Saturday, 14 April 2012

Wearing Vintage Gloves

Gloves as part of formal wear in the 1950s
We have so many pairs of gloves either in the shop or soon to hit the shop that I thought a (brief) post about wearing vintage gloves would be in order.

Gloves come in all shapes and sizes- opera gloves, driving gloves, crochet gloves, day gloves, woollen gloves, leather gloves- you name them you'll find them.

Unlike today when you go to mainstream shops gloves re either one size, or come in small/medium/large, vintage gloves often came in numbered sizes. A general tip on sizing for gloves is often your glove size will be similar to your shoe size.  This is not always the case though- as I am a size 6 in shoes and my gloves are a size 7-7.5 (big hands)  

General length names- shorties are very short wrist length nearer the ball joint; wrist length are also known as matinee gloves if worn for more formal wear; elbow length gloves; and full length or opera gloves.  Lengths are also referred to in button lengths, which is a generally known term regardless of the presence of buttons- for example wrist lengths tend to be 8 buttons, elbow length 16 buttons, full length 22 buttons. (A button is slightly longer than and inch).

1960s pink elbow length gloves
Storage and Care

As with all vintage never store them in plastic as they can't breathe and they may start to rot.  The best things is to wrap them in silk or cotton.

Wash in the gentlest soap possible and dry flat in their natural shape with care (out of full sunlight to avoid fading); never tumble dry.  And follow any care instructions on the labels if present.

Wearing Gloves

Try to put gloves on as gently as possible- not pulling on the fingers of cuffs to much but easing your hands in, nor should you push between the fingers as this too puts strain on the seams.  Hold you gloves with care if you are not wearing them (not screwed up in the vastness of your mummy bag as I would be apt to do if I was a habitual glove wearer, rather than just a special occasion wearer!)

Glove Etiquette

I'm not one to follow the rules on etiquette for what should be worn and how (except the no pyjamas in public rule- I'm a big fan of that one); however if you are wanting to wear your vintage gloves authentically here are a few do's and don't's for you...

- Don't appear in public without your gloves with you
- Don't eat or drink (or smoke) in your gloves
- Always remove your gloves at an informal occasion, leaving them with your coat
- Always keep your gloves on for outdoor events
- Always wear appropriate gloves for the occasion
- You can wear bracelets over gloves but not rings (fairly obvious I feel- not sure anyone could squeeze a ring over the top of gloves!)

There must be tons more information (and I'm no glove expert- but I can't seem to resist getting them for the shop at the moment, so am having learn) so feel free to add your own glove tips and etiquette in the comments below if you like., as I said this was just a whirlwind tour of vintage gloves

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  1. Great info! I've wondered about the "button lengths" and if it was ok to use for button-less gloves.
    When I was little I'd dress up with gloves topped with a big ol' cocktail ring. That's what ya get when Miss Piggy is your biggest fashion influence!

  2. That's what I was thinking- Miss Piggy obviously wasn't following fashion etiquette!

  3. Wonderful information! Thanks so much!

  4. Wow this pink colour looks so attractive. I have this type of gloves. I always wear appropriate gloves for the occasion so i am so impressed by that article.

    1. Glad you enjoyed, and thanks for reading! These gloves have got so much attention, and yet amazingly still haven't sold- I suspect it is because they are quite a distinctive colour to match outfits to.

  5. Enjoyed reading this....Mom was a model and always had gloves with her...Even to day her collection is mint condition...about 50 pairs, endless colors and fabrics. Too bad women don't wear them as in the 50's...Ken

    1. Wow! Be great to have a collection like that! I know some women who still wear gloves (I need to until about April anyway because I have really bad circulation in my hands!)

  6. Dear Janine Rudkins , greetings for you wonderful blog!
    As you offer us to share our own glove tips and etiquette comments, I shall go !

    First, there is a difference between wearing day time gloves and formal/evening gloves.
    Day time etiquette is rather plain for ladies: it is permissible - and most common - for a lady to shake hands with her gloves on; she always removes her gloves indoor, and for eating (restaurant, or as a guest).
    On the other side formal etiquette is far more regulated and asks for skills and knowledge of not always written etiquette dos and don'ts, there is no maybe or hedging for wearing formal gloves.

    I know these rules because my parents sent me to a finishing school to learn the ways of a refined lady., and since I am used to formal etiquette and to attend debutante balls, I am well aware of what a lady has to adhere to.
    These rules still prevail for most formal society balls in USA, some ceremonies in Finnish Colleges or Unversities; and indeed for most debutantes worldwide. I skip cabaret or fashion fancies, out of topic.
    You can find slight differences within the advices and recommandations you may find on the net, mainly for when to remove gloves, but the right rules actually taught in traditional finishing schools are the following :

    1) What is an evening glove/opera glove? You have explained it in a few essential words.
    Commonly called long gloves, they are different, and one must be aware of this, when it goes to etiquette matters. The length makes the difference.
    The traditional way to measure a glove, as you explain, is the"buttons”, the antique French unit of glove measure which is slightly longer than one inch. Button measures are customarily taken from the bottom of the thumb seam or gusset to the top of the glove (today, it could be confusing, some shops sell gloves by length measured from the tip of fingers to the top of the glove!).The traditional lengths till 50s-60s (when most ladies were more "petite") are nowadays often extended. Same for the size of the gloves, when 6 - 6 1/2 was the norm - and vintage gloves are found in these sizes- now 7-7 1/2 is quite common. Gloves could (and can always) be order made with more accurate sizes, by 1/4.

    So you have two types :
    - length to the elbow "Evening Gloves" - 12-14 buttons,reaches just below one's elbow.
    - Opera Gloves - 16 to 21 buttons; they reach all the way past the elbow to the middle or top of one's biceps, and even can go higher. These are the most formal. When one kidskin is not available for such lengths, two are used, and stichted together at the beginning of the arm, with a V pattern, both discreet and elegant.

    And two subtypes: without or with wrist buttons (usually 3, sometimes 2 up to 4) called "mousquetaire opening".

    They are made of fabric (satin, lace) or leather (kid).
    Satin, if you follow the tradition, was only for matching the gown, mainly in 50s-60s.
    The most typically and mandatory formal glove is made of white kidskin.
    They are sometimes lined with silk ; easier to don, they feel hot; the real evening glove is unlined.

  7. 2) The rules for wearing them.
    If ideas of elegance or high fashion are associated to these gloves, the explanation for their use is:
    At most formal events (as "white tie" dress code), ladies are to be properly dressed. It is not a question of fashion, but of etiquette strictly written and observed -Sorry, there are no ifs and buts. No questions asked !
    To the long gown (floor length, ankles covered), with matching stole/wrap, you add hair up and done, stockings/hosiery, appropriate evening pumps, good quality but not overwhelming jewellery (earrings, a necklace and one bracelet). And a little clutch matching the gown. That's all. And the gloves, indeed.
    Being "properly dressed" as we are asked include being non immodestly dressed, so if cleavage and bare shoulders (very short sleeves, straps or no straps preferred) are the norm of feminity, bare arms are not accepted, and white kid gloves are considered as the right formal glove. Now everything else becomes logic.

    At formals, only the gloves going way above elbow are appropriate; to the elbow or below are not enough formal. Ladies must select 20-button plus gloves for extremely formal occasions and if they wear bare shouldered gowns. These gloves extend up towards the shoulders. The next option is 16 button gloves which are the standard opera length glove and extend past the elbow, if they wear short sleeved gown (uncovered upper arm up to 3 inches 1/2 -- such a rule can be edicted as instance for debutantes).

    Ladies are also instructed to don their gloves while at home (or at hotel accomodation, or in the dressing room for the debutantes). Once on - they will wear them elegantly at all times while socializing until the end of the evening and they will take them off only in the privacy of their own chambers. You see the right etiquette observed in Mad Men Season 3 episode 10 "The Color Blue", at the end when Betty stands in the bathroom, fully dressed in gown and white kid opera gloves, ready to go out for a black tie party, and Season 1 episode 5 "SG", at the beginning, when Betty enters her bedroom coming back from a party,yet gloved). Remember : always keep your gloves on, no bare arms for the whole event. Receiving line, shaking hands, presenting your hand to be kissed, dancing, gloves on! To summarize: the gown and the gloves are a kind of all in one, since you will never remove your gown in public, same for your gloves. With a little practice and above all getting into the right state of mind, this becomes instinctive. Wearing partially the gloves (one on, the other kept in the hand) is frowned up as négligé. At the difference of day time, forget the idea to put your long gloves in the purse/clutch (neverthless, they will never fit in it!).

  8. Long kid gloves are not easy both to don and remove, if tightly fitted (traditionnally - the "proper lady" orders her custom made pair of gloves) - you can have to use talcum powder to put them on. At the Victorian era, ladies used silver buttonhook for donning on/off the gloves. You can yet find them in vintage shops as collectors.
    Ladies ask usually the assistance of their escort (debs help each other).

    A rule not to forget is that you never eat with your hand gloved. The mousquetaire opening allows one's hand to easily slide out without having to remove entirely the glove. The lady uncovers her hand (or her two hands) only when she sits at the table. Not before.The glove skin may then be rolled away and secured neatly in to the glove arm, or under the bracelet. The glove wearer can dine this way and keep her arms covered (a seen in some movies, and pictures taken in 50s-60s). She always put back the gloves on her hand anytime she leaves the table. This asks for some practice to be done discretly and with poise.

    Some etiquette tips recommend the gloves come off entirely after the lady sits down at the table. They are folded in half and put on the lady's lap (she wears a long and wide skirted gown). To prevent soiling the white kid gloves, the napkin is used to cover the gloves. This is to be done only if the lady does not wear mousquetaire gloves. Same rule, she must put on again her gloves before leaving the table.

    Bracelets (one preferred) are to be worn over the glove, and rings always under. Since you never show you hand excepted during the dinner , a big ring is useless and cumbersome, wearing only your alliance, if married, is recommanded.

    And wearing gloves above the elbow asks for permanent care: not to spoil them ( you only touch your gown, your wrap and clutch, and gloved hands or partner's clothes - white is purity, and also reveals the lady is perfectly skilled). The gloves must stay in place above your elbows, (discreetly and gracefully check and adjust them) - some glove sellers as Dior made white kid opera gloves with elasticated upper glove end on the backside, to prevent slipping while dancing. Gloves slipping under elbow is négligé. Same for gloves worn unbuttonned. These little details which denote the refined lady are not often observed by debutantes of today.

    Last, as a logic consequence of what we have exposed, when the strict white tie/opera gloves etiquette is prescribed, the rules apply to all ladies involved in the event without exception: as an instance not only the debutantes, but the Committee, the parents and guests, the hostesses, even the ladies who make a report, all must be properly gowned and gloved. I had myself to assist a young lady making a report of our event, who was not at all aware of the etiquette.

    If you wish to wear vintage opera gloves with the appropriate etiquette, I recommand training before public exposure.
    For a first time, if you attend an event where white gloves are not a must, you should better choose to wear black kidskin opera gloves, they are easier to handle. When used to them, you can then go to white ones.
    I can share (in private mails) a few pics describing all these glove etiquette rules.
    With all my best, Anne de Theleve

    1. This is the most comprehensive guide on glove wearing- great comemnts to leave- thank you! As I said I'm not a glove expert so this is really useful.

  9. Thanks everyone for your kind words; if you need more or wish to share, don't hesitate to write me back a word !

    1. Anne, I am constatnly getting mesages about your fantastic guide to glove wearing... would you mind if I shared it? if so let me know where I should link back to you? x

  10. Anne- great stuff! Thank you so much for posting these rules for glove ettiquette.

    I'm invited to a Mad Men cocktail party, June in Florida. Are short (wrist) white gloves appropriate for "the look"? Must I wear another color?

    Thank you for your advice-


    1. Beth sorry I found back your post so late ! anyways, short gloves are only apropriate for outdoor cocktail party. or afternoon party, long gloves are for evening cocktails.White is fine, but colors are deserved to mach the dress/shoes/bag, as ever.

    2. Beth please apologize, I have just found back your post there ...
      short gloves are not appropriate for cocktail, they are fine for a garden party as instance.
      As for the colors, the gloves must match the dress, and first of all the shoes and the bag.
      Since it is a Madm men party, it is better to folow the rules of an episode. How was that event ?
      Regard Anne

    3. Anne, wonderful post. After reading it, I bought white kid opera gloves as a birthday present for my wife. Thanks!

  11. Anne - great comment. After I read it I bought nice white kid opera gloves as a birthday present for my wife.

  12. My daughter wants to wear the beautiful, opera-length, white gloves that I wore in the late fifties for her own wedding later this year. They are still in good shape except for a hardly visible, small discolored spot on one palm and a slight pink tinge on the other. The only thing the tag says is that they are "nylon stretch." Any advice on how to wash or clean them?

  13. My daughter wants to wear the beautiful, opera-length, white gloves that I wore in the late fifties for her own wedding later this year. They are still in good shape except for a hardly visible, small discolored spot on one palm and a slight pink tinge on the other. The only thing the tag says is that they are "nylon stretch." Any advice on how to wash or clean them?

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