The Welsh hat has been an icon of Wales since the 1830s when it first made its appearance. Before that date, working women wore men's hats made of felt, either similar in shape to a bowler hat, or like a Welsh hat, but with a much lower crown.
During the 1830s, the crown on the woman's hat suddenly rose. The reason for this is unknown, but it may have been influenced by the tall hat with narrow curved brim worn by gentlewomen when horse riding. The new Welsh hat was made of silk plush on a buckram shell strengthened with resin – exactly the same materials from which men's top hats were made.
The crowns of the hats worn in south and south-west Wales were slightly conical in shape and most were made by Christys of London and Stockport, or Carver and Co of Bristol. The hats worn in north Wales generally had a slightly shorter crown and straight sides: most of these were made by Welsh hatters.
The Welsh hat seems to have been worn (with a full Welsh costume) only by the wives and daughters of successful farmers when attending chapel or church; at special events such as eisteddfodau and royal visits and especially when selling their wares at market. The Welsh hat seem to have started to go out of fashion during the 1860s, but a few women continued to wear them until there was a revival of the Welsh costume during the 1890s.
Most 20th century tall Welsh hats were made of card and cotton and were worn by members of women's choirs, folk dancers and at special events. The hats now worn by girls on St David's day are made of felt and are probably made in the Far East.