Here at Advance Printwear, we have more than 20 years’ experience in creating high-quality custom embroidered clothing. However, the technique itself goes back much, much further…


Examples of stunning embroidery have been found throughout the world, each reflecting their culture’s own techniques and aesthetic traditions. With this in mind, you might be surprised to learn that embroidery was born not out of a desire to create intricate designs and decorate clothing, but simply the need to fix stuff!

According to textile experts John Gillow and Bryan Sentence, embroidered clothing was simply a logical next step from primitive sewing techniques. As ancient people patched and repaired their clothes, they discovered the decorative possibilities of sewing, and embroidery as an art form began in earnest.

The Chinese may have been the first to ‘discover’ embroidery, with remarkably advanced examples dated to between the 3rd and 5th centuries BC. Embroidered clothing dating from 300 to 700 AD has been found in Europe too.

Embroidery as a Status Symbol

Embroidery is perhaps unique in the world of textile arts in its versatility and popularity throughout history. Although often used as a mark of wealth and status, embroidered clothing existed in all walks of life, across all corners of the globe.

A notable example of opulent embroidery is the Opus Anglicanum style practiced in Mediaeval England. This lavish technique was used to create embroidered clothing and wall hangings, and favoured gold threads and expensive textiles. The most famous example is almost certainly the Bayeux Tapestry.

However, embroidery as a status symbol really came into its own in the Islamic world. Like Opus Anglicanum, Islamic embroidery favoured expensive threads, but with an intricate style all of its own. Thanks to its position as a signifier of social standing, embroidered clothing became popular throughout the region, and was found on shoes, tunics, robes and many more garments.

Embroidery Today

Embroidery entered the next phase of its life cycle with the onset of the industrial revolution, when huge advances in technology allowed embroidery to be automated. The advent of computers speeded up the process even further, with today’s embroiderers able to design patterns using computer software and upload this file into the machine for a perfect reproduction on fabric.

Despite these incredible advances in technology, however, machine embroidery has much in common with its hand-crafted ancestor, with early techniques like cross stitch, blanket stitch and chain stitch still forming the basis of the art today!


Interested? To see some examples of embroidery on workwear download our workwear brochure – it’s full of practical workwear that can be embroidered, if you need some advice do call us on 0121 322 2111 – we’d be delighted to help!

Image: Twelve-symbol imperial robe cut in Qing style, Chinese, late nineteenth century. Courtesy of