Plant external surfaces are often covered by barriers that control the exchange of molecules, protect from pathogens and offer mechanical integrity. A key question is when and how such surface barriers are generated. Post-embryonic surfaces have well-studied barriers, including the cuticle, and it has been previously shown that the late Arabidopsis thaliana embryo is protected by an endosperm-derived sheath deposited onto a primordial cuticle. Here, we show that both cuticle and sheath are preceded by another structure during the earliest stages of embryogenesis. This structure, which we named the embryonic envelope, is tightly wrapped around the embryonic surface but can be physically detached by cell wall digestion. We show that this structure is composed primarily of extensin and arabinogalactan O-glycoproteins and lipids, which appear to form a dense and elastic crosslinked embryonic envelope. The envelope forms in cuticle-deficient mutants and in a mutant that lacks endosperm. This embryo-derived envelope is therefore distinct from previously described cuticle and sheath structures. We propose that it acts as an expandable diffusion barrier, as well as a means to mechanically confine the embryo to maintain its tensegrity during early embryogenesis.