Welsh Costume

 Or, Traditional Welsh Dress, if you prefer.

I actually made most of this outfit for a "Bonfire Night" themed party in 2022, but I didn't make the hat and I didn't bother making the sleeves because it ended up being 80F that weekend and didn't feel at all autumnal...and as such I didn't bother getting any nice pictures of it!

I wore it on Halloween to sit out front and give out candy to trick or treaters (and creep some of them out), which felt much more appropriate weather for this outfit...in the 50s and then lower once the sun went down. Which in turn inspired me to finish it up properly - at least enough to take pictures and document its existence!

There's a lot of documenting ahead; if you're just here for the pictures you may want to step over to Instagram instead! I've posted and will keep posting some shots of the outfit there, too, with much less verbosity. Relatively speaking.


The "proper" hat I wanted to make still isn't done - hardly started, really, as all I got to last year was a posterboard mockup, and a Tall Hat is quite a commitment. Definitely more than I could realistically finish before all the autumn leaves are down for this year. Plus I wasn't thrilled with the velvet I bought to cover the hat, anyway. But the classic tall "Welsh hat" certainly isn't the only type/shape of hat that was worn with this kind of dress, and a wool felt top hat seemed a not-unreasonable compromise.

All that about hats notwithstanding, sleeves seemed very doable! I cut them out and halfway sewed them together last year before the party, then shoved them in a bag and promptly forgot about them, so that was a pleasant surprise from Past Me.

 They're made of black and red shot silk taffeta, lined with cotton, and interlined in wool for warmth. I may make another lighter weight pair out of a yellow and red printed cotton at some point (inspired by the lady on the left in this print), but one pair of sleeves is fine for now! I can only wear one set at a time...

Side note: I'm hugely indebted to Michael Freeman's VAST wealth of information that can be found at https://welshhat.wordpress.com/ - tons of primary sources, images, and explanation, all of which are free online to rando members of the public like me! If you're at all interested in Welsh costume this is an incredible resource with hours of reading! (If you're only mildly interested and want to know the basic parts of the outfit, I have a short list of references at the bottom, the first of which is an excellent basic primer as to the layers!) 

A brief rundown of the rest of the layers and pieces as follows. Side note: since this style of dress and 18th century dress have quite a bit of style and construction overlap, there's some overlap in my outfit with my 18thc pieces as well. Very convenient for being able to reuse pieces!


Base layer 

Early 19thc short-sleeved shift and my 1844 Corsets & Crinolines corset. I went with that corset as a bit of splitting the difference, since there's very little evidence of what Welsh women wore as support garments during the 1830s-40s, which is the first solid appearance of this style of dress. Indeed, there's some written evidence from the 18th/19thc that at least some of them went stayless, as the writers were very happy to note...but taking those sources with a grain of salt, plus intending this to be more "Sunday best" costume, plus the fact that in my experience it's much easier to fit these things over foundation garments...I think it's not completely out of the realm that at least somebody was wearing stays under their dress in Wales in the 1840s! Plus I don't want to look lumpy.

Additional note: I wore my "Stratford" American Duchess shoes, which are 16thc style and not exactly what somebody would be wearing in Wales in the 1830s/40s, but one, I couldn't find my black 18thc shoes that I'd intended to wear; two, from what I can see in the prints, women seem to be mostly wearing the square-toed shoe style that was in style at the time (and my early Victorian style shoes aren't black!); three, the Stratfords at least fit the overall look, even if they aren't really correct!

Also, I chose to wear my fun striped cotton stockings although black wool would have been more strictly historical, as most of the prints show black stockings on the women. But I'm a big "fun stockings" fan. And at least these don't have frogs on them or anything.


Pais (petticoat)

There are two! The under-petticoat is a deliciously fat, plush, yellow wool flannel that I got as a remnant from Farmhouse Fabrics a few years ago. I was hoping to make a Regency spencer out of it, but it's a really bad shade of yellow to be that close to my face. But perfect for a petticoat! I had to piece in the last couple of inches at the top with some random scrap-bag linen to make it long enough, but I would have done that anyway, since pleating this wool into a waistband would make for one very fat waistband! I bound the hem in black twill tape rather than hemming it for the same reason...also it's a fun little decorative touch.

I don't think I saw any examples of yellow petticoats specifically, but yellow definitely makes an appearance in accessories (and even one gown) in the prints I found, so I figured it fell into the "reasonable assumption" category.

 Top petticoat is made of the same wool flannel as the gown, and is hand sewn apart from the side seams. I made it to fasten on the side (mostly because I forgot to split the back panel to do a back opening...), and the opposite side has a pocket slit, because pockets are incredibly useful things, so of course Welsh women used them as well! I didn't make new ones, because they're not any different in shape or function from my 18thc pockets, so I used those (which honestly I use for every era I can get away with! Separate pockets are awesome. Except when they wander away from the pocket slit and you can't find them). I bound the petticoat in the same black twill tape as the yellow petticoat, too.



I made my gown in the style worn in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. There are a few different gown styles depending on region, but this seems to be the most distinctive, with the most surviving examples. (Link to rundown of the different types of gowns). It took several weeks of poking Ebay to find striped wool flannel that I considered acceptable for this gown, and I'd still have rather gotten a fabric with a more pronounced red stripe (this one is black, grey, and red), but this is the best I could find, and I think it's Not Bad, even if it's not a perfect match.


I used the ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLY AMAZINGLY HELPFUL pictures of a deconstructed gown on the Welsh Hat site to construct my own gown. I followed the construction/shape of the original pretty closely, although I adapted the measurements to fit me, of course, and also omitted the funky piecing because I had 7 yards of 60" fabric to work with.

Which is good because I mis-cut both the long back pieces and then the fronts too. Whooooops. 


A couple of in-progress pictures on Instagram here and here.


The gown is all hand-sewn; mostly for fun! I do legitimately enjoy hand sewing! Also, since it's essentially a slightly modified 18thc style, in some ways it's actually easier to hand sew if you're trying to use 18thc construction methods, rather than fussing with a machine.

The "tails" of the skirt can be worn up or down, but I prefer them up, because why have a tail if you aren't going to show it off? My tails are just pinned up, which seemed the simplest way to keep them where you want them. (Extants don't seem to have any buttons, loops, or other evidence of how the tails stayed up, so pins are a logical solution.)

The gown pins closed as well, incidentally, for the same reason - from what I could gather, most of the extants have no fastenings on the center front opening, which tends to point to pins (ahahaha sorry, very punny).

The moire was another reasonably common sleeve trim on this style of gown, that I liked very much. The moire ribbon on my gown is a nice hefty black cotton-silk blend - old enough that it reads purple in bright sunlight! If you look at the other pictures it does look black...



Kerchief & Shawl: The plaid kerchief I'm wearing tucked into the neck of my gown is made from a lightweight linen, and it's from my stable of already-existing 18thc neckerchiefs.

The deeper red small shawl that's pinned over top of the gown is a square wool shawl that I found on ebay. The larger white and plaid-border shawl is also an ebay find, and also wool! I bought a third shawl as well that didn't end up making an appearance in this photoshoot, because although it's a lovely soft fluffy mohair that's warmer than the white shawl, it's also vintage and sheds fibers like crazy! Like "my cat has been using this for a bed for a month" hairy. I wore it on Halloween when I sat outside and had to lint roll the whole outfit. Didn't seem worth it just for pictures. Especially when it wasn't actually cold!


Apron: More wool! It's Wales, everything is wool. I wanted a checked wool with a woven-in border like you can see on some of the later 19thc photos of Welsh costume...which, no surprise, was a tall order. Ebay came through for me again, with a remnant of checked wool fabric that had a ridiculously wide selvedge! Those colored stripes at the bottom of the apron are just the selvedge...but I think it works well enough for effect, even if it's not exact. I like it, anyway - more fun than just a plain apron!

 Cap: Just a Regency-style cap that I already had, and my best option for cap ruffles that would show under the hat. A designated cap for this outfit is also on the "eventually" list - one with either chin ties or lappets, as those seem to be common options, but again, this one works for now.

And a few more pictures!


Location: The park around Smithville Mansion in Eastampton, NJ. Very nice park, with lots of nice walking paths. Pictures helpfully taken by my better half because I'm not sure where my tripod went! (thanks, dear.)


Costume of Ceredigion or Cardiganshire, Wales or Cymru. (Folk Costume & Embroidery): http://folkcostume.blogspot.com/2011/12/costume-of-ceredigion-or-cardiganshire.html


Stovepipe Hats and Bedgowns: An Exploration of the Welsh National Costume. (The Costume Society): https://costumesociety.org.uk/blog/post/stovepipe-hats-and-bedgowns-an-exploration-of-the-welsh-national-costume


Components of Welsh Costume. (Welsh Costume / Gwisg Gymreig)  https://welshhat.wordpress.com/elements-of-welsh-costumes/