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Today's Gloves Fall Into Three Compartments

March 19, 1993|JANET KINOSIAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although it's never cold enough in Orange County to warrant an extensive glove inventory, three different types are generally in order: leather, fabric and knit.

Skins traditionally used in gloves are deer, kid, goat, lamb and sheep. Fashionable members of English society in the 17th Century slipped on the ultimate--French kid gloves. The quality of the leather and elasticity of the gloves were far superior to British varieties.

Fabric gloves came into fashion during the 18th Century and were generally imported from Milan, Italy. These fitted hand coverings--made of linen, silk or cotton--were colorful, cooler and lighter than leather. Because they were cheaper to produce and purchase, they became a common fashion accessory. Their only disadvantage was that they stretched and had to be discarded after a few uses.

Knit gloves offer greater longevity. But don't confuse knit gloves with knit mittens. Gloves have separate compartments for the thumb and each of the four fingers, while mittens encase the thumb alone but group the fingers in one sheath.

Gloving hands: Ornately embroidered gloves of the 16th and 17th centuries were symbols of class. Valuable materials such as satin, silk, couched colored cord, laid gold thread, seed pearls, spangles and silver gilt lace elevated these gloves almost to an art form.

Glove etiquette was studied in the 19th Century. To avoid appearing vulgar, high-styling people wore gloves to the theater and to church (it was socially distasteful to have them unbuttoned in church). They were, however, never worn while dining.

Special rules were made for wearing mourning gloves.

In the 19th Century, gloves appeared in plain muted colors: buff suedes, fabrics and wools. During the increasingly prudish Victorian era, net and lace mittens were worn over fabric gloves and were acceptable wear for the very young and very old.

Bracelet-length tea gloves were worn in the 1950s and retained their popularity in the early '60s. The opera glove, which extends beyond the elbow, is still sighted at formal occasions.

But for the most part, the social status level of gloves has fallen, and they are typically regarded today as practical, functional, utilitarian--unless, of course, they came with your high-performance sports car.

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