Victorian Welsh Women

Oct 21, 2015 by

Victorian Welsh women of the working class led hard lives and were rarely photographed.

The following photos, however,  show the beauty and character unique to those 19th century  ladies of Wales.

Such a lovely young woman–notice the wide variety of patterns in her garments, including plaid. She is wearing what we have come to know as the traditional dress or costume of Welsh women.  It has its origins in the rural farms of  Wales, where visitors to the country in the early 1700’s took note of the farm wives’ distinctive attire.   In contrast, women along the border with England and in prosperous towns wore English fashions.

The white cap she wears under her hat is known as a mob cap, a linen or cotton head cover with goffered (an ornamental frill made by pleating and pressing fabric ) fabric around the face.  Some  Welsh caps had long lappets which hung down the front below shoulder level.

The  most distinctive feature of traditional Welsh women’s attire is the hat, with its broad, stiff, flat brim and tall crown.  There were two main shapes of crown: those with drum shaped crowns were worn in north-west Wales and those with slightly tapering crowns were found in the rest of Wales. They were probably originally made of felt ( the hat in this photo appears to be felt) ,  but most surviving examples are of silk plush on a stiffened buckram base. A third type of hat, known as the cockle hat, was worn in the Swansea area.

First of two photos of a pair of women, identified as Sioned and Cadi.

  Here, they are dressed in their work clothes, old garments that once were new and fresh…

…like the dresses that Sioned and Cadi wear in this companion photo, also dated 1875.  The colors are dark, but the details–polka dots, velvet trim and ruffles–reveal the feminine side of these Victorian Welsh ladies.

Another woman dressed in traditional costume, this time standing beside a large spinning wheel. Note that her drum-shaped crown is much taller than the hat in the first photo.

 

There is a long tradition of knitting in Wales; in the 17th-19th centuries, farm women spent many hours creating woolen scarves and shawls to sell to the English and other visitors.  It provided a much-needed additional source of income for poor farm families.

 

A captivating photo of a young Victorian girl in Wales, posing with her large dog.  Her clothing is indicative of a prosperous upbringing, far different from Welsh farm women.

Beautiful hair!  Even in black and white , this woman’s long braided hair has a rich sheen.

A scene you will often find when viewing vintage photos of Victorian Welsh women: ladies having tea.  The large frills on the cap on the right are lovely, but I imagine they would seriously impair your peripheral vision.

An earlier Victorian photo showing a hand-woven shawl with long fringe, an accessory used by most Welsh farm women. The shawl could be used to cover a nursing baby, carry food or kindling, or as head cover in inclement weather.

 

A grouping of older Victorian Welsh women in traditional clothing with various hat styles.  Note that some of the mob caps have been dyed black, a mourning custom of the Victorian era. 

I love the little lady on the right–she’s barely taller than the seated women!

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The St David’s Day Doodles of Google

Mar 1, 2014 by

 

Happy St David’s Day from Google!

For the past few years, the HUGE internet search company has honored Wales and its national holiday on March 1st by decorating their unique doodle of the day, an artistic logo for their homepage search box, with famous Welsh emblems.

The 2014 version features Y Ddraig Goch, the fierce Red Dragon of Wales, politely having tea with a woman wearing the betgwn (bedgown) and iconic Welsh stovepipe hat of rural 19th century Wales.

 

 

 

2013’s doodle features the Red Dragon of Wales breathing fire that magically transforms into daffodils, the national flower of Wales.  He also bears a green and white leek, another iconic Welsh emblem frequently seen on St David’s Day.    Read my recent post on St David’s Day to learn why Wales is one of the few countries to have a patriotic  national vegetable.

 

 

 

The 2012 Google Doodle for Dydd Gŵyl Dewi  again features the Red dragon, this time daintily sniffing daffodils while he reclines against a castle turret.

 

 

 

The Google Doodle for 2011 is the only one of the four to not feature the noble red dragon; instead, the G in the Google name is transformed into a Welsh lady in national costume, complete with black conical hat, shawl, goffered mobcap and daffodil.

 

 

 

To learn more about the history of Google’s Doodles, try their info page here.    Any suggestions for the 2015 St David Day’s Doodle?  Feel free to pass them on to the talented doodlers of  Google–who in turn pass on our rich Welsh heritage to the world.

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