Very many Eisteddfodau were held in Wales and beyond. Reports of local, regional and National events filled newspaper columns.
Reports of the wearing of Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau rarely occur before the 1830s, possibly because it was a common practice, and therefore not worthy of comment, but equally, those who attended eisteddfodau may not normally have worn Welsh costume: there is no firm evidence either way. Following the Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod at Cardiff in 1834 at which one of the competitions was for an essay entitled ‘The Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales‘, reports of wearing Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau increased, especially at the Abergavenny Eisteddfodau (1834-1853) where Lady Llanover and her female friends, servants (and possibly her tenants) and her male and female harpers wore versions of Welsh costume. Subsequently, reports of the wearing of Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau indicate that the practice was rare, and was worthy of note.
There are three ways in which Eisteddfodau promoted Welsh costume and fabrics:
- by organising competitions in which performers had to wear Welsh costume. See Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau
- by encouraging members of the audience to wear Welsh costume. See Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau
- by organising competitions for the best examples of Welsh costume and fabrics (including hats) See Eisteddfod Craft Competitions
- by arranging for women to attend Gorsedd ceremonies in Welsh costumes. See Pontypool proclamation, 1923
As the relationship between the Gorsedd and Eisteddfod committees developed, the costumes worn at Gorsedd ceremonies were formalised. As with other aspects of the Eisteddfod, these were controversial.
In 1896, Professor Hubert Herkomer’s designs for the Archdruid’s robes were first worn.
During the 1920s, a gorsedd robes committee was established. It was chaired by Winifred Coombe Tennant, the mistress of the robes. She had strong views about the mediaeval style costumes which other members of the committee liked, but she thought were vile.
Cloaks do not form part of the official regalia of the Gorsedd of Bards who hold ceremonies at Eisteddfodau, but in 1923 the red Celtic cloak designed by Arlunydd Pen-y-garn was first worn at The Blodeuged (the gift of flowers).
New Gorsedd Costumes were used at the proclamation of the eisteddfod at Llanelli in 1929 and at the National Eisteddfod in Liverpool in 1929.