Glove making has been intertwined with human culture since the days of the caveman. The first gloves resembled crude mittens. As the years passed, glove making became more of a refined art. Articulated fingers were stitched in to provide more dexterity and ease of movement. Whilst makers' guilds once dominated in a society obsessed with a covered hand, today very few remain. Fewer still are the patterns available for hand-made gloves. Machine sewn and hand-finished gloves are mostly what you'll find in the market.
Ladies in the 19th century adored opera gloves. One peculiarity is that they tried to fit their hands into gloves a size too small! This forced one's hand to rest in a half cupped position - perfect for greeting, but not for kissing. If you have ever attempted to don a glove you are too big for, you realise what a task these women undertook! Buttonhook and powdered alum provided some lubrication, but still, before an opera, determined women would sit for hours, coaxing their hands down into tight gloves. Opera length gloves continued to be popular through to the mid 20th century.
The Victorianís favoured crocheted or fine kid leather varieties, often with button backs. Deep embroidered cloth or leather gauntlet shapes were also favourites.
Rouched chiffon gloves were popular in the 1940s, early 50s. Gloves were worn everywhere in the 1950s and completed a woman's grooming. Without gloves she was not properly accessorised. Clean gloves were also the hallmark of a lady and white or cream were the most favoured gloves. Gloves worn in so many colours were usually made of cotton as this was more affordable than leather gloves or the newer nylon and they could be washed very easily. Even so many women owned a special pair of leather gloves. You can see from the picture right, why they were sometimes referred to as 1950s Gauntlet Gloves.
Dents and Pittards were popular glove names, but women could also make their own gloves using a McCall's pattern.
The formality of wearing gloves even continued into the sixties with interesting cut out peephole variations in the popular stretch nylon and designed almost like a golfing glove. By the 1970s gloves were more used functionally for keeping the hands warm than for any other reason.
There was a bit of a Revival of gloves as a fashion statement when Madonna and other pop idols wore lacey fingerless ones in the 1980s.
Insulation from the heat or cold, protection from scratches and cuts, bold or subtle fashion statements, gloves have had many purposes through history and continue to be a wholly integral part of many jobs today. Conversely, there has been a sharp decline in the use of gloves a fashion accessory over the past several decades. Fewer girls attend their proms with gloves. Fashion is a fickle thing, and only time will tell the future of the glove.