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Bedgown 1a

This costume is a late 19th century example of the sort of costume that women were wearing in Wales 100 years earlier. By the end of the 19th century most rural women were wearing cotton blouses with skirts and aprons, but they sometimes wore the 'traditional' woollen costume for 'Sunday best' and special events and photographs.

Bedgown 1

Throughout Europe during the 18th century, rural women wore similar clothes – a skirt, underskirt, bedgown (betgwn), apron and shawl; some wore knitted stockings. Hats varied in style from place to place.

By the end of the 18th century many English women had adopted lighter, brighter cotton costumes but in Wales the women continued to wear 'homespun' - wool which they spun themselves and took to the weaver to make into cloth, from which they made their own clothes. These were cheap, warm, waterproof and long-lasting.

The bedgown – with a short front, long back and short sleeves was a practical jacket. In Ceredigion, the cloth was often of dark wool with blue or red stripes. A small scarf was worn around the neck. Separate cotton sleeves were worn as required.

Many women wore a cloak over this when necessary – blue ones were more common in Wales than red.

The shawl was an important part of the costume. These were normally large squares of black, grey or cream wool, sometimes checked.

Another sort of shawl was used to carry a baby (siôl magu) leaving the hands free to work. This was normally worn diagonally from one shoulder with the baby on one side.

Fine brightly coloured cotton or silk shawls (for example the Paisley pattern) were worn as 'Sunday best'.

Red shawls, of the sort worn by women during the French invasion at Fishguard in 1797 are now rare.

The apron was normally of wool, often of grey or white stripes or checks on a dark background.

Knitted stockings were sometimes worn. At the beginning of the 19th century these has no foot, but were hooked around a toe. Rural women often walked in bare-feet, but might have worn wooden soled clogs with leather uppers or sturdy leather boots.

The origins of the bedgown