lace and embroidery

Lace

There is no historic tradition of lace making of any sort in Wales, and there is no evidence that it formed part of the traditional costume until after the late 19th century when it began to appear on the costumes of choir members, and costumes worn by those advertising Wales. It became much more apparent after the Second World War, possibly as a result of the contact with those from other countries who included lace in the costumes worn at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen.

However, many of the Welsh costume dolls have lace, or lace-trimmed caps, but they are tiny and may be little more than scraps left over from ornamenting special adult costumes.

Late 20th century hats for children have poor quality lacework sewn around the inside of the brim to give the impression that the wearer is also wearing a frilled cap. Similarly,  aprons for modern Welsh costume are often edged with lace.

Embroidery

There is no strong tradition of embroidery in Wales.  However, a few men’s smocks from Wales survive (their origin requires further study) and these contain some fine smocking and embroidery. Such needlework is not seen on Welsh costume.

References to lace

In some cases, possibly only on Sundays and special events, women might have worn a piece of lace in place of the shawl.

1826 [Lampeter, Sunday]

I saw the good folks pass the window to Church, and the women were universally dressed in men’s hats, both rich and poor; even Ladies of otherwise the most delicate appearance, who were distinguished by some beautiful lace round their necks and riding on horses.’ (Masleni, Thomas John, Sketch of a Tour of Scenery in Wales, 1826, NLW Add Mss 65a, p. 71) [In this case, those who wore lace might not have been wearing traditional costume: they might have been gentry or from the more affluent families.]

1834

[The people of south west Gower] seldom intermarry with their Welsh neighbours, and are further distinguished by their costume and dialect. Lace is also made in Gower resembling the manufacture of Flanders. (‘Vivian’, Extracts from the Portfolio of a traveller, no 1, The Graphic & Historical Illustrator, ed. by E.W. Brayley, (1834) pp. 73-76)