I confess: I’m one of those gals who loves nothing more than to plop on the sofa on a lazy Saturday and wile away the hours with period dramas on DVD. BBC, A&E, Masterpiece theatre…love them, love them, love them. And, while I’m a sucker for the good stories, I also gain a huge amount of pleasure from drinking in all the gorgeous eye-candy. No, not the men (unless we’re talking about 1996’s five-hour version of Pride and Prejudice, featuring Colin Firth). I’m talking about the costumes!

Invariably, there is always one style feature I wish we kept today, especially for weddings: gloves!

A Little History

Gloves have been around and in use by men and women for centuries. The most famous and recognized are the opera-length gloves, made so popular by Napolean’s Empress Josephine. Reportedly, she wore them to disguise her hands, of which she was terribly self-conscious.

For the same reason, Vivienne Leigh (Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire) wore gloves as often as she could. Gloves have been a staple of ladies’ fashion since the Elizabethan period, continuing up to the 1960’s. Odds are, your mother and grandmother had gloves they wore to church, weddings, cocktail parties, and so on. There may even be a few pairs left up in the attic.

For those young ladies who attend cotillions and become debutants, opera-length white gloves are still mandatory. They are a symbol of elegance, class and femininity.

That said, gloves are not a popular accessory at the moment… which is why I think they’re perfect for your wedding! They’re unusual, fresh, and totally appropriate! But, as with everything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to wear wedding gloves.

Step away from the Stretch Satin

I can hear you already.

“But…they’re more comfortable! They won’t fall off, they’re SATIN!”

Uh uh. No. Do it right or don’t do it at all. Wedding gloves are a fantastic way to add a little elegant touch to your day, no matter what season, hour, or level of formality.

BUT…stretch satin is never appropriate for a bride. NEVER. The satin of your gown isn’t stretch! So nor should the gloves be. Stretch satin may seem like it will slim your arms down, but it bunches unattractively, throws off an unsightly gleam in high-flash photographs, and – let me be blunt – will appear to belong on a halloween costume. Stretch satin will make even Michelle Obama’s arms look flabby.

Just say no to the stretch satin.

So what fabrics do you look for? Take your cues from your day:

Spring & Summer:

In the hot months, especially if you are having an afternoon wedding, outdoor reception, or have any plans that include some heat, you want to stick to light fabrics. Look for high quality cotton, chiffon (Chiffon is iffy…you’d probably have to have the gloves altered to make sure they fit perfectly) or even crochet. You will stay cool that way, and not sacrifice style for comfort.

Fall & Winter:

Laugh at all those freezing brides in their strapless gowns: keep yourself a little warmer by going with the traditional, sumptuous kidskin wedding gloves. Kidskin, a form of very soft and thin leather, is THE traditional fabric used for opera gloves, though you can find it in gloves of all lengths. It’s gorgeous, and can be quite expensive. Check out sites like Ebay or Etsy for great deals – trust me, I’ve looked.

debutante kidskin gloves
Debutants show off opera-length kidskin gloves. Notice how much better they look on the young lady to the left? She either had hers custom made, or altered. The young lady on the right did not; as a result, her gloves are a little big, bunch too much, and have the effect of making her arms look bigger. Remember…do it right, or don’t do it all.

The Right Length

The rule here is simple: the more formal the event, the longer the wedding gloves. A summer morning wedding is the perfect occasion for a small pair that just covers the wrist. A black-tie, evening event is a great time to show off those toned shoulders and arms with full opera length. Anything in between, experiment with elbow-length.

As with any accessory, wedding gloves can be a great way to emphasize your overall look.

wrist-length wedding gloves
Very sweet and demure.

Sexy wedding gloves
Sweet…and sexy.

Classic wedding gloves
Classic and elegant.

Dramatic Wedding gloves
Dramatic! This is a direct homage to the fabulous Hubert Givenchy gown, designed for Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina(1954).

So…now that you’ve seen how beautiful and thoroughly un-generic gloves can be…it’s time to look at the flip side of the coin.

No Fingerless Gloves

It astounds me how prevalent these still are. They’re hideous. Nothing makes your fingers look stubbier that fingerless gloves, and the pointed V shape just makes them look like gauntlets. And don’t get me started on the lace, embroidery, and the other embellishments. Ugh!

Where did these things come from?! Who thought up this awful bastardization of one of the oldest fashion accessories ever? Did brides complain about having to take off the left glove for the ring exchange? Were they upset that they gloves hid their newly minted, double-ringed left hands?

If the idea of pulling a glove totally off – again, it’s easier to pull off and put back on a kidskin glove than a stretch satin one! – bothers you, get a pair with buttons at the wrist. This style was specifically developed to allow ladies to unglove their hands, without pulling off the entire garment.
Wrist button wedding gloves

If you’re worried about not being able to show off your double rings…be honest with yourself. You’ve been flashing that engagement ring around for the last year. No one cares about it anymore. And you have the whole rest of your life (right?!) to show off the wedding band.

Moral of the post: don’t be afraid to use gloves. Now that you’ve seen examples of what to do, and what not to do, have at it! Experiment, see what takes your look above, beyond and into the non-generic wedding hall of fame.