Wearing Gloves

It is a shame people don’t often wear gloves any more except for in the dead of winter. But how are we even supposed to wear them if we want to? There are some surprising rules to wearing gloves–when is it appropriate, what type for which occasion, color, length, oh my! And of course why wear them at all? Well, I’ve found much information on these questions.

Why Wear Them?

Well, they keep our hands warm of course. Too simple? Alright. If not to keep our hands warm they also protect our nails and skin from the environment aside from the plain being lovely and fashionable. They stop our nails from chipping, our skin from drying and burning in the sun, help keep hands clean, and they keep us from smudging our oily fingers everywhere (like on glass). For the smokers gloves help keep the scent and color off your hands and when paired with a handy cigarette holders will help keep the scent and color off your gloves too.

What Material?

Nice vintage evening gloves are made from kidskin, but any soft leather will make a lovely glove. Lined leather gloves are especially useful in winter and nights out with the weather turning harsh. Opera gloves are also leather as events in which you would wear these to are most often held in the evening. For hotter weather though a cotton or nylon is fine. Other suitable glove materials are felted wool, velvet, knit, lace, satin, silk, and anything that has a bit of give to it that will allow the hand and arm to function comfortably. Though the more delicate the fabric the more chance of ruining the garment with simple wear. It is always a tragedy to have your lace or satin glove snag on something tiny, like a zipper or earring.

What Color?

Black for all dark or bright colored attire while any shade of white is appropriate for any occasion. It is also fine to wear gloves that match in color to your evening wear.

What Length?

The shorter the sleeve, the longer the glove. Additionally, the more formal the occasion, the longer the glove. Coat length is always a good length, despite the sleeve length and it is fine to wear the sleeve over the glove if the sleeve will cover. It would not be sensible to wear opera length gloves to the part in your short sleeved dress meant for play.

No button Palm Length. 6-7 inches. This is by far the shortest length and probably the most modern trend, but I like to include them all the same because they are a fashionable option of today. These gloves cut right below the palm and cover no length of the arm. Some even expose the back of the hand.
2 button Shorties. 8-9 inches. Reaches just at the wrist. These are great for day to day wear. Lovely for tea, depending on the material, but should be removed for eating and drinking.
4 button Matinee Length. 10-11 inches. Reach a little past the wrist. These are also good for day to day wear but are also suiting, as their name implies, for matinees and other daytime outings and dates.
6 button Gauntlet Length. 12-13 inches. Reach mid forearm. This length is typical for equestrian activities, but as all fashion can be acceptable for days or nights on the town and brisk weather or going to church.
8 button Coat or 3/4 Length. 14-15 inches. Reaches the upper forearm. These are perfect for any chilly day or night, or more formal events, such as weddings where longer lengths may not be appropriate unless you are the bride.
12 button Elbow Length. 18-19 inches. Reaches right around the elbow. These are fine for evening parties, dances, and the theater if the dress allows.
16 button Classic Opera Length. 22-23 inches. Reaches past the elbow and about mid-upper arm. Appropriate for evening theater/opera events and short sleeved dresses.
21 button Long Opera Length. 27-29 inches. Reaches the armpit. Appropriate for evening opera events and strapless gowns.

When To Wear Them?

Going out of the house, or doing house chores when wearing rubber or cotton gloves designated for cleaning. When going out the gloves should remain worn until inside a home or building. In the theater they should be removed ONLY to eat or apply makeup (which should be done in private). It is fine to greet, drink, and smoke in them, but if you are to eat remove them discreetly or excuse yourself. Do not put them on unless in private, or do so discreetly. The same gloves should not be worn for consecutive days. You should not play cards while wearing gloves and the only jewelry to be worn with gloves should be a bracelet. Leave your rings off and at home.

What’s My Size?

For length, measure from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the palm, right before the wrist. For the width measure around the hand, just over the thumb, with the fingers bent and nearly closed. This number is your US glove size. The S/M/L sizes (as always) will vary between designers so be sure you have access to a size chart if they are measured this way. Whatever the circumference of your hand is in inches is your numeric size.

Care and Storage

Store your gloves flat. They should not be stored in plastic but rather in a material that can breathe. Cotton bags are great or just in a drawer, wrapped in tissue paper or soft fabric. Leather especially should be allowed some air and light to prevent molding of the hide. Depending on the fabric, hand washing in a gentle detergent with a thorough rinse is fine. Use a special leather cleaner/conditioner for your leather. For very soiled leather a gentle soap and water will be fine, but do not be abrasive when scrubbing. Benzine is another solution recommended in Vintage catalogues for cleaning leather, but I highly recommend doing your research. Always do a small spot test before putting cleaning solutions on leather.

Thanks to Opera Gloves for a great deal of information!

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