the design (which appear to be braid) are worked in exactly the same manner except for cord padding rather than vellum for the outer purls.

Pearl purl, a firm spiral wire is used for emphasis on some centre pieces. It is attached on the surface with couching, each stitch being sunken invisibly. Gold paillettes or sequins are also added for emphasis and attached with purls.

Other leaves are embroidered with passing thread, a continuous flexible thread made of wound gold with a silk core. This has been perfectly passed from side to side and stitched underneath the edge of the cut vellum, again with an invisible result but leaving a herringbone effect on the wrong side.

Metal thread embroidery, including this masterpiece, is worked traditionally with a secondary layer of fabric underneath to enable the sewing threads to be invisibly started or finished on the wrong side. Gold metal threads are only found on the right side of the garment.

Beeswaxed thread is used for attaching all gold threads throughout to enable longevity. Without this the metal content of the purls or other metal threads would create wear.

The suit was embroidered before the tailoring was completed with the pockets attached later by hand as were the buttonholed loops for official medals.