The Gloved Hand on Fashion Friday!

I grew up believing there were two genders:

ladies and gentlemen.jpg

My mother was a big fan of ladies, especially if they were old, or pregnant. We always gave them our seats on buses, and helped them across roads and things like that.

Why did we like ladies so much? Maybe it was because they had good manners and said, ‘thank you,’ when we helped them. They also looked nice; stood up straight; didn’t slouch, and  wore gloves. (I like gloves!)

All well and good. Harmless, you might say. But imagine my surprise when I went to university and discovered the lady was a thing of the past- the deeply patriarchal past, I may add!  I learned that ladies and gentlemen had been succeeded by:


men and women.jpeg

AND (shock, horror) that it was not ok to refer to a woman as a lady! Well, not if you were a student in the Department of Sociology and Gender Studies, in any case.

Now, thirty years later, I am free to say what I like! (Phew!)

So, on fashion friday, it is my pleasure to write a little retrospective about the lady of yesteryear and that quintessential element of ladylike dress, the GLOVE.

Why gloves? Well apart from the fact that I personally like gloves, the formidable Virginia Wolf has observed that:

“  …. a lady is known by
her shoes and her gloves.”

Mrs Dalloway

Let’s save shoes for another day. That’s a very big subject.

What do we know about the not so humble glove?  It certainly has a long history.  Up until the 1400’s, gloves were most commonly made from the skins of animals. No surprises there. What might surprise you is the range of animal skins that were used.

Historian S. Beck cites an example of dog skin gloves being sent to a certain Lady Knolles, with a letter saying:

‘These gloves, madam, are made of the skin of a dog, the animal most praised for its fidelity.’

Gloves were also made from such unlikely material as chicken skin. Chicken skin gloves being a big hit with the ladies between 1500 and 1700 as they were so light and delicate, they could fit inside the shell of a walnut!

Dogs, chickens and ladies across the country must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when glove makers discovered that they could use ‘normal’ materials like cotton, silk and linen.

A rather nice convention kicked off round about the 1500’s, with perfumed gloves becoming highly desirable.  And, if you didn’t have the wherewithal to buy perfumed gloves, our historian friend S Beck has given us a useful tip. Housewives could scent their own gloves by boiling them in a bath of angelica and rose water with cloves, ambergris, musk, and lignum aloes…. ! Sounds like an old fashioned forerunner of fabric conditioner.

You  might think the function of gloves is to protect our hands, keep them warm on cold days. And you’d be right. But there was more to it than that, back in the day.

In fact, there was a lot of etiquette governing when you could and couldn’t wear your gloves. For instance:

Ladies were  expected to wear gloves on the street, at church and other formal situations but they had to remove them when eating, drinking or playing cards.

When lunching out, a lady was expected to remove her gloves ONLY  when she  sat down at her table- UNLESS the said gloves were winter mittens, in which case they should be removed when she took off her coat.

A lady was expected to leave her gloves on when she shook hands with someone. However, if she happened to be wearing gardening gloves it was OK for her to refuse to shake hands!

Believe me, it was no joke being a lady. There was an awful lot of etiquette to fret over. A lot of potential faux pas to trip you up.

Today’s modern women wouldn’t have time for all stuff. She’s too busy multi-tasking- forging a career, running a home, caring for kids, grandchildren, elderly parents. As well as being an active member of her community, she’s expected to keep fit, improve her mind, meditate, cook, and fill in forms.

I wonder if she ever experiences a pang of regret when she recalls the conventions of yesteryear?

I don’t know. Maybe.


Carer's Lament
Carer’s Lament


Check out this great blog for an in depth-history of gloves:


And of course, there’s our historian friend who probably wrote the definitive text on the subject!!

(Beck, S. William, F.R.H.S. (1969). Gloves, their annals and associations: a chapter of trade and social history. London: Singing Tree Press, Book Tower)


57 thoughts on “The Gloved Hand on Fashion Friday!

  1. What a lovely post. I absolutely love gloves (I have large hands!) and they make you feel ‘dressed’ when you wear them. And evening gloves really glam up a dress – think Audrey!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much. I love gloves too. Unfortunately they don’t fit into my lifestyle in anyway!
      I do agree, Audrey is just such a style icon! I love her.


  2. Lovely post. Gloves seems to have been quite a think back in the 1500s, like there are a whole lot of protocols to follow for a lady with gloves! You are right, the modern woman totally has no time for gloves!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much. My problem would be how on earth do you keep them clean and pristine looking? You wouldn’t really be able to touch anything. Maybe ‘ladies’ weren’t expected to do that much actual physical work!


  3. When I was a very little girl growing up in a small conservative town going to Sunday School and Church Services every Sunday, I ALWAYS wore little white gloves. It was the done thing. I still have a tiny little pair, a knitted sort of fabric, with seed pearl flowers on top. I was taught some of the rules you mentioned above. Hadn’t thought of the glove thing in years. By the time I was 6 or 7 years old gloves were no longer a thing, and I never wore them again.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ally, as I was reading this post I was thinking the same thing. Not only did we have little white lacey gloves, but hats with tiny veils. The hats were absolutely compulsory although I don’t think the gloves were. I loved wearing those little gloves.

      Today I rarely wear gloves unless it is really cold … or I’m doing yard work 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      1. joanne, we had hats but I was such a wiggly little girl that mine fell off my head, leading to a horribly tight rubber strap under my chin. The hat I didn’t like, but the gloves were cool by me.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Lynne. There certainly has been a lot of change- and I feel as out of my comfort zone around young people’s (disco) dress codes as I would with my grandmothers corsets! I think we are all children of our own generation when it comes to dress.


    1. All the etiquette surrounding clothes does sound strange nowadays! Good job things are more relaxed now. There’s enough to worry about in the day as it it!


  4. I have my grandmother’s gloves. I think gloves must have been annoying. I can’t imagine. They would be worse than shoes, for sure. But then, people seldom refer to me as a lady. 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So nice to have your granny’s gloves! I went through a phase of buying old gloves and hats in charity shops. I just liked the idea of them more than anything. I’m definitely more tomboy than lady, so not sure where the impulse comes from!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love gloves. I would wear the long silk gloves all the time if I could get away with it, they make my arms look thin.
    Loved this post. I think we should all go back to hats, gloves and ties for men. We could still get everything done but we would look better doing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I was just having this conversation with my daughter about the way things were then…I so enjoyed the style and time people took in dressing. Men in suits and ties…ahhhh. I really enjoyed this post and enjoyed the memories it evoked! Have a beautiful day! Koko:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shea, I for one really miss ladies, and gentlemen! But, I’m not sure I would have succeeded as a lady, since I’m quite the rebel. Well, I was in my younger days. God is taming me now.
    Chicken skin gloves?? Gives me the heebie jeebies!
    Thanks so much for the follow!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wear gloves for the cold, the kind that are usually made only in black so we lose them more easily and have to buy more, leaving trails of lost gloves along our streets in winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gloves are great if you like riding motorcycles in the cold! Thanks for the follow Marie!
    What is this blog challenge about?
    I’m probably being very random here but oh well that’s me(:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes- essential gear on a motorbike! I do remember the shocking numbness in my hands after being out on a bike- unable to bend my fingers to pick anything up! This Friday Fashion post is just a little challenge I set myself. I enjoyed the AtoZ challenge so much- and I felt I needed something to keep me blogging regularly after it. My aim is to write a Friday Fashion post for the next twelve months. Just a bit of fun!


  10. When I was little ( and gloves were still worn to church) people dressed up to go to the nicer stores downtown. My mom and I rode the bus and I remember struggling up the steep bus steps without touching any part of the bus with my white gloved hands. I had been warned buses were covered with grease and dirt which would ruin gloves.
    My very proper ancient grandmother always said a lady’s face and hands should be at least 2 shades lighter than her arms. A lady always wore a hat to shade her face and gloves to keep her hand from spotting and aging. Pale skin showed you were a “proper lady” and that you were of a better sort that did not have to work in the sun.
    Gloves weren’t such a problem by the time I was old enough to wear them as the fabrics then washed easily. And we did wash them by hand – careful of the little seed pearls or rhinestone/satin buttons on the long ones worn for formals and parties. An age of elegance.- not such a bad thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great post. Wistfully thinking of my grandmother now and all of her beautiful gloves which she wore with her “costumes”, meaning silk suits. Fascinating information. I hope you’ll write about shoes as you mentioned, but you must do hats too. Hats are amazing!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thanks so much. I think shoes and hats will probably take up a lot of posts! I come from a family of shoemakers. I also remember the term costume. My late mother always referred to her skirts and jackets as costumes. I hadn’t heard that term for a long time now. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I was just thinking about gloves the other day, wondering if they would come back into fashion. I remember wearing them to church when I was a little girl, and I had a small collection of beautiful, very girly, gloves.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I still have my great grandmother’s elbow-length, white leather gloves. I think they were her wedding gloves. She was from Ireland. She must have been very thin because I can just about wiggle a few fingers into the opening. Fun post and I loved the part about perfuming them.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. People were thinner, and shorter, but that was not the only factor.

    The DVD set of the first Narnia movie ‘The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe’, has a documentary about the movie’s period costumes. The cast found them tight. The costumer explained that was accurate for the time, which was WW2. Fabric and clothes were relatively more expensive then than now, and rationed, so clothes sizes were tighter to save money.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi! I remember my Mum telling me I had it easy at school because they all had to wear gloves and hats to school. I have only ever worn gloves in winter, but I can see the allure.


  17. I held my breath as I read and viewed the restroom door signs! Whew…..I almost shouted for joy to find that the direction you were going was gloves! I love gloves! Now that we’ve long since left the perfunctory wearing of them, one of the joys of the returning winter each year, for me, is the soothing knowledge that I’ll soon be wearing my gloves again!


    1. The toilet signs were just a red herring! So glad you are a gloves fan! Me too. I’d love to learn how to knit a pair, but I fear it’s beyond me.


  18. I knew there was a specific etiquette to wearing gloves, and when and where to remove them. I had no about the dog and chicken skin though! I hear chicken skin and I think roasted, but I suppose it would have made a thin leather if tanned properly. Fascinating!

    I remember having a pair of gloves for church when I was a very little girl – a holdover from my mother’s era no doubt. By the time I was coming up, gloves were pretty much a thing of the past, and in a way, I’m kind of sorry I missed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you! Interesting post. What’s funny is that I was just looking at the symbols for the women’s (ladies 🙂 ) and men’s bathroom in Japan — I’m going on a trip there in September. Made me think about why the symbols are what they are. Anyway, many blessings your way — and thank you for following my blog!! Looking forward to getting to know you.


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