Descriptions of Welsh costume 1890-1899

For an explanation of recording conventions, see Chronological survey.

1891 London, Lord Mayor’s show
A car emblematical of the Principality of Wales, with Welsh girls in Ancient and Modern Costumes, Welsh industries.
Robert Withington, English Pageantry: An Historical Outline (1918), p. 126

Jeannie (Davies) who lived at Malpas [Cornwall] was brought up in Wales. ‘She always wore Men’s attire, that is to say the old fashion Welsh costume, that is to say the coat, and hat only and with a neat short bedgown and petticoat usually worn by country people not merely in Wales and Scotland but also still kept up by such a class of persons in England. … and once every three years … I think it was his lordship’s (Lord Falmouth) custom to present her with a grand new beaver hat ordered expressly for her from some great London tradesman to be made according to her own design and pattern. This handsome beaver hat was in many respects very unlike the tall Mother Shipton hats I was, many years after, accustomed to see in North Wales. In shape it was more like an English Lady’s riding hat.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), December 26, 1891

print of women at a market stall, under cover, woman with basket of bread; woman holding baby; woman with large knife. ‘Methyr Market 30 years ago’ (p. 352)
print of a miner’s wife with stave built container on her head. (p. 354)
One thing that disspointed us was the absence of the tall hats which we see in Welsh pictures as worn by the women. Our guide said we might see some of them on Market day, when the women come in from the country to sell the produce of their farms, but in the town they are not often worn. She said the fashions are slowly changing, and every year coming nearer to those of England. But on great National festivals the old costumes appear, as everybody wants at that time to be as thoroughly Welsh as possible (p. 355)
print ‘Village Belle – woman with tall hat, bedgown, shawl, check apron (p. 328)
print ‘Welsh peasants’ one woman seated, smoking a pipe with pottery flagon by her; the other standing, with basked in her hand. Both are wearing tall hats. (p. 325)
Knox, Thomas W., The boy travellers in Great Britain and Ireland : adventures of two youths in a journey through Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, with visits to the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. (New York : Harper & Brothers, 1891) [Some of the prints of Wales come from Wales 100 years ago.]

From an Antiquarian point of view, there is probably little to be said of Welsh dress from the Tudor times to the present day, except of what might be said of the fashions in England during the same time. Even the so-called Welsh hat which was still to be seen worn in the [eighteen] sixties by women in Cardiganshire, less frequently in Merioneth , Caernarvonshire and Anglesey, has nothing distinctly Welsh ; it was introduced from England, as may be seen from the examination of paintings dating from the Stuart times. How early Welsh dress has been assimilated to the fashions prevailing in England it is impossible to say in the absence of a systematic investigation of the subject. {descriptions of ancient dress} … Even as late as the commencement of the present century, many of the poorer peasantry went about bare-footed. An English barrister resident in the neighbourhood of Newcastle Emlyn in giving evidence in 1843 before the Commissions of Enquiry for South Wales refered thus to the matter (Qu5566) : “formerly twenty years ago [1820s] you saw the women walking about without shoes and stockings but now you never see such an occurrence in this part of the country.”  At the present day, the children of small farmers and of labourers or shepherds are allowed to go barefooted for a month or two in simmer: otherwise shoes and stockings are the rule in every countryside.
Report of the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire, (1894), The General Conditions, Characteristics and Habits of the Farming population, p. 637-8
Part based on Rhys, John, and Brynmor-Jones, D., The Welsh People, (1900), p. 567

1893 [West Wales]
Cottage women always wear aprons of Welsh flannel, which are large and comfortable. They are to be had in grey and black, black and white and a mingling of all. Over their shoulders in the winter time they wear small square flannel shawls, called ‘turnovers’ folded cornerwise, and pinned rather low under the chin. On their heads they wear neat sun-bonnets of printed calico, under which the old women wear prim caps tied with black or coloured fancy ribbons. Welsh flannel dresses are still much worn, though they are being rapidly superseded by woollen or cotton fabrics of English manufacture. (p. 163)
The cockle women look very picturesque in their short gowns of red and black flannel, which are turned up in front and pinned close under the waist at the back. These gowns display neat, short petticoats of Welsh flannel. Small turnover shawls are worn over the shoulders, and flannel aprons protect the dress in front. On their heads they wear small Welsh hats, suitable for bearing the weight of the cockle pails. … A thick pad, known as a “dorch”, protects both the hat and the head from the pail. These untrimmed hats are of black straw with a fancy edge. They come slightly forward over the forehead and recede on the back of the head where they are turned up and curved. The only head covering somewhat resembling it was the one known as the ‘gipsy-hat’ and bonnet in the old fashion-plates of 1872. The dresses [of the cockle women] are made with short and shaped fronts, disclosing snowy neckerchiefs, and some of the elderly women wear neat white caps under the small Welsh hats’ (pp. 165-66)
‘In order to see the old Welsh costumes, it is necessary to go to the west of Wales. There the tall beaver hat is still worn by some of the prettiest and most handsome women of the Principality. Very spick and span these women look with their short flannel skirts either of dark red or grey, plain or bob-tailed gown of grey and black or red and black Welsh flannel, V-shaped bodices, hooked – never buttoned- in front, displaying snowy lawn kerchiefs and neat turnovers, the corners of which are securely fastened at the waist by the band of the flannel apron. On their heads are pretty caps tied with fancy ribbons, and, to crown all, the tall and glossy beaver hat, which resembles an extinguisher with the fine pointed top cut off. Some of the women wear low and flat Welsh hats of felt with straight and broad brims. There are other hats of glossy beaver, somewhat resembling those worn by the members of the Hampshire Hunt. It is by no means unusual for the elderly woman to wear a kerchief over the cap and under the hat. In the winter or during wet weather, the women wear long circular cloaks, fully gathered into a hood at the neck and there fastened with a clasp. Some of these cloaks have moveable hoods, long enough to be drawn over the semi-high beaver hats.
The south Welsh shires have their own distinctive style of dress. Pembrokeshire women are renowned for their neatness. They wear dresses of very dark brown or deep claret-coloured habit cloth, which fit “like a glove” and their low shoes are of fine leather’.
Cardiganshire women who are for the most part thick set and short of stature, wear dark blue flannel gowns with red stripes. These are bound round the bottom with solidly-woven red or blue wool caddis [A worsted tape or binding, used for garters], making the gowns, which are somewhat destitute of fit and neatness, heavy and comfortable. These women are always clogged and generally cloaked.
Carmarthenshire women wear thick dresses resembling bed-gowns and petticoats of red brick-coloured flannel, sometimes with a pin mark stripe of black or white.
Breconshire women generally envelope their heads in a kerchief and their long linsey gowns or kirtles are turned up in front and pinned at the back just a few inches below the waist. They have wooden clogs for everyday wear and leathern shoes for Sunday, and, as they boast of neat ankles, it is the rule among them to let them be visible beneath short petticoats of bright red or crimson flannel with black or white stripes. They also wear smaller flannel aprons than the women of the other shires.
In days gone by the Glamorgan women, who were considered very handsome, did not care so much for dress. They favoured gowns made of material in which cotton and wool were intermixed. These gowns were made like loose wrappers and without waists. Flannel aprons were worn with these, and the women’s feet were enclosed in thick lamb’s wool stockings and wooden clogs. Leathern shoes were worn only on Sundays and holidays. Glamorgan and Breconshire women were not so particular about dress as those of other shires, because they frequently had to work on the farms and out in the fields just like the men.’ (pp. 167-168)
Wherever the old Welsh costume is still worn, the women as a rule speak Welsh only, or interspersed with a little broken English. The national costume is no longer in the east, north or south Glamorgan, but in the west of the shire it is still to be seen.
For these women, who still cling to the old fashions of their native land, there are special hatters and dressmakers who know exactly how to cut and make the quaint costumes which to English eyes look very peculiar.
Yet why should the Welsh costume astonish people any more than the national costume of other countries? People travelling by the Great Western Railway laugh immoderately when they see crowds of market women dressed in Welsh costumes, waiting for the train … The tall and glossy beaver hats, the bob-tailed gowns, the clogs and the granny cloaks are doomed, as the old English costume was in years gone by, and the day will come when the Welsh woman’s wardrobe of the past will be exhibited with other relics of a bygone age when women openly avowed their nationality by wearing the garments of which their foremothers were justly proud. (pp. 170-171)
Marie Trevelyan, Glimpses of Welsh Life and Character (1893), (pp. 170-171) but it is quite clear that her descriptions of Welsh costumes were based on T. J. Llewelyn  Prichard, Twm Shon Catti (Aberystwyth, 1828),
Marie Trevelyan is the pen name of Emma Mary Thomas, daughter of the stonemason of Llantwit Major in South Glamorgan. She was born in 1853. Both her father and grandfather had been keenly interested in Welsh folklore and had amassed a very considerable collection of folk stories and original manuscripts, which no doubt contributed to the enthusiasm she displayed in the subject.
In 1880 she married a French doctor and spent the next 18 years in France during which time she gave birth to a daughter. In 1898, however, her husband died and she returned to Llantwit Major and set about adding to the collection that she had inherited from her father.

Back in the mountains I was told that a Welsh costume is still worn by the peasants and the red Welsh cloak is a familiar object in pictures of Wales; but in Beddgelert, the people were habited in sober colours. The younger women appeared at church in ordinary hats and sacks while the mothers retained the dresses which had served them the last thirty years. [Going to church] the women appeared in large black silk poke-bonnets, dark shawls and untrimmed stuff skirts falling to their heels. The young damsels … wore beaded capes and feathers in their hats which apparently had come but recently from Conway or Bangor.
Susan Nichols Carter, A Summer Month in a Welsh Village, The Century; a popular quarterly, Volume 47 Issue 6 (Apr 1894), pp. 859-867

Back in the mountains I was told that a Welsh costume is still worn by the peasants, and the red Welsh cloak is a familiar object in pictures of Wales …
Josiah Gilbert Holland, Richard Watson Gilder, The Century illustrated monthly magazine‎, (1894), p. 865

A Merthyr man writes to say that the Korean hat is similar to the Welsh hat and says the old Welsh hat has disappeared but one of the dearest and best looking old Welsh women in the world may be seen at the Llanelly butter market wearing one on Thursdays. She is never without the tall hat and white curled cap.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, November 28, 1894

The old Irish dress, with long coat-tails, breeches, and brimless hat, has disappeared as completely as has the Welsh costume.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh magazine‎, (1895), p. 214
Also published in The Living Age Volume 204 Issue 2646 (March 23, 1895), pp. 705-768

The venerable fraud who sits outside the Goat Hotel [Beddgelert] in full Welsh costume selling rag doll replicas of herself.
Ross, Martin, [Violet Florence Martin, 1862-1915] and Someville, E., [Edith Anna Œnone], Beggars on horseback : a riding tour in North Wales, pp. 86-87
[is this Ellen Morgan?]

It is said at Beddgelert that after every tourist season is over, the good lady who sits in front of the Goat Hotel admirably got up in as tall Welsh hat and picturesque dress relegates these adornments to a place of safety and appears amongst the neighbours in ordinary garb.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Monday, June 3, 1895

1896, Royal visit to Machynlleth, Aberystwyth and Cardiff in 1896
Welsh Costume for the Princess of Wales
Messrs D Jones and Son, Tailors and Drapers of Penrhiwpal, have finished a complete Welsh costume which is to be presented by Messrs Tyler and Co, Gernos Mill to the Princess of Wales on the occasion of her approaching visit to the Principality. The cloth, which is the produce of the Gernos looms is a strong, black woollen fabric, with red stripes, of a characteristic Welsh fibre. The costume consists of the orthodox high steeple hat, cap, skirt, apron, and the short frock (gwn bach). Her Royal Highness will no doubt treasure the gift as a souvenir of her visit to her Principality; and the finish of the suit ought certainly to give her a high idea of Welsh Industry.
The Carmarthen Weekly Reporter, 19th June 1896
Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, is to be presented on the occasion of her approaching visit to Wales with a complete Welsh costume. The donors are Messrs Tyler and Co of Maesllyn Mills, Llandysul whose Welsh cloth has such a wide reputation, having won the highest awards at Liverpool, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney Exhibitions. The costume, which is tailor-made is the work of Mr D Jones and Sons, Penrhiwpal, who had previously made Welsh costumes for Lady Lloyd and Miss Lloyd, Bronwydd.
Carmarthen Journal, 19.6.1896
The Messrs Tyler of Mount Gernos have manufactured a special cloth at their Maesllyn Mills, with which to make a Welsh costume for the Princess of Wales. The tailors, Messrs D Jones and Sons, Penrhiwpal, are now engaged on the work. In a letter to a friend, the latter say the costume is to be ‘cyflawn, sef pais a gwn bach, cap, hat uchel, ffedog and sleeves.’ The Messers Tyler will present it to the Princess on the occasion of her forthcoming visit to Wales.
Evening Express 19th June 1896
Mr Morgan, of Waterloo Terrace Carmarthen, have just received a letter from Messers D. Jones and Sons, tailors, Penrhiwpal, stating that they have had a job of a kind which they have never been honoured before. They are making a dress of real Welsh flannel for H.R.H. the Princess of Wales. The material is being supplied by Messrs Tyler and Co, woollen manufacturers, Gernos Mills, Llandysul, the princess having expressed a wish to have a thorough Welsh costume. The dress comprises a pais a gwn bach, with aprons and sleeves, and also a traditional Welshwoman’s high hat.
The Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales Advertiser
27th June 1896
At Machynlleth, Miss Gladys Trevor, daughter of the Rector, Miss Annetta Anwyl and Miss Nesta Jones Evans, who wore old-fashioned Welsh costumes … presented floral tributes  … to the Princess of Wales and her daughters.
At Aberystwyth, Miss Griffiths, daughter of the Mayor, dressed in Welsh costume … presented the Princesses Victoria and Maud with flowers.
The report is accompanied with illustrations, including one of the Mayoress of Aberystwyth, Miss Griffiths, in Welsh costume.
Carmarthen Journal 3.7.1896
The Rheidol United Choir were dressed in Welsh costume
The Mayoress (daughter of Mr Griffiths, mayor), dressed in Welsh costume, presented the Princess with a bunch of flowers on her arrival at Aberystwyth station.
The editor, Bye-gones: Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, July, 1896, p. 389

Welsh Costume. (With an Illustration.) Notices of New Publications.— ” A Key to English Antiquities.” ” Handbook to Gothic Architecture: Ecclesiastical …
Sir Norman Lockyer, Nature: International Journal of Science, Volume 56‎, (1897), p. 512

The Western Mail says ‘In country places in the south it is still to be seen and very many middle aged women of today would never have thought of wearing any other sort of hat to chapel when they were young. A dear old Welsh soul in a regular Welsh hat and Welsh costume may be seen every Thursday at one of the butter tables in the Llanelly market.
The editor, Bye-gones: Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, 1897-1898, p. 1 (see 1894 above)

In the matter of dress, Welshmen and Welshwomen were much more economical than they are at present. Farmers, artisans and farm labourers in all cases wore home spun often course, but durable and the women folk wore a peculiar dress of striped cloth made at home. Bonnets and straw hats were unknown, the headgear in general use being a beaver hat, but with the crown usually being much lower than that of the ‘tall hat’ which we see in pictures. The latter was certainly in vogue, but it never was the national headgear.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, June 23, 1897

1898 [novel]
In her quaint Welsh costume, a red cotton handkerchief tied under her chin, her hard-featured face catching the light of the glowing fire, …
Allen Raine, Torn sails: a tale of a Welsh village‎, (1898), p. 251

The trademark on whiskey brewed at Rhiwlas, Frongoch, presented to a member of the Royal family, is of a Welsh woman in Welsh costume based on a photograph of Mrs Price in fancy costume.
The editor, Bye-gones: Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, August, 1899 p. 184

The traditional costume of old Britain I therefore conceive to be traced in Wales and the Scotch Highlands. In the one we have the black and red plaid of the women, pinned behind in curious pleats, with the antique cross-shawl over the breast where a baby has to be carried – a very ancient mode which has the advantage of warmth and convenience and which, from its oblique lines has a picturesque and antique effect. In the Highlands … As to the Welsh woman’s hat, that is merely an adoption from England. It is picturesque, and a prominent part in modern Welsh costume, but is at best merely mediaeval
Rev W.S. Lach-Szyrma, ‘Ancient British Costume’, in The Journal of the British Archaeological Association, (1900), p. 125

The Duke and Duchess of York stayed at Gwydyr Castle (Llanwrst). There was an absence of Welsh symbols and mottoes (and those which had been prepared were incorrectly spelt). Of the few symbols the ‘best of all was an old country woman dressed in National Welsh costume busily twirling her spinning wheel.’
This afternoon the Royal party will visit Caernarfon where the Mayor’s little daughters, Miss Olga and Enid Parry will present her Royal Highness with a doll dressed in Welsh National Costume for the Princess Victoria Alexandra’s second birthday.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Tuesday, April 25, 1899

Goscombe John’s sculpture at Llansannan in memory of five great Welshmen: Tudur Aled (bard, 15th-16th centuries); William Salesbury, translator of the bible; Henry Rees, (1797-1862) Methodist preacher; his brother, Williams Rees, (1892-1883)  Congregationalist preacher; Edward Roberts, (Iorwerth Glan Aled, 1819-1867) Baptist minister.
The sculpture consists of a bronze figure of a Young Welsh maiden attired in characteristic Welsh costume modestly engaged in making a wreath of flowers … intended to symbolic of a simple country life such as characterised by each of the five men.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Wednesday, May 24, 1899
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Wednesday, May 24, 1899
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Saturday, May 27, 1899