Wide-known expression “like a woman changes clothes” is often used in speech to characterize fickle girls who often change boy-friends. But how many pairs of gloves can we find in a wardrobe of the most stylish fashionistas today? Four or five at most and all of them are used only in winter and in autumn for the main purpose: to keep your hands warm. But not long ago even middle-class women had dozens of gloves. For day-walks, theater, evening events – in short, for all occasions. The history of this accessory dates back many centuries and is full of interesting facts.
In the days of Egyptian pharaohs only a high-rank officials could boast the gloves, and they differed dramatically from what we are wearing today – actually, they had no fingers but only a textile tube around the wrist and the bottom part of the palm. In ancient Rome where thanks to the warm climate there was no need to protect hands from cold one could see the so called dinner gloves-as the Romans had no personal table fittings and ate with the help of their hands these gloves were used to protect fingers when touching hot dishes. In the medieval Europe, gloves were an attribute of power and upper classes people.
Knights would get gloves when been awarded, bishops – at their consecration and citizens – as a sign of the privileges granted. Gloves of metal rings and plates were an inevitable part of any suit of knight’s armor but in a course of time they became totally leather and were used during various ceremonies. Common people have always worked barehanded and hid their hands in the pockets in cold weather.
Rather quickly gloves transformed from a simple bag for a hand with wrist laces to a familiar accessory with five fingers cut separately for the right and left hands. Somewhere in the middle of this way we can see mittens – in fact, it is the same bag but with a separate case for a thumb- they haven’t been lost in the turbulent history but became a separate accessory popular until nowadays. Gloves reached their classical form by the XIth century been made of the wide variety of materials and decorative elements. Silk, brocade, velvet, leather were decorated with buttons, broaches, enamel pendants and all sorts embroiders.
Gloves are associated with various legends and beliefs. A glove a gentleman would get from a lady was a special gesture; it was attached to the belt or to the hat as a sign of honor so that everyone could see it. A glove thrown has always been a challenge to a duel. Medieval documents verifying tax collection, coins striking, court judgments contained a wording “In the name of king’s glove”.
In the late XVth century scented gloves became famous – cut outs of the thinnest leather were immersed into a glass reservoir, covered in perfume and kept inside for some time, and only then handed to the tailor for further work. Court perfumer of Ekaterina Medichi, the famous master René, mixed poison absorbed through a skin to the perfume, then the gloves were given to some “lucky persons” – this was the way the French queen, notorious as fractious woman, would get rid of her enemies.
At about the same time a tradition to go out only with your hands closed occurred and gloves became as important sign of good manners as the hat was. One could take them off only to pay homage – before the altar in a church, before the king, during pronouncement of a verdict and certainly when greeting people as a symbol of one thought no harm.
In Rus, where the severe climate made both court nobility and common peasants to hide their hands from cold, mittens have a long history. As aristocrats could not stress their status by having this accessory per se they tried their best to decorate it in all ways possible – from luxury fabric to golden embroidery and silver buttons. By the XVIIth century, “perstatye” [literally: with fingers] (originate from the word “perst” e.i. finger) gloves became popular and got the name of gloves. European novelty was not available to common people and became one more social “sign” –someone who wore gloves was obviously an upper-class person.
XVIII-century fashion with its puff lace cuffs did gloves more harm than good – one could hardly see hands under numerous lace layers. Gloves became merely an element of men’s hunting and military suit and ladies wore them only with the going-out suit. Although this period did not last long – just one hundred years later gloves took out their rightful place and became more popular than ever. Leather and suede for men, silk and lace for women, mittens for balls and wide variety of other models hit the shelves of the shops. No one who respected his good name would leave the house without gloves. Moreover, upper-class rules required to change them six times a day or more.
Those that were dirty or torn would be thrown away so there were several hundred gloves in a wardrobe of any fine gentleman. It was some kind of science to choose proper gloves. For instance, in the evening ladies could wear only white gloves – if a lady was wearing colored gloves one could know she was a representative of the oldest profession. French singer Yvette Guilbert depicted in the canvas by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec has made black gloves a symbol of women’s sexuality forever.
Widely spread in the XIXth century gloves had to cling to the arm ideally so special pincers were used to put them on. Thin and tight gloves would often split therefore one should have had a spare pair with him, and a snow-white skin made this accessory disposable, that is why only truly well-off people could be always in style.
In a rapid rhythm of life nowadays, gloves are not taken as an elite accessory any longer, and you can put them on or take them off depending on the weather and your own wish. Nevertheless, if you want to look elegant and impress everyone with your exquisite beauty – pay attention to this accessory and pretty soon people will look at you admiringly. A person in gloves is surrounded with an aura of mystery and riddles because your hands can tell much more about you than the your face can.
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