On Wearing Gloves

The first opera gloves were worn in 1566 by Queen Elizabeth I, who wore an eighteen-inch pair of white leather gauntlets with gold trim to a ceremony at Oxford. What a glamorous image! Today, when I think of white gloves, the image that comes to mind is of expert glove-wearer, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and all the ladies of her era who were inspired by her style and her elevated way of dress. It also begs the question: how in the world did these women keep them tidy as they went about their days? It is only in the last couple of decades that the practice of wearing gloves has gone away, but what a lovely one to revive! A great starter pair would be to locate a pair of vintage white cotton gloves. They would be so charming worn to a ladies’ tea or a daytime wedding ceremony. As with any historical garment, there are a few points of etiquette to observe when wearing gloves.

  • Gloves, especially white, should be kept pristine and absolutely spotless! The most luxurious formal white gloves are made of kidskin (very thin, supple leather) and must be retired if they become dirty.

  • When greeting, a woman should remove the glove on her right hand and hold in her left as she shakes hands.

  • As an exception to the above, if worn at a wedding or for a cocktail party, a woman may keep her gloves on for the receiving line or cocktail hour greeting.

  • Gloves should not be worn when dining. They should be removed and placed in the purse for the meal. Long cocktail gloves may be worn for the cocktail hour, but draped on the back of the woman’s chair for dining, or on her lap under her napkin.

  • Bracelets may be worn over gloves, but never rings.

  • You should don your gloves before leaving your house, as according to one very old etiquette book, pulling on your gloves in the street is the height of ill-breeding!

If you have an occasion on the horizon, wearing gloves will make you feel marvelously chic!

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