Gloves were invented for utilitarian purposes—to protect hands during an uncomfortable task, to keep them clean during meals, and to keep fingers warm. But being associated with cleanliness and protection, gloves quickly took on more symbolic meanings when worn by royalty and church officials. In the Middle Ages, priests wore elaborate gloves for ceremonies, while knights wore more practical leather gauntlets for falconry and riding.

In 12th-century Europe, gloves became an important part of proper dress. When greeting an authority, one was expected to remove the glove on one's right hand as a sign of respect. Gloves could also symbolize a pledge, be flung down as a challenge to a dual, and given by a lady as a sign of love or affection to a suitor.

During the Renaissance, women would don luxurious, intricately embroidered and perfumed gloves made of silk, linen, or kid leather. Queen Elizabeth I, it is said, was particularly vain about her delicate and shapely hands, and would flaunt them by taking gloves on and off or posing in gloved hands while she addressed her subjects. During her 16th-century reign, she accrued more than 2,000 pairs of gloves of every style imaginable—embroidered, jeweled, and fringed.

Thanks, in part, to her obsession, gloves became the height of fashion and London became the center of the glove trade, where craftsmen would journey to learn the secrets of glove-making.

But the French, too, loved gloves, particularly Napoleon Bonaparte and his Empress Josephine. Napoleon had at least 240 pairs of gloves. After the 19th century French Revolution, Josephine introduced a new look, the short-sleeved empire-waist gown paired with long, over-the-elbow “opera gloves.” Putting on a pair of 16-button opera-length gloves might take a lady as long as 30 minutes, employing glove stretchers, powder, button hooks, and a maid.

During Victorian times, gloves and fingerless mitts were a vital part of a well-dressed woman’s wardrobe. Gloves were always worn in public, and special gloves were donned for weddings and funerals. It was in this century that the French finally overshadowed the British in glove-making when master glover Xavier Jouvin devised a way to make universally proportioned and sized gloves.

The tradition of wearing gloves out and about carried well into the 20th century—they were an essential part of Christian Dior’s New Look of the 1950s. Thanks to Hollywood, the image of Audrey Hepburn in three-quarter length gloves in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” reinforced the glove as the icon of elegance, while Marilyn Monroe, in hot pink opera gloves and a strapless gown in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” made gloves sexy. However, during the 1970s, gloves largely lost their mystique and fell out of favor as a part of formal dress.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Ventagli.org

Ventagli.org

Anna Checcoli's homage to the beauty and art of hand fans ('ventagli,' in Italian). Use the left-hand nav to browse… [read review or visit site]

Antiquespectacles.com

Antiquespectacles.com

Dr. David Fleishman's comprehensive spectacles site (over 3500 images), in collaboration with museums around the wo… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Large Job Lot Of Vintage Gloves 20s 30s 50s 60s 70s 80s Net Leather Etc. Vintage Women's Italian Brown Leather Lined Gloves 13 1/2" Long Size 8 UnwornVintage French Kislav Black Long Leather Lined Gloves Size 7.5 New With TagsAntique Vintage Hats Ladies Cute Lot Of 9 Ladies Gloves Lot Of 5Vintage Women's Italian Green Leather Fur Trimmed Gloves La SquadraVtg Leather 'christian Dior' Elbow Length Gloves /tag - Nos - Sz. 7Large Job Lot Of Vintage Gloves 50s 60s 70s Etc Mostly Size 7Vintage Ladies Dress Gloves LotLadies ~ Vintage ~ Imported Leather Gloves~ Rabbit Fur Lined ~ Small ~"nwot"Women's Vintage 14 Inch Long Kid Leather Gloves~silk Lined~ex. Cond. Size 6 1/2Vintage Edwardian Black Antique Irish Crochet Lace Gloves Vintage 16" Leather Ladies Gloves - White/cream (size 8)Vintage Women's Soft Buttery Black Leather Elbow Length Gloves Size 8 UnwornVintage Genuine Kid Leather Ladies Gloves In Butterscotch Brown 15" LongVintage Christian Dior Beige Tan Leather Gloves With Silk Lining Size 6 1/2Vintage Women’s Fitted Dress, Evening, Driving Gloves Lot Of 7 Pairs 1950’sGlamorous Gold Evening Gloves Circa 40's1pair Sexy Women Lace Flower Fashion Vintage Shading Long Fingerless Glove BlackCostume Vintage Long Leather Black Gloves Sz 6.5Women's Black Leather Gloves Cashmere Lined Size 7 Never Worn Bow Design Vintage Chevreau Garanti White/cream Opera Gloves. Full Length. 6 1/4"11 Pairs Vintage Ladies Gloves, Italian Leather, Black Lace, Cotton, FingerlessVintage Women Gloves Soft Leather - Real Leopard Skin /fur Size 7 Never WornVintage Ladies Long Black GlovesVintage Bachner Green Leather Gloves 11" Long - Ladies Size 6 1/2Vintage Blue Leather Ladies Gloves *long*Vintage New Unworn 14" Black Kid Leather Silk Lined Ladies Gloves Size 7 BeautysWomens White Leather Gloves Size 8Aris Black Leather Gloves Nwt (probably Vintage)Vintage Black Leather Kid Gloves White Size 7 11" Long Vintage Italian Embroidered White Kid GlovesVintage White Gloves W/pearls~*~italy~*~new In Package~*~Vintage French Embroidered Suede Leather Gloves Sz 6Vintage Womens Leather Gloves Lot 6 Pr Grandoe Aris Of Paris Brentshire LabelsVintage Black Leather Gloves With Cute Opening At The Wrist And A Small Bow.Retro Vintage Womans 2 Pair Leather Gloves Brown Black Small UnlinedVintage Wear Right Childs Suede Gloves Ca 1930'sVintage Leather Gloves , Tan Silk Lined Long, Size 7, EucWomen's White Wrist Length Kid Leather Gloves Size 7 1/2 - Made In ItalyWomen's Genuine Leather Gloves Size Medium Cream ColoredVintage 60s 70s Original Blue Satin Long Stretchy Opera Gloves 7 7 1/2Vintage Ladies Gloves, PinkLot Ladies Leather Gloves 6 Pairs Size SmallGorgeous Vintage Leather Silk Lined Gloves Made In Usa Never Worn Mccurdy"s Van Raalte Stretch Black Satin Opera Gloves 1950's Vintage Gloves Made In West GLot 12 Pr Vintage Ladies Gloves Cloth & Leather, France, Van Raalie, Wear-right+2 Pair Vintage Soft Leather Gloves Size 7 And 8 Black With Cut Out Lace Vintage Lauffer Brown Ladies Doeskin Gauntlet Style Gloves Size 6 1/2 -(m)Vintage Pink Quilted Satin Glove, Lingerie, Hanky Storage Box 3 Pairs Vintage Ladies White Kid Leather Gloves Size 7 Long Med & Short Lot5 Pairs Vintage Womens Gloves Longer Elbow Length Sheer Fancy Accents Women's Grandoe Size M Black Leather Nylon Lined Gloves VintageVintage Fownes Women's Black Leather Gloves Size 6.5Vintage '60's White Wrist Length Ladies Gloves W/rhinestones & Faux Pearls Lot Of Vintage Gloves 5 PairsVintage Isotoner Gloves, IvoryVintage Lot Of Womens 18 Pair Of Matching Gloves Black White Silk Knit Leather +Ladies Vintage 80's Winter Gloves Knit With Leather Detailing Sz Small Lot Of 2Seven Vintage Advertising Buttonhooks Assorted Styles Small Glove Button Hooks Mittens Winter Gloves Fashion Forward Real England Made Vintage70s Winter Psyche