laws and taxes

Sumptuary laws, which forced the working women in particular to wear old-fashioned costumes in order to mark a difference between the social classes in mediaeval England, no longer applied by the 18th century.  It did apply in other countries towards the end of the century but had little effect, and old fashioned costumes were worn as a tradition rather than by law. (Ribeiro, Aileen. ‘Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe 1715–1789, (Yale University Press, 2002), p. 66, 70, 80)

Mrs Morgan  (A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791, (1795), p. 272) considered the idea that the similarity of costume in Wales was a result of sumptuary laws but then dismissed it. There is no evidence that there was any formal control in the way people dressed in Wales, either by such laws or the Dress Act of 1746 which applied to Scotland following the Jacobite rebellion. Attempts made to encourage the production of local fabrics in Britain by taxing imports sometimes backfired because the exporting countries banned imports from Britain, and since some of the imports were so popular among the upper classes, they were prepared to purchase smuggled goods. Some accessories such as wig powder and men’s hats were taxed, particularly during the war with France, but these taxes are unlikely to have had any effect on Welsh costume, except, perhaps, the end of tax on hats (in 1811) and silk (in 1846).