The Language Of Glove, 1879

Before there was today’s code for handkerchiefs, there were other fashion accessories used in courtship for communicating and flirting. There was the fan, of course, and, according to this article found in the Bismarck Tribune (March 15, 1879), gloves were used too.

The Glove Language

The English girls have improved upon the language opf the fan and the handkerchief by devising a very copious vocabulary of the gloves, which for the benefit of American women we beg to “pirate”from an English contemporary. It runs thus:

Drop a glove — Yes
Crumple a glove in the right hand — No.
Half unglove the left hand — Indifference.
Tap the left shoulder with the glove — Follow me.
Tap the chin with the glove — I love you no longer.
Turn the gloves inside out — I hate you.
Fold the gloves neatly — I should like to be with you.
Put on the left glove, leaving the thumb uncovered — Do you love me?
Drop both gloves — I love you.
Twirl the gloves round the fingers — Be careful: we are watched.
Slap the back of the hand with the gloves — I am vexed.
Take a glove in each hand and separate the hands — I am furious.

This also reminds me of the supposed code for rubber, gel or silicone bracelets; just because it was reported, it doesn’t make it true.

Taking Off Those Kid Gloves About The Collectors Convention

Hey, that conference I’m presenting at, the first annual Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention, has been written up in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Which reminded me that I had not mentioned the event here, pestering you to attend. So, here it is, “Will you please attend the convention?”

I think there’s still some free commemorative bookmarks available, so check that out before you register.

And, in case you missed it, here’s my story about incidentally collecting bookmarks: When I Was A Child, I Bookmarked As A Child (Or, Seeking The Perfect Bookmark).

Image Credits: This bookmark advertising Paul Foster & Co. kid gloves also features palmistry; it was submitted to the convention’s gallery by Laine Farley.

Glove Boxing: Taking Off The Gloves Regarding Gloves

The popularity of gloves is said to have begun in the 16th century when Catherine de Médicis, queen consort of Henry II of France, jealous of well-dressed men whose wardrobes included gloves, began a campaign to make them part of ladies’ fashion. Catherine’s powers were noted in many areas, including fashion; not only did she succeed in making gloves popular, but after it was discovered that both she and the recently deceased Jeanne d’Albret shared the same glove supplier and perfumier, it was rumored that Catherine had killed Jeanne via poisoned gloves (an autopsy revealed otherwise, but it says something of Catherine — and the popularity of gloves; this story is included in Alexandre Dumas’s 1845 novel of the French Renaissance, La Reine Margot).

By the mid-nineteenth century gloves were de rigueur, making it more than unseemly for a woman to leave the house without wearing gloves — but out-right indecent. Heck, a proper lady wouldn’t be seen barehanded even indoors.

Antique Personal Possessions quotes this letter to The Queen from 1862:

In every costume but the most extreme neglige a lady cannot be said to be dressed except she is nicely and completely gloved; and this applies equally to morning, afternoon, dinner, and evening dress.

Of course it was also unladylike to wear soiled gloves. Glove cleaners were sometimes used (by cheating cheapskates), but as kidskin (and doeskin) gloves were preferred, most cleaning products failed to clean or effectively hide marks on leather. So gloves were purchased by the dozens and stored in the essential glove box.

antique-possessions-glove-box-glove-powder-shaker-illustrationAlong with gloves themselves and a scented sachet to perfume the gloves, glove boxes held materials essential for putting gloves on: glove stretcher, glove button-hook, and glove-powder shaker.

These glove-powderers contained glove powders which not only were to aid in the easing on of tight gloves, but which were often sold as softening and bleaching the hands. Can you imagine what ingredients these powders had? Lead was an incredibly common ingredient in powders and cosmetics of all sorts — how rapidly such chemicals would adhere to and be absorbed by warm moist hands. Obviously Catherine de Médicis needn’t have added anything unusual to Jeanne d’Albret’s gloves if she wanted her dead; but by the same token, Catherine was slowly killing herself as well.

The wearing of gloves, of course, was yet another social rule which distinguished between the working class and the wealthy. Wearing pretty light-colored gloves kept pretty light-colored hands easily discernible from tanned working hands; making the wearing of gloves vital for those with (or seeking) social standing.

The wealthy not only could afford the gloves but the leisure time to wear them — even if wearing gloves kept their hands nearly as useless as if kept in handcuffs.

Certainly this glove-wearing business was far more debilitating than corsets. Which is why I’ve always rather viewed antique glove boxes as little coffins.