Mae Alun am a wylais,
Today the Welsh word pais is used for an undergarment worn by women. However, in the time of Guto’r Glyn a pais was usually a reference to a simple garment worn on the upper body, sometimes under a gown and sometimes under armour or a doublet. The equivalent English word is ‘tunic’ and it was the most basic item of attire worn by men and women of all social classes.
Tunics worn under other clothes (often called ‘undertunics’) were made of linen and they had a simple, loose shape. However, since pais could also mean a dress that was not necessarily covered by other clothes, there are also references to tunics made of wool which were tighter around the body. It seems that woollen cloth was the material used for tunics worn for everyday use by people of the working class, such as farmers. The ‘Luttrell Psalter’ manuscript shows many in their working clothes and most of them are wearing loose tunics which seem to be of wool. They are mostly coloured in grey or yellow-brown; the colour of undyed woollen cloth.
In terms of men’s clothing of this period, one of the main changes made to the tunic was to cut it very short. This occurred during the middle of the fifteenth century when wearing a short doublet that stretched slightly under the hip became fashionable.  Women’s tunics remained mostly unchanged throughout the century although a gown with a V shaped collar meant that the undertunic had to be cut the same. Women wore many layers of undergarments during this period and they are usually called pais, camse and crys.
Many of the poets refer to themselves wearing a tunic and it seems to have been popular with the travelling poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Iocyn Ddu ab Ithel Grach composed a humorous poem about the adventures of a wandering poet, claiming that he had to beg for a pais fotymog (‘tunic with buttons) with slits in its sleeves, which refers to the tradition of giving a tunic with buttons and fashionable sleeves to a poet.  Guto’r Glyn himself describes the copious tears (‘rain’) that had flowed from his head to his tunic (O’m pen yn llithraw i’m pais, poem 2.1-2) when he heard that Sir Richard Gethin had been captured, and in his elegy for Dafydd Llwyd of Abertanad he says that his tears flowed like two rivers:
Mae Alun am a wylais,
Mae Hafren, o’m pen i’m pais.
The rivers Alun and Severn flow
from my head to my shirt because of what I’ve wept.
Guto requested a different kind of fashionable item from Elen daughter of Robert Puleston of Llannerch, namely a ffaling (Irish mantle) (poem 53), possibly a more suitable garment for a fifteenth-century poet like Guto as the word dwbled, ‘doublet’ became more popular for a ‘tunic’ or a garment for the upper body.
Bibliography: The meaning of the word pais can vary significantly in the poetry of the period and sometimes it means ‘dress’ in general, see Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 1950-2002), s.v. pais.
: M.G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (London, 1939), 173.
: A.M. Jones, ‘Gwisgoedd ac Ategolion yn Llenyddiaeth yr Oesoedd Canol, c.700-1600’, Traethawd Ph.D. (Prifysgol Cymru (Aberystwyth), 2007), 147.
: B.J. Lewis & Twm Morys (gol.), Gwaith Madog Benfras ac Eraill o Feirdd y Bedwaredd Ganrif ar Ddeg ynghyd â Gwaith Yr Ustus Llwyd (Aberystwyth, 2007), 18.3-4.
Unless otherwise noted, copyright on the content of this website belongs to the University of Wales