Indeed, gloves have been a significant accessory since long before medieval times. Prehistoric cavemen, in fact, wore crude versions of mittens, and a delicate linen pair was found in King Tut’s tomb. By the 12th century, gloves reflected the cultural and financial status of the wearer. Centuries later, a lady would never attend the opera sans mousquetaires, a tradition that lasted for centuries and is still upheld by a few.
Fashionwise, gloves have long offered polished punctuation to a look. With the advent of Dior’s New Look, women dressed to the hilt with matching everything, including the proper accoutrements for their hands. And big-screen movie stars—think Rita Hayworth in Gilda and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s—owe a part of their iconic style cachet to covered-up hands. Today edgy Hollywood girls favor tougher motocross and fingerless mitts.
Of course, fashion can always be viewed through a larger cultural prism, and some fashion historians equate this recent comeback with a slight but noticeable social shift. “In recent years, women have become much trashier than men, as if walking around half naked is an extra asset,” says Jacqueline Ceresoli, a professor of fashion history at the Istituto Europeo di Design and Politecnico de Milano. “It’s no wonder men are intimidated and even embarrassed at times. This renewed desire for gloves shows that a certain type of woman is ready to be more feminine and sensual.”
Fashionwise, gloves have long offered polished punctuation to a look.
“Gloves could be an unconscious way to describe the alarming problems of our society,” says Sara Piccolo Paci, a fashion historian at Florence’s Polimoda. “In the 16th century, for example, nobles used gloves to avoid touching the impurities in the world.”