Welsh National costume

This page includes:

  • Introduction
  • Traditional costume
  • The Welsh hat
  • Lady Llanover
  • The decline of traditional costume
  • The First Revival
  • Welsh musicians
  • The Second Revival – children’s costumes
  • The Inter-war period
  • The Third Revival – folk dance costumes
  • Modern National Costume
  • The use of the term ‘National Costume’ in 19th century publications

INTRODUCTION

There was no single style of dress or design, colour, pattern or type of fabric worn by the women of Wales which could be described as National at any time in the past. Only the Welsh hat, worn by rural women from about 1830 to 1860 (and subsequently by many others) can be described as National: it was also unique to Wales.

TRADITIONAL COSTUME

Although the term ‘National’ was occasionally used to classify women’s costumes in Wales from at least 1813, there was no conscious effort by the women of Wales to follow a common style in dress until the 1880s. Before that date, tourists noted certain common features of traditional costumes worn by rural women: it was made of wool rather than cotton; it was often of dark colours, especially blues and reds in stripes and checks; they wore men’s hats rather than bonnets; a gown or bedgown (which had mostly gone out of use in England); aprons (which were distinctive in being checked); shawls; cloaks (which were more often blue than red) and they rarely wore shoes. These features made their costumes distinct from that of their peers in England and elsewhere. Many tourists also noticed that the costumes looked smart and attractive, but it is likely that they saw the women in their ‘best’ clothes, and some assumed that what they saw in the limited parts of Wales which they visited was the same as that found all over the country.

It is often said that women wore Welsh costume at Eisteddfodau, especially National Eisteddfodau from the 1860s, but there is very little evidence for this – in fact, the evidence points to the opposite – the few individuals who did wear Welsh costumes at Eisteddfodau (including some performers) were remarked upon, and were occasionally laughed at.

THE WELSH HAT

The most distinctive element of Welsh costume is the Welsh hat which was unique to Wales and was worn only by women. It was first identified as such in 1832 when Princess Victoria and her mother wore ‘the Welsh hat’ during a visit to north Wales. Before the 1830s, Welsh women were distinguished by wearing men’s hats (which was so ubiquitous in Wales that they might be said to be part of a national tradition. It is possible that the Welsh hat developed out of a combination of men’s hat styles. As early as 1834, John Blackwell identified two shapes of Welsh hat – one with a tall, conical crown, worn in ‘Dyfed’ (south-west Wales), and the shorter, straight-sided hat, worn in the north-west. Evidence from illustrations and surviving examples confirms that his distinctions were correct: the common feature to both is the broad, stiff, flat brim.  The tall conical version rapidly became popular, probably with the wives and daughters of more affluent farmers, throughout Wales, possibly as a result of the activities of commercial travellers who worked for the two main firms who made them in England.  The Welsh hat rapidly become an icon of Wales and was commonly used to represent Wales and Welshness in cartoons.

LADY LLANOVER

Lady Llanover has frequently been credited with the invention of the Welsh National Costume, there is very little evidence for this. It is said she wore Welsh costume (but only on Sundays and at special events),  and made her servants wear it (but probably not all the time) and made her guests wear it at Abergavenny Eisteddfodau. Her harpers, both male and female, wore special costumes. There is a now famous painting of Lady Llanover in a Welsh hat and red cloak but no other elements of Welsh costume are visible: the evidence suggests that the fabrics which she commissioned for the gowns were checked, rather than striped – a feature which was not part of any subsequent National costume, but she did sponsor prizes at eisteddfodau for the best examples of woolen fabrics made in the ‘national checks and stripes’. Her essay, written in 1834, says nothing about a national costume – she wrote only about the advantages of wearing Welsh fabrics. The set of pictures of Welsh costume which she probably commissioned are those of regions of south Wales: there is very little in them which is common to all, and none of the women are shown wearing the Welsh hat.  There is no evidence that she influenced the women of Wales to wear anything like the costume which is now considered to be National. Her supposed contribution to Welsh costume was exaggerated in an article published in 1963 which has been repeated and miss-quoted many time subsequently.

THE DECLINE OF TRADITIONAL COSTUME

From the 1830s men’s hats gave way to the Welsh hat or the bonnet, cotton became more common and the gown or bedgown gave way to a dress or separate bodice and skirt: only older women and those selling their produce at market wore traditional costumes.

By the 1840s, the traditional elements of the ‘folk’ costume, plus the Welsh hat, became the subject of souvenir prints, and from the 1860s,  staged photographs of women in Welsh costume were available for purchase.  These were produced for tourists, but they had the effect of preserving an image of something unique to Wales, of which some Welsh people bemoaned the loss.

THE FIRST REVIVAL

The costume which developed after the middle of the 19th century is said to have been based on fakelore rather than folklore and was driven more by commercial interests and romance than tradition. During the early 1880s there were moves by manufacturers in the Swansea area and some nationalists to produce costumes to be worn at the visit of the Prince of Wales to Swansea in 1881. From then on, a particular style of costume, with a long-tailed tailored gown, a striped or plain skirt, a Welsh hat, a shawl  and sometimes a red cloak, was adopted as a Welsh costume, worn more probably by middle-class townswomen women than by working rural women. The Welsh woollen manufacturers (including Pryse Jones of Newtown who established the first mail order company in Britain and mass-produced red cloaks), were trying to retain old and seek new markets for their products, but it seems unlikely that manufacturers of Welsh hats gained from this burgeoning interest in retaining the old costume: it is probably that their manufacture had ceased by the early 1880s (and anyway, most of the surviving examples were made in England). The hats worn after 1880 were probably originally owned by mothers or grandmothers of the wearers. Welsh hats produced after this date were either especially made commercially (of felt rather than buckram and silk plush) or homemade of cardboard and black cotton, velvet or other fabric.

A few women from the middling and upper classes wore a version of Welsh costume for special events, such as coral performances and Royal visits, and also when traditional Welsh products (such as blankets, shawls and ceramics) were exhibited as part of various campaigns to seek new markets in Wales and beyond, in order to keep skilled Welsh craftspeople employed, in their homes. Such women could afford the time to assemble such costumes, many of which they purchased, either as fabric, or ready made.

Older market women continued to wear their own version of traditional Welsh costume, normally with striped fabrics rather than plain; younger market women may well have worn their mother’s or grandmother’s Welsh hat and some other elements of the costume, to which they added mass-produced, and sometimes imported accessories such as shawls, blouses and stockings. These women wore a distinctive Welsh costume out of pride, and possibly as a marketing ploy and they continued to do so well into the 1880s.

WELSH MUSICIANS

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‘The Welsh Prize Singers from Wales’ The Welsh Ladies’ choir (and others), under Madame Clara Novello Davies, photographed in Chicago, 1890s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was choirs of Welsh women and harpers who made a version of the Welsh costume famous. From the 1880s, and especially during the 1920s and ’30s they performed throughout Britain and abroad and often wore a version of Welsh costume, at least for pert of their concerts. The Welsh Ladies choir, based in Cardiff  under Madame Clara Novello Davies, which won a prize at the Chicago World Fair and performed at Osbourne House for Queen Victoria, wore Welsh hats, shawls and a (bed)gown, and sometimes knitted on stage,  but it was the Welsh hat which was so distinctive – the rest of the costume often included a lot of cotton and lace – the latter rarely found on traditional Welsh costumes. They sometimes wore a version of the loose bedgown, and occasionally the long-tailed gown.

THE SECOND REVIVAL – CHILDREN’S COSTUMES

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Photograph dated 1927. All are wearing Welsh hats, shawls, long skirts, and boots but no aprons. Each has a leek attached to their shawls. The hats on the left and right hand sides are probably hand-made, or repaired.

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, school girls began to wear Welsh costume on St David’s day, and occasionally at other events, such as carnivals and choral performances. Nothing has been found to explain this apparently sudden introduction of the custom – before 1900, it was extremely rare for children to wear anything like the traditional or national costume.  It might have been a response to an increasing interest in Welsh Nationalism and a response to the threat to small nations by their larger neighbours – perhaps influenced by Lloyd George’s support for Belgium at the beginning of the First World War by ‘Gallant Little Wales’.

The girls wore clothes based on traditional costumes, some of which were probably made from cut-down old costumes. The hats were made especially of felt and were purchased, but details of the manufacturers and method of distribution are unknown – adverts for them have not been found.

Welsh costume was worn at three major national events in 1911 – a suffragette march in London to mark the coronation of Edward VII; the investiture of his son as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon a few weeks later, followed by a brief Royal tour of Wales. Special costumes were made for these events.

THE INTERWAR PERIOD

During the 1920s and 1930s, many women’s choirs were established in Wales, and some of these wore Welsh costume, including the Welsh hat, shawl and striped, or occasionally, plain skirt.  Some performed at Eisteddfodau but it was rare for others to wear Welsh costume at such events unless they were part of the formal Gorsedd ceremonies. The long-tailed gown was difficult to make and suitable fabric rarely produced. Welsh costume was also used by those promoting Wales as a tourist destination – almost every town’s and region’s brochure had an image of a woman wearing a very fanciful version of Welsh costume. It is at this period that plain red skirts and cloaks became popular.

THE THIRD REVIVAL – FOLK DANCE COSTUME

In 1947, the first International Eisteddfod was held at Llangollen for which a booklet on Welsh folk dance was produced in 1848. A second edition, in 1954, included a description of Welsh costumes, possibly in response to the splendid folk costumes worn at the event by other competitors.  This led to the production of a variety of Welsh costumes for women which had the following in common: Welsh hats (though cotton caps were normally worn when dancing); long-tailed gowns and skirts in striped or plain fabrics; a shawl and clogs. The men tended to wear a version of 18th century shirts, waistcoats, breeches and stockings. Some of the women’s costumes were based on surviving examples and old drawings and descriptions. The fabrics, some of which were especially commissioned, tended to be lighter in colour and weigh than traditional examples. They were probably designed to be comfortable when dancing, easier to wash and lighter in weight to prevent over-heating. The skirts followed the current fashion in becoming shorter. Some lace was included, perhaps in response to that seen on other European costumes.

All these versions of Welsh costumes included elements which would not have been included in early 19th century traditional costumes including: new, lighter, brighter plain (rather than striped or checked) fabrics; cotton (if suitable woollen fabric was not available); lace; felt hats (unless they had access to old silk Welsh hats) often with some lace or cotton to represent a cap sewn into them; fancy shawls; shorter skirts and bodices rather than gowns or bedgowns. Most of these costumes were identifiably Welsh, mainly because the distinctive Welsh hat made them so. The main differences are that they were worn only on a very few days a year and many of those who wore them were not working rural women but from the upper classes and professional, manufacturing and shop-keeping families: in the past they would have been wearing versions of English and Paris fashions.

MODERN ‘NATIONAL COSTUME’

There are three types of Welsh costume worn today:

(1) The costumes worn by girls on St David’s day – which can be either a peculiar mixture of modern fabrics, either home made or bought off the peg at supermarkets, with a felt hat (either tall, conical ones, or the cockle-women’s hat, probably made in the far-east), or a well researched and carefully made set of clothes made in Wales of modern fabrics which can be bought in supermarkets and museums.

(2) The costumes worn by folk dancers, many of which are based on careful research (for example, see Huw Roberts, bilingual booklet, Pais a Becon, Gŵn stwff a Het silc, Traditional Welsh costume in nineteenth-century Anglesey (2007). This brief,  well illustrated, but comprehensive account of north Wales and Cardiganshire costumes and accessories was written by a practicing dancer and musician).

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‘This Lovely Land of Wales’, 1950s

 

‘Lovely Land of Wales’, 1960s

 

 

 

 

(3) An extraordinary range of costumes, sometimes incorporating elements of the Welsh flag, Welsh hats and red and green fabrics, worn by both women and men at great variety of occasions, including Rugby matches, fun-runs, carnivals and promotional events.

The use of the term ‘National Costume’
The following are all of the few examples of the use of the term ‘National’ (or sometimes ‘Cambrian’) in the many descriptions of Welsh costume that have been recorded before 1880.

1813 Wales

Their beauty is not set off by the national dress, and indeed it is strong proof of its transcendency that it appears so striking in spite of it. They indulge in no showy or sprightly colours, no gay ribbons, nor finery of any kind, such as distinguishes the country lasses of England; rough, dark woollen garments form both their summer and winter clothing; add to these a dark blue or brown cloak of coarse cloth, and a man’s hat, and you have a Welsh beauty in all the pride of her dress.
Ayton, R., A Voyage around Great Britain undertaken in the summer of the Year, 1813 (London, 1816)

1817 Holywell
The crowd of people greatly exceeding any assemblage of the kind in our part of the world, presented by their national costume and to us singular appearance an extraordinary spectacle … the women in their long blue?? cloth cloaks, striped linsey-woolsey petticoats and men’s hats particularly attracted our notice forming such a complete contrast to the neat ????? country girls that attended our English markets.
Scrope, Frances,? (1794-1858), ‘Journal of an excursion into North Wales, 1817’, North Yorkshire Record Office, ZPY5/18/5/3, p. 9, 11

1826
‘lads and lasses in holiday attire … the studious neatness of the dresses of all the females … and the precision with which every article of their national habit was retained in its due and proper place.
Freeman, G.J., Rev., Sketches in Wales, or a Diary of three Walking Excursions in that Principality in 1823, 1824, 1825, (1826), p. 96, Repeated in Leigh’s guide to Wales and Monmouthshire: containing observations on the Mode of Travelling … 1831, 1839 (4th edition), p. 9

1828
One of the subjects of Prichard’s novel, Twm Shôn Catti, was Mr Graspacre whose wife made her maidservants wear and pay for English cotton clothes during Graspacre’s absence. On his return he burnt them all and the novel continues:   He then in a firm under tone of subdued resentment, gave strict injunctions that no further liberties should be taken with their national costume;
T. J. Llewelyn Prichard, The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti; Descriptive of Life in Wales: Enterspersed with Poems.  (Aberystwyth :  1828, pp. 45-49, 2nd edition 1839; 3rd edition 1873)

1832
In 1832 Princess Victoria was presented with a doll dressed in ‘Cambrian Costume’ at Llangollen
On the Duchess’ birthday, their Royal Highnesses made their public entry into Bangor in an open carriage; and on this occasion, they appeared, in compliment to the fair maids of Cambria, in the head-dress of the country, the Welsh hat, which national costume the ingenuous countenance of the Heiress Presumptive well became.
Anon, Victoria; An Anecdotal memoir of Her Majesty (1837) also published in The Parents Review [for Charlotte Mason’s schools], XI, 384-389 with similar reports in North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), August 21, 1832; and Liverpool Mercury etc., October 15, 1852.

1834 Hall, Augusta, (Lady Llanover)
In 1834 the term ‘National Costumes’ (note the plural) was incorporated into the English (but not the Welsh) title of the essay competition set by the committee of the Dyfed and Gwent Eisteddfod which Augusta Hall (Lady Llanover) won and later published in both Welsh and English.
Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod, Cardiff, 1834. The Prize Essay ‘On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales, Prize winning essay, Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod, 1834,’ by Gwenynen Gwent (Mrs Hall of Llanover). (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman; and William Bird, Cardiff, 1836)
Eisteddfod Gwent a Dyfed 1834. Y Traethawd Buddugol ar y Buddioldeb a Ddeillia Oddiwrth Gadwedigaeth y Iaith Gymraeg, a Dullwisgoedd Cymru gan Gwenynen Gwent (Mrs Hall, o Lanofer) (Caerdydd: Argraffwyd gan William Bird, 1836) 

1834
From these very imperfect remarks, it may be seen that one advantage which the Principality derives from the preservation of its national costume (wisg gynhenid = innate, inherent, native costume) consists in the materials being the produce of its own hills. The Welsh mountain farmer can generally find on his own farm almost all he wants for the clothing of his family, and frequently all are manufactured under his own roof.
{The weather compelled our ancestors to wear warm dress ‘which we now call national’ and this is a good reason for preserving it.} Nor should we gain anything by change. Simplicity in dress is frequently proof of, and conducive to, a simplicity in the social and moral habits. The preservation of the old costume destroys that restless hankering after new fashions … {The English have no national dress. The higher ranks follow Paris, and the rest follow them.} This restless anxiety after something new does not disturb the thoughts of our fair mountaineer. She may put on the dress of her great-grandmother and walk out among her friends, without differing in appearance from them. And why should she change it? What national costume is there among any other people that appears so neat, and is so well adapted to the climate, as the Welsh one. …
The original Welsh version was published anonymously under the title ‘Gwisgaid y Cymru in Cylchgrawn y Gymdeithas er Taenu Gwybodaeth Fuddiol am 1834, dan olygiad y Parch John Blackwell, B.A., (Llanymddyfri, gan D.R. and W. Rees, 1834), pp. 274-276
The Rev John Blackwell, (Alun, 1797 – 1840), curate of Holywell and Rector of Manordeifi (Pembrokeshire), On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales.’
This was published in English, as a translation from the Welsh in Beauties of Alun; being the Literary Remains, in Welsh and English, of the late The Rev John Blackwell, B.A., Ruthin and London, 1851, edited by G. Edwards (Gutyn Padarn), pp. 253-266 which states thatThis essay was intended for the Cardiff Eisteddfod, [1834] but sent in too late for the adjudication.’
The English translation was also published in The Cambrian Journal, (Cambrian Institute), Tenby, 1861, pp. 26-38, in which it was prefaced by the following: ‘We reprint the following essay by the late eminent Bard and Scholar, Blackwell ; especially as it furnishes valuable information on a subject that is engaging a good deal of the public attention just now, that is, the National Costume of the Welsh.

[1836] Pontrhydfendigaid Inn, Ceredigion
Carefully pinned to a curtain hung a very knowing lace cap, with borders of that extraordinary width and abundance seen only among the Welsh belles, and most beautifully “got up” as the ladies say. On a corner table, too, lay a hat, which, by its gloss, newness, and clever shape, evidently intended to invite the cap to church the following Sunday; and the entrance of a tight, blooming, dark-eyed … looking Welsh girl … supplied a face worthy of the becoming national costume. …
[Following a description of the poor state of Welsh cottages] Yet amid all this filth, and, as we consider, misery, the female part of the cottagers are as spruce in their national costume on Sundays and holidays,
Roscoe, Thomas, (1791-1871) Wanderings and Excursions in South Wales … 1st edition 1836 and subsequent editions, 1854 edition, pp. 34, 40

(1836) [Derived from earlier sources]
The higher class [of women] dress like the English; but in the more humble ranks, the national costume is preserved, which, for both men and women, is composed of home-made woollen cloth.
Charles Augustus Goodrich, The Universal Traveller: Designed to Introduce Readers at Home to an acquaintance with the Arts, Customs and Manners of the Principal Modern Nations of the Globe, … derived from the researches of recent Travellers, 2nd edition, 1836, p. 227 (subsequent editions: 1838, 1842, 1843, 1845). Repeated in Blake, A View of the World, 1841, p. 86

1838 Abergavenny Eisteddfod. Printed poster [English]
Competition 4. Prize by Lady Charlotte Guest of a medal, valued at 5 guineas
For the best specimen of real Welsh flannel or woollen in colours and woven in any of the national cheques or stripes, containing nothing but wool, not under 2½ yards. Won by John Thomas, Glynnedd.
NLW MS 13962E, 98a (poster), Cambrian (newspaper), 20.10.1838

1840 Abergavenny Eisteddfod.
Competition 12, prize given by the Ladies of Abergavenny. A prize of 5 guineas.
For the best specimen of Welsh woollen, woven in any of the national stripes or checks, to be dyed and manufactured within the district of Gwent or Morganwg. The merit will be determined entirely by the brilliancy of the colours.
The object of this prize is the improvement of the dying of the Welsh woollens which are now frequently deteriorated by the mixture of worsted, introduced on account of the superiority of its colour; but which in consequence of its shrinking, when wetted, in a different proportion to the wool, greatly injures the substance and appearance of the fabric, while the best Welsh woollens, as to texture are generally dull and muddy in colour.
N.B. The introduction of foreign wool, or of worsted of any kind, will exclude from competition for any of the Prizes for Welsh woollen.
Mr John Daniel stated that the judges were unanimous in their opinion that the specimens far surpassed any sent in on former occasions. They regretted extremely that the best specimen was disqualified from not being woven in one of the national checks or plaids; it was of great beauty, and contained 26 colours.
Prize winner: Mr William Jones, Machen.
NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 17.10.1840, 31.10.1840; The Welshman, 9.10.1840.

1842 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
Competition 16, prize given by Mr Watkins of Abergavenny, Mr Price of Abergavenny and Mr Barber worth 3 guineas.
For the best woollen whittle in colours and in the National stripes or chequered patterns, not less than 2½ square, fringe included. No other than real Welsh woollens and Welsh patterns will be admitted.
NLW MS 13962E, 98c-d, posters in Welsh and English; Cambrian 8.10.1842 (Ball), 22.10.1842 (prizes)

1842 Abergavenny Eisteddfod
Illustration of bards with harps in the tent of the ‘Welsh Bardic Festival’ (The Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society), held on 12th October. The procession to the town included a Band of musicians playing national marches, the performers attired in scarves of national plaid. Several banners of the society were emblazoned with the Red Dragon of Cadwallader, the Plume of feathers etc. A platform carriage bearing six harpers had postilions dressed in Welsh woollen plaid caps and jackets. Prizes were awarded for specimens of National manufacture.
Illustrated London News, 22.10.1842, p. 377-378

1843
The national dress or costume of the men (if ever they had any) is not now in use; that of the women, however, is still very peculiar. … One of the most striking parts of the women’s dress is the black beaver hat, which is almost universally worn and is both picturesque and becoming.
From ‘The South Wales Farmer: his modes of agriculture, domestic life, customs and character’ written in 1843, published in Alfred Russel Wallace, My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, London, 1905, vol I, pp. 207-222

1844
[Llangurig]
Peasants in their National Costume with the round hat and mob, so becoming to their full faces, are hastening to Llanidloes market with their loads of peat …
[Aberystwyth]
This was market day. We were delighted to see the concourse of country dames in full national costume and to hear the full tones of this noble language.
Anon, An Account of a Tour in Wales, 1844, NLW MS 10566, ff. 45, 54

1848 (15th anniversary, Abergavenny Eisteddfod) 
A prize of three guineas, by Lady Morgan, of Tredegar, for the best coloured Welsh Woollen Whittle, in the national stripes or checks.
Awarded to Mr Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd (Ab Harry)
Gwenynen Gwent [Lady Hall], £5 for the best specimens of Welsh woollens (three inches square each) in the real national checks in the real national checks and stripes, with the Welsh names by which they are known, and with any account of them which can be added; no specimens to be included which have not been known for at least half a century, whether of wool alone, or of wool with flax. The object of this prize is to authenticate the real old checks and stripes of Wales, and to preserve them, with their real Welsh names, distinct from new fancy patterns.
Fifteenth eisteddfod of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion by Cymreigyddion y Fenni, 1848, Extracted from the Hereford Times of Saturday October 21, 1848. (Printed at the [Hereford] Times Office, Hereford.) [16 A4 pages of small type reporting the speeches and adjudication of prizes in detail. It was not the 15th eisteddfod, but the 9th, held on the 15th anniversary of the first.]

1850
The costume of the women is ungraceful, and injurious to the figure; and the national hat, which resembles that used in the Tyrol, is fast going out.
Cliffe, Charles Frederick, The book of North Wales, (1st edition, 1850)

1853, Abergavenny Eisteddfod
Competition 38. Gwenynen Gwent [Lady Hall], £5 for the best specimens of Welsh woollens (not less than three inches square each) in the real national checks in the real national checks and stripes, with the Welsh names by which they are known, and with any account of them which can be added; no specimens to be included which have not been known for at least half a century, whether of wool alone, or of wool with flax or cotton. The object of this prize is to authenticate the real old checks and stripes of Wales, and to preserve them, with their real welsh names, distinct from new fancy patterns. Open to all Wales, including Gwent and Morganwg. – No award
Competition 39. Mrs Maddocks of Treguater, a prize of £5 for the best Welsh woollen in any of the national stripes or checks not less than 12 yards long and ¾ yards wide. Awarded to Samuel Harris of Gwenffrwd.
Cambrian Journal, 1854, pp 55-60; The Musical World, 1853, pp. 677-678; North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), October 29, 1853

1853 Bangor
It happened to be market day and we therefore had an excellent opportunity of seeing plenty of country girls in their national costumes; I confess that I cannot say much for the beauty of either; the high, ugly hat stuck on the top of a cap having large frills on each side of the face being invariably the covering for the head, while the dress was made of a coarse flannel or linsey-woolsey kind of stuff.
[Bailey, Walker], A Journal of a short walking tour in North Wales 1853, NLW MS 12044, 28.7.1853

1855
WELSH COSTUME. To the Editor of the Cambrian Journal. Sir,—When shall we be favoured with a complete dissertation on the different modes of dressing adopted by our ancestors? I know of many persons that would gladly assume the national costume, if they knew wherein it consisted. At present they are acquainted only with the “Welsh hat.” With the view of introducing the full Cambrian fashion, whatever that may be, will you allow me to present your readers with an instalment, which I have culled from the works of Giraldus Cambrensis. “The women, after the manner of the Parthians, cover their heads with a large white veil, folded together in the form of a crown.” …
I remain, &c., Soldurius
Cambrian Journal, vol 2, (1855), p. 247

1857 Barmouth
The National hat is not so much used here as in Dolgellau – the women wear bonnets tipped forwards so as to shade the eyes and exposing the back part of the head. The children are for the most part pretty but a good looking woman is seldom seen – they seem to pass immediately from girlhood to the condition of old women one reason for which is that they very early loose their teeth.’
Anon, (female) Journal of a Tour through North Wales, NLW, mss. 20719 A, p. 65

1858
A series of questions by ap Morris, answered by the editor.
Question 3 What is the Welsh plaid (pattern)?
The Welsh plaid is of various patterns, according to the locality where it is worn.
Question 4 Is there any national Welsh costume?
There is a national Welsh costume, and it becomes all who really love Wales and its usages to bring it more generally into vogue [sic]. It is certainly better adapted both to the climate and scenery of Wales than the absurd English dress of the present day.
Question 16 In an account in the papers … possibly … where the Queen was to be received, it was mentioned that some ladies appeared in “full Welsh costume”. What is the “blazon” of such “cost of arms”? [The Queen was not in Wales in 1858: she had previously been in Wales in 1852 and 1853]
It would require more space than we can afford to enter into the minutiae of Welsh female costume, suffice to say that the beaver hat and linsey gown are among its main characteristics.
Anon, The Cambrian Journal, 1858, pp. 365-366

1858 Llangollen Eisteddfod
Competition 28. For the most elegant and appropriate dress in the national Cymric costume (to be worn at the Eisteddfod), Male Costume – £10, Female £10. (The costume may be of any era in Cymric history. The Mabinogion abound with descriptions of Cymric costumes of all ranks of Society.)
[5 women competed, variously dressed and the prize was shared amongst them. No men competed.]
Copy of the original announcement with list of prizes published in Y Cymmrodor, xxv, (1915), pp. 178-180. A full report of the Eisteddfod appeared in The Cambrian Journal, 1858, p. 298

1861 [South Wales, going to market]
The men wear low-crowned hats, and are for the most part clothed in coats and vests of deep blue cloth, home spun and with brass buttons, have knee breeches of corduroy, and are very partial to showy silk neckcloths. The dress of the women varies. The national costume, as our readers are aware, is a short sleeved cloth jacket, and the petticoat, which is short and sensible, particularly in rainy weather. But flannel, stuff, and cotton gowns of different shapes are also common; in all cases, however, the checked flannel apron is indispensable, and a long blue cloak with a capacious hood is, even in warm weather, not thought superfluous. They frequently wear high-crowned, broad-rimmed hats; these are usually of beaver, and ornamented with fringed bands; but straw hats are prevalent- some of the same form as the beavers, others less steeple-crowned, and some again nearly of a scuttle shape. These hats must be a sad encumbrance to a woman who is laden with a large heavily-freighted market basket on her head; but, on such occasions, a genuine daughter of Cambria would not be restrained … from the pleasure of wearing her national headdress in the streets and market place, though she has had to carry it for miles in her hand, or tied to her arm or apron string.
Hall, Mr and Mrs, The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast, (1861), pp. 300-301

1863 [Tenby]
After breakfast, I went to the market and saw many of the women from the country who had brought butter and various things to market, wearing tall spiral shaped black beaver hats. Both old and young seem to wear this national headgear but those living in the town seem to wear the usual bonnet.
Anon, Journal of a Tour in south Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS 3.272, p. 38

1865 Newport, Monmouthshire
Prince Arthur visited Newport (Gwent), Milford, Pembroke and Tenby where he unveiled the Welsh Memorial to his father.   Ann Jones, dressed in the national costume sung to the harp played by Gruffydd, harper to Lord Llanover. At the banquet Gruffydd, dressed in ‘the national costume of a Welsh harper of the 14th century, played the triple harp.’
Cambrian Journal, (1865), pp. 149-165

1868 OUR NATIONAL WELSH COSTUME
Letter from Robert Herbert Williams of Menai Bridge to Llewelyn Turner, Mayor of Caernarfon.
[Re visit of the Prince of Wales to Caernarfon in 1868 on his way back from Ireland. He opened the waterworks at Caernarfon]
Since our Welsh National Costume is fast disappearing from the Principality, would it not be well on the occasion of the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to gather together a number of women who have not yet abandoned the costume and let … the Princess see them. Let them wear their ordinary dress when going to market. These women might be got from Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Merionethshire and from Aberystwyth, Dolgellau etc.
I have no doubt that Lady Llanover would be able to get some of the real type for you. … let it be the real old costume – gown stwff, het Carlisle, a chap wedi cwilio, and do not object to anyone who might appear in the pais a bedgwn.
When the queen, as Princess resided in Wales [1832], she admired the Welsh dress so much that she specially ordered a Welsh dress to be made for her from Robert Sion Pryse (Gweirydd ap Rhys, Llanrhyddiad, Anglesey), which she wore during her stay and afterwards, until it became fashionable among the nobility.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), April 18, 1868

1878 Swansea
Several young ladies connected with the principal families of the district, created considerable surprise on Saturday by appearing in the streets dressed in the old Welsh national costume. The attire is described as exceedingly becoming, its more general adoption by ladies is regarded as certain and the circumstances calculated consequently to give a desirable impetus to the Welsh flannel trade.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 13, 1878; LEADER.
A reply to this was critical of the action of the ladies in wearing National costume, but it elicited a positive reply:
Let the ladies alone, therefore, to wear the Welsh costume in peace, if they like it. Surely we should not be ashamed of our ancient national costume, which is pretty to look at, convenient, comfortable, and very easy to make a wear. …
Cambrian, 27.9.1878, p. 3 (letter)
No other letters or reports on the Welsh costume noted during September.

1878
Report that the Swansea Bay published a cartoon showing Mrs Hussey Vivian in the National Welsh costume presenting a bouquet to the Prince of Wales on his first visit to Wales.
Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 21, 1878