Wearing gloves has gone in and out of fashion for centuries. It has been several decades since wearing gloves was an everyday “must” for fashion conscious 20th-century and 21st-century women. But, guess what? Your mother’s gloves are making a comeback as collectible and wearable. Even a current website blogger, “The Closet Historian,” is all about collecting and wearing gloves.
During their 20th-century popularity, gloves were made for every occasion from lunch to cocktail time and restaurant dining, weddings and funerals. Their materials included cotton, silk and leather. Many were crocheted by manufacturers or individual women. There were also gloves made for men, of quality leather.
The popularity of the newly invented automobile in the early 20th century and the growing interest in sports events resulted in specialty gloves. That was when the “glove compartment “ was invented. Women’s gloves were made of goat skin. Men’s were made of dog skins.
In the art deco era of the 1920s and 1930s, gloves were often lavishly decorated with beads and gold embroidery. Although wearing gloves briefly went out of fashion, Jackie Kennedy made them popular again during the 1950s. But by the 1960s, they were stuffed into drawers, tossed and forgotten when jeans and “hippy” couture became popular.
Historically, gloves in different forms were worn by men and women, not for fashion but for practicality or ceremonial purposes. In ancient Egypt, women wore them to protect the beauty of their hands. The Pharaohs wore them as a symbol of their high position.
Fast forward to the 18th century when gloves became a symbol of wealth. To make beautiful gloves was a complicated process. The leather was bought in Spain, cut into shapes in France and sewn and decorated in England. That changed with the growth of the machine age, when machines did all the grunt work and sometimes did simple decorations.
Glove boxes are popular with collectors who don’t collect gloves, since they can be used for other small items. They were a necessity in the late 17th and 18th centuries since gloves were treated with perfumed powders. They preserved the scent.
You can spend a little or a lot on gloves. There are even glove boxes for sale these days dating to the 18th century. They can cost several thousand dollars. While they are made in a variety of materials, one of the most elaborate was made by Baccarat in the 1920s, out of crystal, bronze and ormolu. A price on 1sDibs is over $2,000.
What usually turns up at mall sales are glove boxes made of wood embellished with designs burned into the wood, popular in the late 19th century. If you are lucky, you might discover art deco-designed celluloid boxes. There are also folk art glove boxes awaiting discovery.
Some late-Victorian dresser chests were even topped with two glove box drawers. Reproductions are being made.
CLUES: Scour the internet for prices and styles.