Vintage gloves are such a popular accessory, adding a touch of class and femininity to an outfit with ease. But the history of the humble vintage gloves goes much deeper than being pretty, and dates right back to the pre 1900s.
The use of gloves was heavily related to class. A wealthy woman would have graceful and smooth hands as she would not partake in any manual labour. She would also be able to afford expensive hand creams and manicured nails. A working class woman however, would have rough and scarred hands with thicker skin. Wearing gloves could hide the hands of a poorer woman and allow her to elevate her status as and when required.
Vintage gloves were also linked to disease prevention. As contagious disease was a prolific killer, the upper classes would wear gloves in public to protect themselves from germs. And not forgetting modesty; gloves were another way of covering up. Any bare flesh was seen as cheap and controversial. When evening dresses with shorter or no sleeves became more fashionable for younger women, elbow length gloves also became popular to maintain modesty.
For daytime wear, leather kid gloves would be worn. These would be short or mid length and tended to be in shades of brown, black, cream and navy. In the 20s and 30s gloves were not worn all the time but there was still a huge demand for them. Colours became more adventurous with pastels, especially lavenders and pinks, and more intricate, fun and pretty designs.
For warmer climates and summer months, hand crochet gloves became popular as they were breathable and fashionable. It was around this time that the gauntlet style of gloves also became very on trend, these would be fitted at the wrist and then flare out a little.
Moving on to WWII, gloves were rationed like many other items of clothing and accessories. Using ration vouchers to buy gloves would be incredibly frivolous so this wouldn't happen often. However, as fashion was also economised, women would be clever and wear a simple pair of gloves with a 'day dress' to give the outfit more of an evening look.
When the war was over and rationing a distant memory; the world of fashion went super glam and super feminine - the Dior New Look being a prime example. As a result of this new excited fashion era, vintage gloves ha a huge resurge in the 1950s.
Gloves took inspiration from all the previous decades of design and there was room for virtually all styles, colours and fabrics. Worn both daytime and evening, 1950s gloves could be pastel, bold coloured or more traditional. In leather, wool, rayon, silk, lace, net, crochet and more. There were simple cuts with modest stitching and more eccentric designs with pearls, diamantes, polka dots, bows and ribbons. But a pair of short white gloves could be worn with absolutely any outfit and be given the thumbs up from the fashion elite. It is said that many women had drawers full of white gloves in both nylon and cotton, simply throwing them away once they became too dirty.
The 1960s shunned gloves in quite a big way. That was until the pastel mod dresses became fashionable and the 'Jackie O' look was a huge trend. A pastel shift dress in pink, yellow, cream, blue, green or lilac would of course be complimented by matching accessories and this included vintage gloves. This lead into a distinct trend of the late 1960s whereby women would have a pair of matching gloves but simply carry them in their hands as opposed to actually wearing them!
The 1970s had little room for gloves and apart from the fleeting fingerless lace gloves of the 80s thanks to Madonna, they haven't really ever come back into the forefront of fashion since. I can't really see this being a trend that has a mainstream resurge again, unless we design a collection of very feminine but practical smart phone friendly gloves! I'm not sure Prada or YSL will be snapping that idea up any time soon...
At My Vintage, we always have an extensive stock of vintage gloves in a myriad of colours, lengths, fabrics and designs. With prices from just &8, be sure to check out our collection both online and in our Darwen shop.
Until next time