Antique Accessories I: Evening Gloves for Everyday Elegance
Formal gloves have recently made a comeback, and we are thrilled to be presenting a selection of these - not just for lovers of timeless courtly style, but for anyone wanting to look curiously cool. Our capsule collection of antique accessories includes a number of pairs of evening and opera gloves made from the finest kid leather.
Elbow length gloves have been worn since the beginning of the 17th century, but were especially prevalent from the 1880s until the early 1930s. Longer length opera gloves were later popularised by film stars and debutantes from the 1940s to the 1960s, and are still worn for weddings, proms and elegant occasions, such as the Vienna Opera Ball.
Opera gloves are usually between 16 and 24 inches long, though they can be as long as 29 or 30 inches. Some of the gloves on offer at ShopCurious are ‘mousquetaire’ in style, which means they have an opening at the wrist, closed by three or more pearl buttons. The name mousquetaire comes from the gauntlets worn by musketeers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The opening in the gloves was used whilst ladies were dining, so they didn’t have to remove the gloves completely, which may be difficult due to the tight fitting nature of many of the styles (often involving talcum powder and button hooks to put on). Glove stretchers had to be used for new gloves and were also employed to restore the fingers after washing.
The coronation gloves of Queen Elizabeth I (housed in glove maker Dents’ Museum Collection) set the fashion for long fingered style. Glove fingers were exaggerated to make hands appear slimmer and more elegant. Nowadays extra-long-fingered gloves may be useful accessories for people with exceptionally long or artificial nails. Karl Lagerfeld said that gloves also make the arms look longer. In French, having longer arms means having a longer reach and being more influential. And gloves are also useful for hiding ageing hands...
Whilst the primary function of gloves is to keep hands clean and warm, gloves were also used to cover up bare flesh. Until the late 19th century, a refined lady would not show an ungloved hand to a member of the opposite sex to whom she was not related. This rule was still followed as late as the 1960s.
One of the most notable contemporary glove wearers is Her Majesty The Queen. Her huge collection of gloves includes examples that are over forty years old, which she regularly has washed and repaired by royal glove maker, Cornelia James, and wears in rotation time and time again - doing her bit for slow style and sustainability.
Glove etiquette includes always holding or carrying gloves by the fingers and wearing a bracelet on top of gloves (like Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), but never a ring. In terms of modern day politeness, a gloved hand is a sensible anti-COVID precaution, whether you are shaking hands or pushing a supermarket trolley.