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Traditional Welsh dress

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 1:57 pm
by Allan Harley
Now first of all I know where you all live/sleep/fight so that gets rid of the the silly comments (I hope).

During the medieval period - Norman upwards; what were the dress/style that identifies someone as Welsh

Were there any other examples of regional costume?

Traditional Welsh Dress

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:37 pm
by Brother Ranulf
My main interest is 12th century Anglo-Norman England, but recently I got into the Welsh of that period having come across so many mis-quotes from Giraldus Cambrensis on the web. Like Gerald I am one-quarter Welsh.

His "Journey through Wales" and "Description of Wales" date from 1188 or soon after, when he was Archdeacon of Brecon.

He gives several references for Welsh dress at that time: he emphasises that men wore only a tunic and cloak, presumably leaving their legs bare (in the description of a prince, he says a "shirt" and cloak). They go barefoot or wear boots of rawhide. He mentions round shields, helmets, long spears "thrown like javelins", leather "corselets" and a distinct lack of mail armour among the fighting men. Men wore moustaches without beards and some shaved the entire head. "both men and women" he says, "cut the hair short and shape it around the ears."

"Of all the people I have seen the Welsh are the most particular in shaving the lower parts of the body."

Women wore long, flowing white linen veils which were folded into an upright crown around the head, presumably along with the long dresses worn almost everywhere.
Welsh law of about 1150 mentions women wearing "tunic and mantle, and kerchief and shoes" all of which a freewoman was at liberty to give away without her husband's permission.

The inference is that a Welshman could be identified by his hairstyles and lack of leg covering, a Welsh woman by her distinctive veil.

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:24 pm
by sally
I can't offer any specific quotes, but I have always understood that by the fourteenth century there wasn't a significant difference between Welsh and English dress. The few church brasses, effigies etc that I've seen in my travels appear to support that for the upper classes at least. Would be interesting to know if there were any lingering differences in the lower classes though.

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:23 pm
by Allan Harley
Thats what I'm trying to discover, for pre-Edward to 13/14th centuries there seem to have been differences but these slowly disappeared.

Also as stated previously - could you tell someone from say Northumbria from say Devon but dress, manners, hair (or lack of it)?

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:29 pm
by Tuppence
there's a carving or something of a "welsh knight" somewhere (don't have pic to hand and my memory is terrible - can see image in my head but can't remember where it's from :roll: ). but is 12th or 13th c.


he's wearing what look distinctly like sheepskin or fur leggings of some sort.

it could be complete fantasy, or a way that the artist marked him out as being welsh (and therefore 'different' from an english knight). but is interesting.

Traditional Welsh Dress

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:59 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Regarding regional differences in England, I doubt there were many in terms of dress or manners in those areas with predominently Old English backgrounds. The Scandinavian influence was certainly still identifiable in places like York in the 12th century, where furniture, metalwork and other items have a distinctly Scandinavian character.

In the far south-west people spoke Kernowek almost exclusively throughout the middle ages and crossing the Tamar was like entering another country; Giraldus Cambrensis says that the people of South Wales could converse fairly easily with the people of Kernow. I have no info on any specifically Cornish dress, however.

In terms of 12th century peasant costume, I have studied in detail several hundreds of manuscript illustrations produced from Durham and York to Canterbury without identifying any obvous regional differences. The details are surprisingly consistent and show the same developments in the dress of the nobility at the same times across the whole country (an example would be the introduction of V-necks during the 1170s).

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:05 pm
by Tuppence
Also as stated previously - could you tell someone from say Northumbria from say Devon but dress, manners, hair (or lack of it)?


except for the odd regional variant that's always existed, probably not till they open their mouths and you realise you can't understand a word...