Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gloves For Dainty Hands

Vintage Knit Patterns at

Is it just me, or are vintage gloves really small? I can rarely find a pair that I can actually get my hands into. Is it just that 21st century people are larger?
Actually, I think it's genetics. I clearly come from a long line of scullery maids and farm labourers, with big, useful, working hands. Some of my friends have elegant, aristocratic hands with long, slim fingers. Clearly their ancestors were more used to sitting about drinking cups of tea and arranging vases of flowers. It was my great-great-grandma out in the kitchen scrubbing the pots.

I have just had a flip through my history of fashion book, and the first picture I can find of anyone wearing gloves is at the marriage of William the Second and Mary Stuart in 1641, and it's the men who are wearing the gloves. They are then a firm necessity throughout the next three centuries, until they are ditched in the mid 1960s.

Here is the Parisian Fashion page from the Royal Ladies' Magazine in 1830. Note the fingerless gloves. Apparently, at that time "a Parisienne " insisted on having pretty shoes, pretty gloves and pretty ribbons - the dress in those days was just an accessory." (Batterberry p.223)
Victorian ladies always appeared at a ball with long white gloves above the elbow. Their popularity continued well into the 20th century.

Chanel - Little tweed suit, 1930.
 Suit with green jersey jacket, 1931
In the 1920s they appeared commonly as day wear. They were also standard evening wear (unless you were a flapper). They figure prominently in the designs of Coco Chanel from the 20s and 30s.

"The profile hat and the three-quarter length glove:
 Madame Martinez de Hoz, famous Parisienne hostess and
 beauty, dressed by Vionnet, photographed at
Chantilly in 1935

 By the thirties, the three quarter glove was in fashion for day wear.

In the 1940s gloves continued to be a staple of the well dressed woman's wardrobe. Many of the glove patterns in my collection are from the 40s. My most popular pattern has been  mentioned in a previous post, and was published in the 40s. Here's another lovely one.
Crochet Lace Gloves - 1948
Crochet Lace Gloves - 1940s
And I think this pattern with the black contrast is very elegant:

Gloves in the thirties, forties and fifties were made of leather, felt, crochet, nylon, rayon and knitted and crocheted in wool as well as cotton.

I recently had a tragedy when I learned that you cannot wash fine leather gloves. What were a lovely pair of above the elbow 50s evening gloves in the softest "kid" leather turned into a pair of potato crisps when I submerged them in soapy water - well, they shrank first, then dried into crisps. How do you soften leather? I thought. I couldn't help thinking of stories I'd read where Inuit women chewed leather to soften it. Needless to say, this idea was quickly dismissed. I found that rubbing the leather repeatedly did soften it, it also rubbed the skin off my fingers. If you have any ideas about how to restore fine leather, PLEASE add a comment.

Gloves seem to become even more popular in the 50s. My mother, who was a teenager and later a bride in the 50s, says she would never go anywhere without gloves. As a school girl, she had to wear her gloves to and from school on the tram, because if someone reported her to the school, boy was she in big trouble. This even applied in the hottest days of the summer. I notice that three-quarter length gloves were popular for day wear in the 50s, as well as "shorties".

Christian Dior's "New Look"
 for 1947.

I love this photo of Audrey Hepburn in 1958 in
Givenchy. How different are the ballerina flats (and stance) with such a gown? But of course she carries it off brilliantly. And the gloves, of course. I would never have thought to wear white gloves with black gown and shoes.

Gloves feature in some of my books from the early 60s, but Jean Shrimpton sounded the death knell of the glove as a fashion accessory at the 1965 Melbourne Cup. Not only did she dare to wear a mini skirt to Flemington, but she wore no stockings, no hat and NO GLOVES! Just look at the expressions on the faces of the disapproving matrons in the background, and the admiring smiles of the young women, (gloved and hatted).

I can see that I will have to test my crochet skills and try to make some of the patterns in my shop. Maybe I can make them in thicker cotton so that they come out BIGGER!

Michael and Ariane Batterberry; Fashion - The Mirror of History; 1982; London; Columbus Books


  1. Hey Joanne, I just found your shop on etsy and am having a blast rummaging through them all! I so want to get my needles into one of those bedjackets! I unfortunately have NO idea how to construct cardigans and jumpers.. but I may have to try anyway *lol*

    Just wanted to say thanks :)

  2. Thanks Leonie, I am happy to give knitting advice. I suggest you start with something simple in a thicker yarn. I will see what I can find.

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