One type of gown worn in Wales is referred to as a bedgown. These were very simply made, in a T-shape, straight-sided or flared. Most have no fastenings but were wrapped around the body and tied in place at the waist by an apron.
Most of the illustrations and the very few surviving examples are from north-west and south-east Wales, but there is a little evidence that they were also worn in Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire where few tourists spent much time.
Several types may be distinguished.
Simple, unstructured T form with long sleeves and a simple open front made of cotton or wool. The armpits often have a square of fabric (a gusset) folded in half to form a triangle.
A T-shaped bedgown with little or no collar, sometimes with triangular shaped gores sewn into the seams down the sides to make the lower half flared.
A variation on the T shape with a broad collar and short sleeves. These were normally made of cotton and seem to have been restricted to north-west Wales. Two surviving examples are in Gwynedd Museum and Art gallery, Bangor.
The T shaped bedgown would have been a practical article to wear in bed (as a bed-jacket), and may well have been, but there is no evidence for this. Being large and shapeless, it would also have been a very practical item to wear over other layers of clothes or when pregnant, in contrast to the surviving tailored gowns, all of which have very narrow waists (24-26 inches).
Detail from Welsh Fashions Taken on a
Market-Day in Wales, 1851, Drawn by R Griffiths, Carnarvon
Showing a bedgown very similar to the surviving example in Gwynedd Museum and Art gallery, Bangor.
Detail of two figures in D. Fabronius, ‘Market Scene in Wales’, print, 1850s
Such simple gowns are found in many parts of the world: they are similar to the kimono and the banyan (a man’s informal robe).
The women generally wore printed calico jackets, gathered at the waist, with a few inches only of skirt, and blue or gray worsted stuff petticoats, falling to within a few inches of the ankle — a picturesque, comfortable, and serviceable habit
Olmsted, F.L., Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, (1852), p. 183