Monday, 18 October 2010

A second skin

Gilda takes off her gloves

'Mother said you could always tell a lady by her hands' whined Suellen in 'Gone With the Wind' as she looking longingly at her own dirty fingers and ragged nails. (Poor Suellen, she had it hard after the civil war!)

Gloves played a huge part in everyday society for many centuries defining a 'Lady' and her worth. Pretty pink pale hands untouched by sun and hard work marked you out as upper class and civilised.

Gloves, for women at least, continued to play a huge role in dress and couture after the Second world war, and there was even a glove ettiquette as outlined by Lady Bagot in the introduction to her clothing exhibition; 'Long evening dresses were worn on all formal occassions with long white gloves'. Although she quite daringly rebelled against this rule by wearing pink kid elbow gloves with many of her evening ensembles!

There is something so tactile and alluring about gloves. When not being worn simply as a device to keep warm, they also elevate the wearer to someone untouchable and unable to touch making them different and intriguing!

In her 1946 film Rita Hayworth played her defining role as Gilda, a sizzling temptress who knew how to use her gloves to captivate an audience and her man. In fact the best striptease I have ever seen was performed by the elegant Dirty Martini. The audience were spellbound and completely silent as they watched her inch her long gloves slowly down her full arms pulling each finger loose seductivley with her teeth. She removed all her clothes after this but it was the act of removing her gloves and freeing her hands which stayed in my mind and entranced me the most.

All these thoughts were racing around the back off my mind when I viewed the gloves housed in Stoke's Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for my collaborative project. The immense number of ladies gloves they have was overwhemling but oh so bewitching!

Peeling back the tissue paper to uncover each enchanting pair was a joy; Mitts, gauntlets mittens and muffs. How intiguing to think they once graced a lady's hands, for evening entertainment, lunchtime engagments and dangerous liasons? Needless to say gloves will feature in my dressing room set adding to the overall story.

It seems the meaning and symbolism about gloves faded as they became less and less necessary from the 60's onwards. As with many things the romance has evaporated. But I know there are still a few glove afficiandos out there who have supreme respect for the hand coverings which single out a lady from the rest of the crowd. I often have enjoyed donning a pair of half length leather beauties for a night out and the attention they have got me!

But to illustrate how powerful gloves could be in their heyday here is a nice little anecdote told to me by the Museum's Collections Officer:

If a gent really liked a girl he would show his affections by giving her a gift of gloves. The gloves would have to reflect her in some way and couldn't be too racey! As gloves were part of everyday wear they were quite a personal item to buy and the man had to be thoughtful in his choice.

If the lady reciprocated his affections she would show this by wearing the gloves to church the following Sunday. What a compliment! But if she didn't like the man or wished to discourage him, she would wear mittens instead.

So next time you see a woman in a pair of gloves (excluding the rubber and woolly kind) show her the respect those gloves demand, she is a lady after all!


Dirty Martini said...

Love it!! Thanks so much!! I'll be in Chester and Liverpool for Halloween this month and in London teaching for a few days. Hope to see you in there at some point.
All the breast!!

Laura said...

Hi Gemma. I thought you might find this useful/interesting:

Laura x

Gemma Parker said...

Ooh thanks Laura!