Gloves: Meaning & Significance

Since the beginning of elites’ existence, gloves have been a common part of apparel. Even the remains of the ancient pharaoh’s gloves were discovered when archaeologists were digging through his tomb. Gloves were primarily used by ancient humans as a form of defense. Hand covers made from animal skins and fur were crucial instruments for survival and self-preservation because of the harsh living and working environment. Gloves evolved into a kind of symbolic object over time. Popes and other clergy were described in Middle Ages texts as wearing delicately pearlized white silk gloves. Gloves made of luxurious and exquisite fabric gradually evolved into a fashion accessory reserved for royalty or other high-status individuals in society. Gloves started to become a standard piece of clothing for men and women of all social classes in the late 14th century.

Gloves and Social Standing

By the 1800s, gloves had been used for practical purposes for a very long time. Gloves, however, started to develop into much more than just a basic accessory in Western society throughout the 17th century. Victorians had a social status obsession. Because of this, Victorian men and women carefully selected their clothing and accessories to convey a “message” about their social position in public. Gloves developed into significant accessories that suggested a wearer’s wealth. Wealthy Victorian women frequently employed a large number of servants to do household duties and other labor-intensive tasks. She sent a message to her classmates that she didn’t need to worry about any kind of hard work by dressing in tight-fitting corsets, billowing skirts, and other ridiculous items of apparel. To retain their unblemished appearance, they also kept their pale, soft, and delicate hands covered by gloves. Gloves were used to conceal social status throughout this time period as well as to symbolise it. Working-class women could conceal their rough, tanned hands with gloves to give the impression that they belonged to a higher social class.

History and Evolution of Gloves


While wearing gloves was a sign of modesty and social standing in the 1800s, there was another significant reason why gloves were a necessary piece of clothing. In Victorian civilization, contagious illnesses were common, and many people were afraid to go out in public for fear of contracting a serious ailment. Gloves served as a physical barrier between the body and the environment. To preserve a healthy lifestyle and stop the spread of germs within their homes, upper-class women would routinely wash their hands and wear gloves.

1900s – 1910s

Gloves continued to be a common fashion accessory during the Edwardian era, even though some rigid Victorian standards had faded from society. Gloves were a common attire choice for proper women, especially those who lived in middle- and upper-class communities. Women wore leather or suede gloves that reached their forearms during the day. Additionally, these gloves frequently included rows of tiny buttons that ran from the wrist to the elbow. During this historical period, carefully fitting gloves were also expected. You belonged in a lower social class if you were wearing loose-fitting gloves. Edwardian women wore expensive gloves made of silk, suede, or leather in the evenings. These dinner gloves had a more formal pattern and frequently reached a woman’s bicep. Additionally, these gloves had adornments or ornate needlework. Women frequently wore gloves that had different pastel tones, such as pale green or lavender, even though they were typically white, ivory, grey, or another light neutral tint.


Genuine leather or suede gloves were difficult to find after World War I. This, together with shifting societal attitudes, led to a minor drop in the use of gloves. Flappers and other fashionable women continued to accessorise their outfits with dainty gloves during the Roaring Twenties, even though they were no longer expected articles of clothing. These gloves were worn for special daytime occasions like traveling, garden parties, or weddings and were frequently made from sheer lace or light cotton. Gloves were never more fashionable or statement-making than during the Art Deco era. To complement the fashions of the day, they were frequently embellished with opulent patterns, embroidery, or geometric adornments. The gauntlet, a new type of glove, gained popularity as the decade progressed. The wrist of this style of glove is folded over a wide cuff. Additionally, the development of elastic rendered buttons unnecessary. Now, gloves could be put on and taken off quickly without requiring the undoing of any difficult fasteners.


Due to evolving fashion in the 1930s, gloves lost some of their appeal. Despite this, they were still required during extremely formal gatherings. When attending balls, operas, and other formal social activities, elegant leather gloves were common. Additionally, the gauntlet-style glove underwent a slight feminine design change. The bold cuffs started to have softer scalloped edges, and intricate embroidered accents were frequently used in their designs. Women only owned a few pairs of gloves because they weren’t as common. Because of this, gloves were primarily ivory, brown, or black, so they could go with a wider range of outfits.

Gloves in the Contemporary World

Nowadays, it’s quite uncommon to see someone wearing gloves other than as outerwear. We have returned to a period when hand covers are nearly entirely functional and utilitarian in style. Young debutants or brides are expected to wear long, white gloves in some social groups in accordance with antiquated customs. But it is extremely, extremely rare to see someone wearing a formal glove outside of these very particular occasions.


Gloves are typically thought of as a cold-weather accessory in the modern world. However, for the majority of history, gloves played an important role in civilization. Gloves were more than just an accessory; they were a representation of social position, rituals, and traditions. Additionally, they enable us to consider societal norms that have changed. Gloves have a unique history that goes well beyond merely being a basic fashion statement, in contrast to other accessories. Previously, it was believed that wearing gloves simply served to keep your hands clean and reduce the likelihood that you would contract contagious illnesses. In the past, royalty tended to wear gloves. However, gloves are now a universal fashion statement and can be worn by anyone.

Updated on: 06-Dec-2022


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