Fits like a glove: Fashion Friday


Welcome to Fashion Friday, where we take a look at an item or aspect of 19th century fashion.  It’s typically a shorter post than the rest of the week.  After all, we all have to get ready for the weekend, don’t we?

We’re progressing through accessories that have been dying out over time.  Last week we discussed handkerchiefs, which had some utility.  Today’s accessory is perhaps less useful than the hankie:

Dress Gloves

Up through the 1950s and into the 60s, women wore dress gloves when going out in public.  A clean pair of gloves symbolized a woman’s gentility and class.  Depending upon the occasion, women’s gloves came to the wrist, or went all the way past the elbow.  In the 20th century, men’s dress gloves were not everyday wear, but reserved for more formal occasions.

Breakfast at Tiffany's: a dress-glove occasion

Things you may not have known about gloves:

1.  Napoleon was purported to have owned over 240 pairs of gloves.

2.  The fanciest gloves, known as opera gloves, stretched over the elbow and had 16 buttons.  Special hooks were needed to get these on.

3.  Texas Burlesque University (I kid you not) offers courses in the art of burlesque striptease, including the seductive removal of opera gloves:  more info

4.  A woman wearing gloves would smoke a cigarette using a cigarette holder so as to keep her gloves free of nicotine stains.

5.  In the 19th century, a gentleman would never touch a lady bare-handed in public.  (I’ll leave the other scenarios to you romantic writers out there).





Today, only a few occasions call for dress gloves:

1.  Military dress

2.  The Academy Awards

2.  gazillion-dollar-a-plate black-tie fund raisers

3.  little girl tea parties (maybe)

4.  historical re-enactments


Want more info?

Martha Stewart, domestic diva

History of Opera Gloves

Do you remember wearing or seeing others wear dress gloves?  On what occasions?  What associations do you make with dress gloves?  Any other wardrobe “relic” come to mind?

See ya later!


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15 thoughts on “Fits like a glove: Fashion Friday”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Kathy – Really interesting post! It reminds me of what my mother used to say. She went to secretarial school, where she was trained to always, always wear gloves to work. Not those wonderful dress gloves, of course, but gloves. Interesting how people’s notion of fashion changes…

  2. Nancy LauzonNancy Lauzon

    As I mentioned, I remember wearing white gloves to church on Sunday. My grandmother had a old pair she used to check for dust on her furniture (!)

    The only gloves I wear now are the rubber ones for housework. How the mighty have fallen.

    The Chick Dick Blog

  3. BluestockingBluestocking

    Seductive removal of opera gloves… hmm. I guess it’s good to know that it’s not all about the pole dancing these days. Fun post!

  4. Maryanne FantalisMaryanne Fantalis

    Learning about the restrictions on physical contact between men and women in 18th century, it adds such an sexy undercurrent to dancing, the one time they WERE allowed to touch.

    Also, my man Shakespeare was, of course, a glover’s son.

    Great post!

  5. Tiffany WhiteTiffany White

    I LOVE long white gloves. For the longest time, I just knew I’d get married in a strapless straight gown, no frills, no lace, and white arm gloves.

    My mom wore tiny wrist gloves at her wedding shower in 1964…you won’t find a bride sipping punch in gloves anymore.

    I wore gloves at our Rebelee Court crowning in 1995, and I kept them just in case I needed them again.

    Now I have to go check out this TX Burlesque University!!!!!

    BTW, I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s….Holly & Cat. Me & Shady. Okay, not the same, but I am Tiffany!

  6. Catie RhodesCatie Rhodes

    I wish both dress gloves and hats for women would come back in. I am known to watch old movies just to look at their clothes.

    I ran across a picture of my grandparents from the 1940s in which they were on vacation. They had on dress clothes. These days, everybody would had had on stretchy shorts and flip flops.

    Thanks for this post. What interesting information!

  7. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

    I love, love, love gloves! One of my most special items is a pair of my grandmother’s gloves from the 40’s. She had small hands and I was the only person they fit. I don’t wear them a lot, but when I do I ALWAYS feel glamorous. 🙂


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