Another Trip Down Memory Lane...
Back in the fifties and sixties when I grew up, we were still living in the Age of Dress Gloves -- but it was the closing years of that long era.
In those days, when women (and even young girls) seriously dressed up, gloves were usually part of the costume. The length of the glove was inversely related to the length of the sleeve, but it also depended on the season of the year.
Gloves weren't an edgy fashion statement. They were expected. People would have felt a bit sorry for you if you didn't have gloves for an important social event.
I remember that I wore a pair of wrist-length pink stretch lace gloves to my 8th grade graduation ceremonies (and some funny little 1-inch heels.) When I wore a long formal dress to my Junior and Senior Banquets, I wore white opera gloves. I had one pair with buttons and one without.
My mom and other hard-working ranch and farm wives wore gloves to church -- gloves that covered their workworn hands and helped them feel feminine and dressed up (like Grace Kelly who wore little white cotton gloves to all her interviews.)
In the early 1960's, Jacqueline Kennedy wore all sorts of dressy gloves and looked elegant in them, but sometimes went out with bare arms too.
Lady Bird Johnson and her daughters were photographed much more often without gloves than with them. I don't remember if Pat Nixon wore gloves or not, but by the 1970's, the Age of Dress Gloves for the general public was definitely drawing to a close.
Do you remember this scene from Little Women? Jo and Meg were deciding what to wear to the party.
`If I only had a silk!' sighed Meg. `Mother says I may when I'm eighteen, perhaps; but two years is an everlasting time to wait.'
`I'm sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and the tear in mine. Whatever shall I do? the burn shows badly and I can't take any out.'
`You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of sight; the front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my hair, and Marmee will lend me her little pearl pin, and my new slippers are lovely, and my gloves will do, though they aren't as nice as I'd like.'
`Mine are spoilt with lemonade, and I can't get any new ones, so I shall have to go without,' said Jo, who never troubled herself much about dress.
`You must have gloves, or I won't go,' cried Meg decidedly, `gloves are more important than anything else. I should be so mortified if you didn't have them.'
`Then I'll stay where I am.'
`You can't ask Mother for new ones, they are so expensive, and you are so careless. She said, when you spoilt the others, that she shouldn't get you any more this winter. Can't you make them do?' asked Meg anxiously.
`I can hold them crumpled up in my hand, so no one will know how stained they are; that's all I can do. No, I'll tell you how we can manage-each wear one good one and carry a bad one; don't you see?'
`Your hands are bigger than mine, and you will stretch my glove dreadfully,' began Meg, whose gloves were a tender point with her.
`Then I'll go without. I don't care what people say!' cried Jo, taking up her book.
`You may have it, you may! only don't stain it, and do behave nicely. Don't put your hands behind you, or stare, "Christopher Columbus!" will you?'
`Don't worry about me; I'll be as prim as I can, and not get into any scrapes, if I can help it. Now go and answer your note; and let me finish this splendid story.'
So Meg went away to `accept with thanks', look over her dress, and sing blithely as she did up her one real lace frill; while Jo finished her story, her four apples, and had a game of romps with Scrabble.
Itching for a pair of elegant gloves? Make your own with directions from medieval reenactor, Franchesca Harvas, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). She has some lovely examples of medieval gloves on her site.