Love the look, but afraid you’ll get vintage glove wearing wrong?

Gloves to match a hat by Lilly Daché, 1954 (image found on The Vintage Hat Shop blog)

I recently went to an event introducing a vintage fashion collection here in Spokane. A number of people attending were attired to give vintage style a nod, but one woman stood out for her complete, excellently-fitted and beautiful ensemble of 1950s dress suit, hat, shoes, bag, make up and hair. Everything seemed in place for a period-perfect ensemble and she was wearing the clothing with panache, but when gloves came up she said “I never know how to wear gloves...the etiquette, you know?”

Etiquette books with sections covering glove wear wound down by the 1970s. Not that all glove use disappeared then but with the casualness of the times gloves just didn’t play the part they once had. You can still find advice on glove etiquette for brides—and the basics haven’t changed substantially since the time when gloves were de rigueur—but now the woman wearing decorative gloves is almost always doing so by choice.

Essentially the glove-wearing rules from their heyday years of the 20th century are common sense. See if you can predict which of these are Dos and which are Don’ts according to Edith Heal’s booklet for the Hansen Glove Corporation Gloves: Fashion and Etiquette, 1961.

Do you or Don’t you?
  1. Eat with gloves on
  2. Keep gloves on in a receiving line
  3. Wear gloves in a place of worship
  4. Play cards with gloves on
  5. Apply makeup with gloves on
  6. Remove gloves at the dining table
  7. Drink with gloves on
  8. Wear short gloves to a white tie affair
  9. Wear a ring on the outside of your glove
(Answers: 1. Don’t, 2. Do, 3. Do, 4. Don’t, 5. Don’t, 6. Do, 7. Don’t, 8. Don’t, 9. Don’t)

Even though you probably got these right or see the reason for the correct answer, there are the small details which, when you are not privy to glove-wearing rules on a regular basis, could seem foreign.

But first let’s be honest: Not too many people care anymore if you are wearing gloves correctly. The use of gloves is mainly practical now, and the decorative glove is almost completely optional.

I for one wear vintage gloves mixed into my wardrobe of mainly vintage clothing. The eras are mixed, and I haven’t given much thought to the properness of my glove choices. I had to go looking for vintage glove etiquette advice after I heard that well-dressed woman say she didn’t feel confident in wearing them. Obviously not everyone is as improper as I am! If you wish to employ vintage-style glove etiquette I can suggest looking to guidelines from your era of choice.

Which is what I did when looking into my favorite fashion era of 1940-45. According to Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe (José Blanco F., Patricia Kay Hunt-Hurst, Heather Vaughan Lee, Mary Doering, 2015) during the first half of the 1940s gloves were considered important for women at all events outside the home, and even sometimes in the home (for receiving guests for instance). Though not quite as strictly essential as in previous decades, gloves were still a symbol of refinement, good manners and fashionability.

Daytime gloves were short and fitted, wrist length or up to the mid forearm. Gauntlet gloves had a vogue in the 1930s and 40s, and their flaring cuffs could be worn over the sleeves of a suit jacket.

You could make your own hat and gauntlet gloves using this 1940s Hollywood pattern (found on So Vintage Patterns).


Sometimes gloves were made to coordinate precisely with an outfit:

Rose Barrack design, 1945

Even with rationing during WWII, gloves remained an important part of a woman’s attire, although for practical reasons they often were made in the more basic colors, to be worn with a variety of outfits.

These gloves in my Etsy shop appear to date from the 1940s, when the patriotic combination of red, white and blue, and the symbolism of the V for Victory were incorporated into all sorts of fashionable items:


Mousquetaires are formal, long gloves with buttoned openings at the inside wrists. These allowed the wearer to pull her hand completely out of the gloves through the openings while leaving the sleeve on, rolling the fingers of the glove into a neat cuff. This meant you could get a pass on removing your gloves in certain social situations where their removal was expected.

A pair of vintage mousquetaires recently purchased from my Etsy shop:


Opera-length gloves went above the elbow, and were used for formal occasions.

A stunning gown by Adrian is coordinated with opera-length gloves in this advertisement from 1944:


For all things mid-century etiquette, try Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, 1948, by Millicent Fenwick. There are also a number of glove etiquette pamphlets that were given out by the glove manufacturers. This 1950s brochure was printed by Paris Gloves:



When a Lady Wears Gloves
   Gloves should be worn on the streets of cities and large towns, when going to church, to a luncheon, dinner or reception; a dance, a wedding or an official function. They are also worn to a restaurant and in the theater.
   Smart women usually wear gloves while traveling on a train or plane...or in any public conveyance.
   On formal occasions, gloves are worn by the guests and by the hostess, while she is receiving.

When a Lady Removes Her Gloves
   Gloves must always be removed before eating, drinking, smoking, playing cards or putting on makeup.
   When lunching in a restaurant, a lady removes her coat but keeps on her hat and gloves, removing her gloves when seated at the table.
   At dances, long gloves would be part of a lady’s ensemble and as such, kept on. The glove fingers should be tucked into the opening at the wrist while smoking or drinking, and the gloves removed entirely immediately upon sitting at the table.
   When gloves are worn merely as a covering for the hands (such as heavy winter gloves), they should be removed with the coat.

What to do When Shaking Hands
   A lady never takes off her gloves to shake hands…and never asks that her glove be excused. (Of course, this is excepted if she is wearing soiled gardening gloves, or the like…in which case she says she is sorry she can’t shake hands.)

Color, Style and Length
   The most important point in choosing gloves is to make sure they fit and are comfortable. Gloves that are too tight tend to make hands look like sausages.
   White or beige gloves are equally appropriate for any costume with which colors will harmonize. Black gloves are always smart. Formal occasions do not demand, but somehow suggest, white gloves. Colored gloves are becoming increasingly popular and are now worn, quite correctly, to weddings. It is considered very smart to wear matching gloves and millinery.
   A glove of the same color as the sleeve of your garment makes the arm look longer. A contrasting glove seems to shorten it.
   The length of the glove is decided by current fashion and the length of the sleeve. Shortie gloves to 8-button length are normally worn on the street, in the daytime and for informal evenings. Long gloves are usually reserved for more formal occasions.
   The style of glove is dictated by fashion and the style of the lady’s outfit. Simple styles usually accessorize tailored ensembles, while dressy, decorated gloves accompany more formal clothes.
   Bracelets may be worn over long gloves, but never rings.

Convinced to give vintage gloves a try? How about a little visual persuasion:

There are more vintage gloves to love on my Pinterest board G'love

Do you wear vintage gloves? And do you follow glove etiquette? 



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