Friday, September 24, 2010
GLOVES, THE FASHIONABLE ACCOUTREMENT ©
By Polly Guerin RWA Fashion Historian
GLOVES IN FASHION
Every once in a while models sashay out in fashion shows wearing gloves, but it still doesn’t do much to entice women today to complete their outfit with gloves. Instead, gloves seem to go back to their original purpose and appear in cold weather, more as a protection rather than making a fashion statement. However, in the Renaissance, fashionable women wore opulently embroidered and perfumed gloves of silk, linen, and kid leather. A woman might carelessly, but intentionally, leave a glove behind her indicating that she expected to be followed.
The gloves of kings and church nobles were richly ornamented with gold, silver and precious stones. They were part the investiture of a knight. A gauntlet flung down in front of an adversary was a challenge to battle or a duel. Ancient gloves were luxuries of the privileged classes, while the peasants wore coarse working mittens. If ever there was a glove fetish collector Queen Elizabeth 1, who ruled England during the sixteenth century, was one. So fond of gloves she amassed more than 2,000 pairs, which were maintained by a wardrobe mistress. Napoleon was another great lover of gloves and encouraged his Empress Josephine, and the ladies of the court, to dress in the height of fashion.
THE ENTERTAINMENT NOTABLES
Mme. Sarah Bernhardt was one of the great glove-wearers of all time. She was responsible for popularizing the over-the-elbow gloves which she wore on one of her American tours. Not to be outdone Lillian Russell, the famous New York society beauty and actress was also known for influencing glove trends, particularly wearing fingerless white kid opera gloves. Similarly another entertainment notable, Michael Jackson did a lot to promote the penchant for wearing one glove and admirers adapted the look.
Elongated kid gloves, called mousquetaires, were so skintight in the Victorian era that many young women squeezed their hands into a size smaller to achieve an elegant look. It was acceptable, and positively an alluring sight, for ladies to slip their hands out through the button- or snap-fastened wrist opening of long kid gloves to eat or drink while keeping the glove itself on. Harrison Fisher’s painting, “Girl Taking Tea in Gloves,” illustrates a young woman’s ability to nonchalantly dine while wearing gloves.
NOWADAYS GLOVES COME IN A WIDE VARIETY OF MATERIALS COLORS AND LENGTHS. FABRIC GLOVES BEGAN TO BE WORN AFTER WORLD WAR I AND BY THE 1950’s, WHEN WOMEN WOULD NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT A HAT, GLOVES AND HANDBAG, SYNTHETIC MATERIALS BECAME AVAILABLE REPLACING LEATHER TO SOME DEGREE. ♥
Polly Guerin honed her skills as a fashion writer at Women’s Wear Daily where her accessories columns dominated the Friday pages. She is a former professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Currently her historical “The Tale of Two Sisters,” will be featured in Vintage magazine’s fall/winter issue. Visit her at http://www.pollytalk.com/.