Aprons were made of coarse linen or cotton, flannel, linsey-woolsey or silk-linsey (for best). They were a very practical form of protecting the skirt or dress and could be folded up and used to carry bulky items.
Late 18th century illustrations show aprons made of plain light-coloured fabrics, as do some of the later prints, but most of the photographs show black and grey or black and white checks or a mixture of all three and most of the surviving examples are of simple natural wool colours – black, brown, grey and white checks.
Earlier aprons may have been woven on a narrow loom or set-up, with patterns down the sides.
There are some suggestions from pictures and prints that aprons became more common during the 19th century, but it is possible that artists recorded Welsh dress more often when the women were travelling to, from and at market when the apron might not have been worn as much as at home.
Most aprons were large and covered most of the front from the waist to the toes, but later aprons, especially those worn as part of a ceremonial costume were small. Those produced from the 1930s for girls to wear on St David’s day often have lace edging.
The apron was an integral part of the Welsh costume although it would not normally be required to protect the dress or skirt on formal occasions: indeed, it hid part of the skirt which might have been of fine fabrics. Some of the mid-19th century prints show women in dresses (rather than bedgowns) with an apron.
Aprons were spelled apern in many late 18th, early 19th century servant’s wages records.
An apron could also sometimes be referred to as a ‘brat’, a term which can also mean cloak. It is possible that a brat was a coarse apron made of hessian or old sacking.