More Etiquette for Gloves and a Royal Glovemaker for Downton Abbey

Wearing gloves while eating or drinking is a violation of good manners.
Back in January, I blogged about a query I received from a tea specialist (more of a lament than a query) on etiquette and gloved hands with drinks in them, on the popular period drama, Downton Abbey.  She was lamenting the fact that they were so incorrect with their glove manners on such an otherwise great show.  I had told her that I gave the show a pass on that particular faux pas, as they get so many other things historically accurate, and I then quoted Judith Martin, who once wrote, "The only place where it seems to be traditional for ladies to eat or drink with gloved hands is in costume dramas. In real life, it was always considered crude, not to mention yucky, but in every period film, television show, play and opera, it is evidently intended to add a touch of what passes for 'class.'"

Another etiquette violation in period film: To not wear gloves while dancing in the Regency Era, would find a young woman shunned by "good society."
I received another glove etiquette query, which I have had no success in finding an answer to in any of my old books.  This one was asked on Google+ by a reader, and she even included a photo.  The photo is of Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie "Emma," wearing gloves while playing the piano.
I could only find information on one woman, who was not a cartoon character, who wore gloves and played the piano.  Hers was a cabaret act, however, and I am not sure people actually went to hear her skills as a pianist.  So with regard to etiquette, wearing gloves while trying to play the piano is a "no-no."
A few weeks later, I received this email below,  from royal glove maker, Genevieve James.  
Hi Maura
I came across your blog when I was looking for our images of our gloves.  For your interest we made the gloves for Downton Abbey for the last series and the one before.
I thought your blog was great and lovely to see an interest in the etiquette of wearing them.
With my best wishes,  Genevieve   
 Genevieve James  Design Director  Cornelia James Ltd
Cornelia, Genevieve's mother, founded the company.
I immediately called Bernadette, who had asked me the original question about Downton Abbey and the glove etiquette.  She and I had previously discussed her love of the fashions on Downton Abbey and she had been looking to purchase some.  I sent a response to Genevieve, and asked if she sold her gloves online, and if she shipped to the U.S.  Her answers were "Yes" and "Yes."  So if you are inclined to take a look at the beautiful gloves she has available for purchase, you will find them at Cornelia

She offers day gloves, evening gloves, lace gloves, leather gloves, and more.  I may even order a pair, as I have a birthday coming up, though I really only wear gloves for driving.  I am the only person I know anymore, who actually has gloves in the glove compartment of my car.  I keep three pairs of gloves in there and people are always a bit surprised.  But even in sunny, Southern California, my hands can, and do, get cold driving at night.
More gloves by Genevieve James; Downton Abbey can get it very right... Downton Abbey's gloved ones with not a drink, nor morsel of food, cigarette, or piano in sight!
Etiquette rules regarding gloves for men were just as strict as the etiquette rules for women wearing gloves.
"To be in the fashion, an Englishman must wear six pairs of gloves in a day"
On the subject of gloves, Cecil B. Hartley wrote in "The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness" of 1860 

"An English writer, ridiculing the whims of Fashion, says: —
'To be in the fashion, an Englishman must wear six pairs of gloves in a day:
In the morning, he must drive his hunting wagon in reindeer gloves.

In hunting, he must wear gloves of chamois skin.

To enter London in his tilbury, beaver skin gloves.
Later in the day, to promenade in Hyde Park, colored kid gloves, dark.
When he dines out, colored kid gloves, light.
For the ball-room, white kid gloves.
Thus his yearly bill for gloves alone will amount to a most extravagant sum.'"

Below is a variety of rules from different authorities on glove etiquette for men and women: 

From “Martine's Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness.” 1866

Under Habits at Table 

“Neither ladies nor gentlemen ever wear gloves at table, unless their hands, from some cause, are not fit to be seen.” 

Under Street Etiquette 
“Never offer to shake hands with a lady in the street if you have on dark gloves, as you may soil her white ones.”

“You need not stop to pull off your glove to shake hands with a lady or gentleman. If it is warm weather it is more agreeable to both parties that the glove should be on—especially if it is a lady with whom you shake hands, as the perspiration of your bare hand would be very likely to soil her glove.”

Under Marriage 

“When arrived at the altar, the father of the bride, or, in default of such relation, the nearest connexion, or some old friend, gives away the bride. The bridesmaids stand near the bride; and either her sister, or some favorite friend, will hold the gloves or handkerchief, as may be required, when she ungloves her hand for the wedding-ring.”

Under General Society 
“Never allow a lady to get a chair for herself, ring a bell, pick up a handkerchief or glove she may have dropped, or, in short, perform any service for herself which you can perform for her, when you are in the room.”

“Gloves should be worn by ladies in church, and in places of public amusement. Do not take them off to shake hands. Great care should be taken that they are well made and fit neatly.” 

Under Dress “With this suit, and well-made shoes, clean gloves, a white pocket-handkerchief, and an easy and graceful deportment withal, he may pass muster as a gentleman.”

From Agnes H. Morton's “Etiquette.” 1919 

Under A Few Points on Dress “Where dancing is expected to take place, no one should go without new kid gloves; nothing is so revolting as to see one person in an assembly ungloved, especially where the heat of the room, and the exercise together, are sure to make the hands redder than usual. Always wear your gloves in church or in a theater.”
“At the funeral of a near relative, a man wears black, including gloves, and a mourning band around his hat. Subsequently he may continue to wear black for several months, or, if this is not feasible, the hat-band of bombazine is accounted a sufficient mark of respect.” 

“The well-dressed man will consult his tailor and furnisher. Hats, boots, and gloves, the extremes of every perfect costume, are important exponents of good style; and careful attention to their choice and wearing is essential to complete and effective dressing.” 

Under Public Assemblies “Shall ladies join in applause? As a matter of fact, women seldom applaud, but not because  propriety necessarily forbids; it is chiefly because the tight-fitting kid glove renders "clapping" a mechanical impossibility. Feminine enthusiasm is quite equal to it at times, as, for instance, when listening to a favorite elocutionist or violinist. There is no reason why ladies may not "clap," if they can. It certainly is quite as lady-like and orderly as for them to give vent to their enthusiasm, as many do, in audible exclamations of "Too sweet for anything!" "Just too lovely!" etc., all of which might have been "conducted off" at the finger-tips if hand-clapping had been a feasible medium of expression.”

From Emily Post, "Etiquette" 1922

Under “Etiquette Of Gloves And Napkin"

Ladies always wear gloves to formal dinners and take them off at table. Entirely off. It is hideous to leave them on the arm, merely turning back the hands. Both gloves and fan are supposed to be laid across the lap, and one is supposed to lay the napkin folded once in half across the lap too, on top of the gloves and fan, and all three are supposed to stay in place on a slippery satin skirt on a little lap, that more often than not slants downward.

It is all very well for etiquette to say "They stay there," but every woman knows they don't! And this is quite a nice question: If you obey etiquette and lay the napkin on top of the fan and gloves loosely across your satin-covered knees, it will depend merely upon the heaviness and position of the fan's handle whether the avalanche starts right, left or forward, onto the floor. There is just one way to keep these four articles (including the lap as one) from disintegrating, which is to put the napkin cornerwise across your knees and tuck the two side corners under like a lap robe, with the gloves and the fan tied in place as it were. This ought not to be put in a book of etiquette, which should say you must do nothing of the kind, but it is either do that or have the gentleman next you groping under the table at the end of the meal; and it is impossible to imagine that etiquette should wish to conserve the picture of "gentlemen on all fours" as the concluding ceremonial at dinners.”



  1. I find the quote about men having to wear 6 pairs of gloves a day staggering!

  2. Your blog is simply "Too sweet for anything!" :-)

  3. I saw this on Tea at Trianon's feed too. I guess I need to get myself some new gloves now!

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