Vintage gloves: How to choose, wear & care for these elegant classic accessories

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Vintage gloves How to choose, wear and care for these classic accessories

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

The information here was originally written for ladies of the late Victorian era, but many of these tips would apply equally to fine gloves that were being worn 10 years, 20 years, or even more than 100 years later.

If you have a pair of vintage gloves — or even a new pair — and want to know the best way to care for these delicate and elegant accessories, this article is for you!

Fitting gloves - Care of antique gloves

Instructions for the wear & care of vintage gloves

Adapted from articles in The San Francisco Call (California) January 29, 1899 & June 3, 1900

Some points concerning the wearing of gloves – also the right and wrong way to put them on

Most women do not realize the importance of the glove. An ill-fitting or inappropriate glove can mar the effect of an entire costume.

Vintage gloves - styles for women from 1912 (2)

It is unfortunate that there should be so much carelessness in connection with that article of dress which has held so revered a place in romantic history.

Gloves have been the symbol of power, the gauge of defiance, and the token of love, and now they have dwindled to a necessary adjunct of dress which in the majority of cases is treated with the same consideration as a poor relation — anything is good enough!

But women’s carelessness of detail in regard to hand covering is noticed and commented upon to an extent which, if the fair wearers only realized it, would create a revolution in glove wearing.

The careless manner in which a very large number of ladies treat their gloves is an instance in point, and perhaps the following hints may serve to show how the reasonable care of kid gloves would result in a reduction of expenditure.

ALSO SEE: See 40 Victorian hairstyles for women from the 1870s & 1880s

Woman with vintage evening gloves (1910)

There are many “do nots” which are applicable to glove wearing

Rough handling is especially disastrous to kid gloves, and it very often happens that a new pair are split and ruined by jerking them on in a careless fashion.

Do not buy cheap gloves. If your income is limited, you might better don neatly mended, correctly cut, good quality gloves than a new pair of poor shape and quality.

Some of the best shops keep a fairly good line of gloves at low prices, which are worth buying for common wear. If strong and well-made, they will serve for shopping and morning walks, or for bad weather.

When a pair of fine gloves are bought, the purchaser should insist that they be fitted on in the shop; then if there are any flaws, they will be detected before the gloves are paid for and taken away.

Always put on a new pair of kid gloves for the first time long enough before they are to be worn to allow of due deliberation in the task.

MORE: See vintage drugstores 100 years ago, selling lots of things you can’t (legally) buy anymore

Antique gloves - styles for women from 1912 (3)

Do not wear evening or dress gloves except in the evening or on dressy occasions. It seems to have become a custom to wear a fresh pair of delicate gloves on some important occasion.

When they become slightly soiled or have been cleaned, they are used for less important times, and a thoroughly soiled glove appears to be “good enough to run out in or to wear shopping.” This is thoroughly bad taste, if not bad form.

For traveling, walking and shopping, wear a medium-heavy glove matching the costume, or a stout English glove of scale neutral shade. This will prove more economical than always purchasing dress gloves, which, when once soiled, are hacked out so quickly and look so slovenly.

ALSO SEE: Vintage Women Coloring Book #4: Victorian Fashion Scenes from the Late 1800s

Woman wearing antique gloves

Do not try to make the hand look small by wearing a tight glove. In selecting a glove, be sure the fingers are long enough, and that the button or clasp fastens at the juncture of the wrist and hand, and not on the palm.

It is best to purchase from different dealers until gloves perfectly suiting the hand of the wearer are discovered, and then give that dealer all your trade.

Promiscuous glove fraying is as bad as promiscuous shoe buying. On the other hand, do not wear gloves too large. The baggy backs, wrinkled fingers and slouchy wrists do not give that refinement of appearance which all women covet.

MORE: Classic corsets: How women wore them in the Victorian era, plus see 200 examples

After purchasing a new pair of gloves, always sew the buttons on before wearing them. The annoyance of having the buttons drop off will then be avoided.

Do not wear a glove with a button off or a rip in some seam, thinking it will not be noticed. Such a defect is glaring to strangers and friends.

Vintage gloves - styles for women from 1912 (1)

Silk [thread] should be kept to match each shade, and gloves should be mended as soon as a break appears, for the old proverb. “A stitch in time saves nine,” is especially appropriate to these articles of attire.

Glove mending is delicate work, which requires both skill and dexterity, and when well done, pays admirably for the pains taken.

Do not put a new glove on carelessly. The first wearing molds the glove to the hand and decides its future appearance.

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Be careful to get the fingers straight and work them gently on, little by little, each in turn. Then put one finger in the palm and, by pressing outward, adjust the hand part. The thumb follows, and when the seam on the outside of the hand is even and smooth, the glove may be buttoned or clasped.

Buttoning gloves should never be done in a hurry. The wrist should be carefully and gently pulled straight and the buttons insinuated gently into the holes. Use a glove buttoner always; it ruins both the button holes and the fingertips to button them without.

Antique gloves - styles for women from 1912 (4)

Glove powder should form one of the adjuncts to every toilet table, and a pretty glove stretcher another. Do not wear kid gloves without sprinkling powder in them if your hands are inclined to perspire. 

Do not take a glove off carelessly if you desire it to last well. It wears a glove out badly to pull it off by catching hold of the fingertips. In taking gloves off, turn the wrist over the fingers and draw until the fingers are half uncovered, then the finger ends may be loosened by the tips. his makes it an easy matter to readjust the glove right side out. Pull the glove into shape and lay aside carefully.

It is a good plan to breathe in a glove after taking it off. It preserves the softness of the kid by quickly drying any slight moisture.

How to wear antique gloves - kid gloves for women

Economy in small things is often overlooked, and if only more consideration were given to this subject, quite a considerable sum of money might be saved annually.

French women set a good example, and have made quite an art of putting on gloves, and this is why a Parisienne’s gloves last her four times as long as anybody else’s.

ALSO SEE: 1950s gloves for women: Pictures of 50+ vintage styles, glove etiquette & more

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