Today, we only wear gloves when the weather is chilly and we need an extra layer of warmth, but for centuries gloves were worn as decorative garments symbolic of social status and power. In the Middle Ages, royalty and church dignitaries sported them for ceremonies. During the Renaissance, noblewomen showed off lavishly embroidered, perfumed gloves made from silk, linen, and leather. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I loved gloves so much that she acquired some 2,000 pairs and even employed a wardrobe mistress whose exclusive task was to care for them!
In the 20th century, gloves became standard in design and mass produced like other types of clothing. Throughout World War I and World War II, gloves were rationed, and therefore usually worn only for warmth in cold weather. A glove renaissance occurred in the 1950s, though, spurred on by designer Christian Dior and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe (see images above). During their 20th century golden age, gloves were produced for the masses in a vast array of materials and colors. In fact, a woman of the 1950s was almost expected to accessorize each outfit with a pair of gloves, and etiquette dictating the “proper” way to wear them even enjoyed a brief revival.
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