cl-Wales-msg - 8/28/04
Clothing of medieval Wales. Resources.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: Heather Rose Jones <hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: Welsh clothing
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 10:26:08 -0700
Organization: University of California at Berkeley
Ken Chapin III wrote:
> My wife and I are just getting involved with the SCA. She wants to take a
> welsh persona. We've been searching the net for info on very old welsh
> clothing but are having a hard time of it. Could someone suggest somewhere
> to look? Everything I've found dates to the 17 and 18 hundreds, I think
> she'd prefer something much earlier. HELP!!! Does anyone have patterns?
For a variety of reasons, not least including the low volume of (easily
accessible) information, the topic of Welsh clothing is very sparsely
covered before the 18th century (when Lady Llanover singlehandedly
"invented" Welsh National Dress, from the ordinary clothing of the time).
One of the difficulties in researching this topic, when compared to
other pre-modern European cultures, is the small amount of information
available on the visual arts in Wales, as well as the difficulty in
disentangling representations of "native" culture in that art from art
that represents a more universal pan-Insular or pan-Western-European
style. The reasons for this scarcity of visual arts are varied and
include the relative poverty of the native Welsh nobility before the
Edwardian conquest, the cultural shift of focus towards England after
that event, and a simple disinterest in publishing what _does_ survive
among those studying the subject. (For example, there are illuminated
manuscripts that were produced in Wales that, as far as I can tell, have
never been published, in full or in part, in a way that would make their
art available to researchers.)
This last deficiency is being remedied in part by Peter Lord's excellent
series "The Visual Culture of Wales" (University of Wales Press), of
which the volumes "Industrial Society" and the early modern volume whose
title I forget are available, with the Medieval/Renaissance volume
expected within a couple years.
Written descriptions of clothing in Wales are more available, but must
be winkled out of their hiding places in a wide variety of genres, and
then evaluated for evidentiary value.
I've done a start on the latter approach (as well as including what few
visual representations I can find) for Welsh clothing up to around 1300,
in my booklet "Medieval Welsh Clothing to 1300" (available from a few
SCA booksellers -- unfortunately I'm not taking orders myself at the
moment). I hope to turn this booklet into a web site at some point in
the future, but I'm trying to avoid such distractions while I'm supposed
to be finishing the dissertation.
The overall picture for the period I was studying seems to be that Welsh
clothing did not differ drastically from that of their neighbors,
although there were certain characteristics of material or style that
were recognized as being associated with the Welsh, although not
uniquely so. (This included characteristics like the continued use of
rectangular cloaks into the medieval period, a haphazard attitude
towards the wearing of shoes, even in battle, and often comments on what
foreigners considered to be sparsity in clothing, e.g., a single linen
tunic and cloak rather than both linen and wool tunics.)
After the period I was studying, clothing, especially of the upper
classes, looked to England for style and inspiration. There is evidence
for various "regional styles" or characteristic garments among the
ordinary people, but this should be set in a similar context of regional
styles within different areas of England -- there was no real
characteristically or iconically "Welsh" dress, in the sense of a style
of clothing that was uniquely and universally associated with that region.
There's plenty of room for further research in this field, especially in
terms of combing through written accounts for fragments of information.
Heather Rose Jones
hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu
From: Heather Jones <hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: Head-gear
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 10:30:52 -0700
Organization: University of California, Berkeley
> Does anyone out there know where I could find information on what sort
> of head gear a women in 12th century Wales would wear? Thanks.
In vague terms, there are 12th c. references to women's headgear
styles in Giraldus Cambrensis (Itinerary Through Wales /
Description of Wales), and there are references to at least two
different types of headgear in the Welsh laws (although it is
much less clear what dates of usage these references can be
considered to cover), but to the best of my knowledge, there is
nothing available that will give you direct information on what
to make and wear.
Giraldus describes Welsh women as wearing a headdress "like what
the Parthian women wore" ... well, given that he's comparing the
style to that of a people living a millennium earlier in another
part of the world, about which he would have had zero direct
informtion, all this tells us is that Welsh women were wearing
something that was similar to what Giraldus _imagined_ Parthian
women to have worn, which doesn't really help at all.
The laws use two terms for women's headdress: "pen-lliain"
(literaly head-linen) and "pen-guch" (literally head-boat,
probably referring to some shaped object that vaguely resembled a
coracle). The latter seems to have been considered either a
lower class or less formal item of dress. It would be reasonable
to associate these terms with some sort of linen veil and some
sort of coif-like item respectively, but that's about as much as