Reader Request: Let’s Talk Gloves

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Tina popped this request into the suggestion box.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how to wear gloves and where to find gloves at a reasonable price. I have a horse and paint so my hands look like I might be a mechanic. Also, my husband hates nail polish and I’m too busy to get manicures. And then there are the veins and the gnarly knuckles from arthritis. Do you think gloves might be the answer, or is that too over the top? And then there’s glove etiquette. Can you just leave them on all the time? (Is it okay to eat in gloves? Shake hands in gloves?) I’m going to a wedding and I’d love to figure out a way to get gloves to work for me for that and other special occasions.

A fascinating discussion ensued in the comments, which you can read here, and I must say that you folks had some insights and input that I could never have been able to supply myself! In fact, I’m going to give my two cents on gloves, and leave this discussion fairly open-ended because I KNOW that gloves and glove-wearing are cultural and would love to hear from some of you who have had more experience wearing them. For purposes besides keeping your hands from freezing, that is.

The image at the top of this post? That’s how the magazines are showing gloves these days. They’re worked into everyday, indoor outfits like just another accessory. Artfully adding pops of color, casually scrunched and wildly elegant. But most of us know that gloves are NOT “just another accessory” for two important reasons:

  1. They can impede typing, head-scratching, writing, makeup application, mobile phone use, and just about every other 21st-century fine-motor activity a gal might undertake.
  2. They are not typically worn. By people. In everyday situations inside of buildings.

Now, gloves are extremely helpful for gardening, handling delicate items that need to remain fingerprint-free, and working with horses and other large animals. But there are specialized gloves for those tasks, and you don’t get ’em at J.Crew. The gloves that Tina is curious about are not for work, they are for adornment. And here’s what I found out about them.

This post on glove etiquette summarizes most of what I was able to find in researching this topic, which amounts to the following:

  • You’re not really supposed to wear gloves indoors.
  • You can wear gloves to the races, picnics, and outdoor garden parties, and if you’re outdoors and not eating, they can stay on.
  • The exception is if you’re at the opera. Keep ’em on unless you’re eating.

And to get even more granular (and amusing, if you ask me):

  • Avoid crocheted lace or transparent nylon. (No explanation for this one. Maybe they get caught on stuff?)
  • Don’t wear the same gloves on consecutive days. (Yeah. Ya slob.)
  • Don’t play cards with gloves on. (Yeah. Ya card shark.)
  • Don’t apply makeup with gloves on. (Yeah. Ya … makeup-lover.)
  • Don’t wear jewelry over gloves, with the exception of bracelets. (So that leaves rings, right? What else would you wear over gloves?)

It sounds to me like light gloves would be fine for an outdoor wedding so long as they are removed to eat, but if the ceremony is indoors they’d need to be removed. And my GOODNESS, this is a lot more nit-picky and rules-focused than I’d really like to get, but gloves just seem like an old-world accessory that should be treated with old-world respect.

So let’s move on to the part of Tina’s question that I’m far happier answering:  Where to find gloves at a reasonable price.

Thrift stores

Please thrift your leather gloves. Please. They are abundant and cheap and languishing in big piles at your local charity shop, I can practically guarantee it.

Target, JCPenney, Kohl’s

The big discount retailers will have loads of options in leather, knits, canvas, and lots of other materials.


Leather, lace, hand-knit, fingerless, and more. Always remember that Etsy is a great place to go for custom items, too.


Vintage, new, even bulk lots of gloves. Every length, style, and size imaginable.

Finally, I’m throwing fingerless gloves out there. Tina is looking for coverage to the tips so this suggestion won’t do her any good, but my impression is that fingerless gloves are slightly more acceptable when worn indoors than the real glove deal. Thoughts?

In fact, what are your thoughts on gloves in general? How does this incredible morass of etiquette strike you? Are you comfortable flouting it and wearing gloves indoors, to eat, all the time except possibly to wash your hands and go to sleep? What would you suggest to Tina?

Image courtesy J.Crew

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2017-01-06 06:20:18.

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28 Responses to “Reader Request: Let’s Talk Gloves”

  1. Marie

    Hilarious post! Love it! And so true too. Living in a cold climate, I find these beautiful thin leather gloves a bit impractical. They could be worn for about two weeks a year, because as soon as it starts to snow they are too thin and not only that, but they separate the fingers therefore depriving them of their own heat. So it’s instant frozen hands. But yes, they are so elegant!

  2. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Me too – love the look of fine leather gloves, but there are four days a year here when they would be either 1) sufficient, or 2) necessary. I do wear cotton gloves in the summer when I ride my bike long distances – for sun protection.

  3. Eleanorjane

    I love leather (lined) gloves for cold weather – I wear them from autumn to spring to keep my hands from getting too dry, but it’s never occurred to me to keep them on inside. I wear the same ones every day – currently they’re dark purple.

    For the lady going to a wedding, I’d suggest going to get a nice hand treatment to moisturise and exfoliate, the nails nicely shaped in short, practical style and buffed (not painted). Just make 30 minutes of spare time to get it done for the special event!

    And don’t wear attention getting rings/bracelets – accessorise the bits you want people to look at.

    Also, something like Sally Hansen’s leg spray would work fine on the backs of hands to even out the skin tone (and it’d stay on better than foundation).

  4. shebolt

    So many rules!

    I’d suggest to your reader that she find the time for a manicure right before the wedding. If her husband hates polish, she can skip that part or just opt for a clear coat. They will still shape and buff her nails, and massage her hands (nice bonus). Even if her nails are short and ragged (like mine usually are), they will end up looking much better.

    I wouldn’t recommend wearing gloves to hide her hands. Wear gloves for the fun of wearing gloves! It’s retro, quirky and fun. Even if there are a ton of rules.

  5. Olivia

    I see people wear fingerless gloves inside, usually in offices, because they are cold, but I would probably wonder why someone was wearing regular gloves inside.

    I second the suggestion to get a manicure. You can even do it yourself. Just clip your nails short, apply some cuticle remover to get the rough bits off and use a good hand lotion like Gold Bond. And, the thing I do that helps my hands the most is wear gloves for all my chores like washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom and yard work.

  6. SamiJ

    My hands are freezing. I would love gloves that I could wear while I type, or just wear indoors. I want indoor gloves – stupid etiquette. How about those gloves that are really just leg warmers with a loop for the thumb? Those seem to be made for indoor wear. I wish I worked at the opera.

  7. Aya in Couturgatory

    I’m trying to bring gloves, along with hats and vests, back! It’s difficult because I have clubbed thumbs and short digits with large palms, though.

    Still, I consider them so fashionable! They add such polish to a look. For myself, I wear them outside and indoors until I’m going to do something, such as eat or write.

  8. poodletail

    Love gloves! Here in the PNW fingerless gloves make sense and I’ve been a knittin’ fool, turning them out in stripes, solids, Fair Isle.

    Did you know that in days gone by (even in the ’60s and ’70s) the sales associate of a glove department was expected to roll the glove onto the customer’s hand? Customer would prop her elbow on the glass countertop, hand up, palm facing herself. I would roll the delicate (usually silk-lined leather) glove onto her had like a condom.

    My favorite gloves are silk-lined kid, 1-button. Any and all colors, please.

  9. Andrea

    Nice roundup, Sally. You’ve covered all the glove etiquette I know, so all I can add is that fingerless gloves are the perfect thing for general indoor wear (except eating, of course). I’ve knit up several pairs just to wear in my always-freezing office and for running errands when I’m going to be handling my wallet, phone, whatever. They’re easy to find in lots of styles (if you search Etsy for “fingerless gloves” you’ll get 38,000 hits). For maximum warmth, I like them to reach from at least 2 inches up my wrist to about an inch past my knuckles, although longer wrists are nice, too.

  10. Virginia

    Seems like fingerless gloves are the thing to wear in chilly offices. In fact, that’s why and where I wear mine. Mine just have the thumb hole, so to eat or wash my hands, I just slip the thumbs out, then push the glove (at this point sort of a tube) up a bit on my arm. Winds up looking like part of the sleeve of my shirt.

  11. Becky

    I would suggest to the reader that she consider reversing her strategy, and protect her hands by wearing gloves when working with her horses (when possible) and, especially, for safety when painting. My sister is a painter, and she told me that many pigments are toxic and can be absorbed through the skin. She always wears thin protective gloves (like medical exam gloves) in the studio.

    Of course, I say that, but last night I made fried eggplant marinated in turmeric and I just noticed that today the tips of my fingernails are bright yellow! 🙂 Sometimes you’ve just gotta own it. The reader sounds like an awesome person and her beat-up hands are expressive of her awesome life.

    My mom knit me fingerless mittens – warmer, more comfortable, and easier to put on and off than fingerless gloves. I wear them a lot while using the computer in my chilly house here in Maine.

    • Jean S

      yes! she DOES sound like a fascinating woman with a full life. I wish I knew her!

      And I agree with the pre-wedding manicure suggestion. It might come as a relief for the arthritis, too.

      I made a couple pairs of fingerless gloves to wear while I’m working here in my drafty old house in Oregon. Super easy to sew. I made them out of fleece, but you’d better believe that I’m thinking about other fabrics and colors.

  12. Alex

    After going through an entire pocket size bottle of hand sanitizer with my cousins at my grandmother’s funeral recently, I’ve decided to find a pair of lacy black gloves to wear to all future events of the nature. (I realize how that sounds, but I’m choosing to be pragmatic–I have a large extended family and am one of the youngest on both sides.) If “funeral gloves” aren’t already a thing, we’re making it happen! 🙂

  13. marsha calhoun

    I love it when you get persnickety over peculiar fashion rules! And you did a fine job rounding up the various customs associated with gloves. I wear gloves when gardening and when dying my hair – or when it’s freezing outside (as it is today), and I find all but the plastic/latex/whatever-they-are hair-dying gloves to be annoyingly awkward (the plastic ones are good at heating your hands to sweaty discomfort, as well, which might be useful in certain circumstances). I do have a pair of what seem to be old pink socks with the toes cut off and a hole cut our at the heel for the thumb that were left here by a friend, that I sometimes wear if my hands are quite cold in my office, so that’s a DIY for anyone who wants one . . .

  14. Lisa

    My favourite and only pair of gloves currently are dark brown Lauren by Ralph Lauren leather ones, found on super-sale at Winners. They’re not lined for extreme cold weather resistance, but they’re sufficient for a Vancouver winter.

  15. Natalie

    Gloves have another use too. A few years ago, when I was struggling with my nerves, I was pretty brutal to myself. I would scratch myself and bite my nails down. For me, gloves became freeing. I found a few funky pairs that helped me break the habits for good.

  16. Spacegeek33

    Did you mention whether it is okay to shake hands in gloves? I am thinking one is supposed to remove the glove so that one is “skin to skin”–same reason handshaking came into fashion–to show there was no weapon in the hand–but then I thought perhaps “ladies” are supposed to keep the glove on when proffering a hand? Not clear on this one. Thoughts?

    • Andrea

      Tradition (and Miss Manners) says that ladies keep their gloves on when shaking hands, although gentlemen remove them. Presumably this is because a lady’s gloves are considered part of her ensemble.

  17. Tara

    I have several pairs of vintage gloves, and I wear them most times I’m being fancy – to weddings, out dancing, out for cocktails, etc. I will wear them while drinking a cocktail, but not while eating. Vintage stores always have tons of gloves for reasonable priced. I second Sally’s recommendation to buy used. There are so many good pairs out there waiting for a home!

  18. RhodaBe

    “ou’re not really supposed to wear gloves indoors.”

    No, if they’re long formal gloves, and you’re at a ball, wedding, reception, etc., you do keep them on. Eating, no, but toasting or drinking–you may keep them on. (Where would you put them if you took them off?)

    And you can wear them when you’re shopping in a store, no need to take them off in any public place. Having them on in a private home would be a bit odd in informal situations.

    • LIz

      The long formal gloves have a button or buttons at the wrist. This enables the wearer to remove the part of the glove that covers the hand and roll it back to the wrist. (Takes some doing.)
      Then a lady may eat without having to remove the whole long glove, which process, if truth be told, looks rather like a striptease…
      Once the fingers are cleansed (finger bowls, anyone?) the hand part of the glove is unrolled and put back on.
      Ah, the joys of being old enough to remember such things.

  19. Molly

    I’m going to keeping wearing hand warmers and fingerless gloves at my office, etiquette be damned. My circulation is not great, and gloves help a lot. If you find that the regular cotton kind aren’t particularly helpful, try something with wool or similar fabrics in them. Sock Dreams has some really nice handwarmers made with alpaca, and they’re really warm and not at all itchy. They look nice.

  20. Rose

    I’ve worn cotton gloves to bed during itchy times of my life. They kept me from itching my skin into a bloody mess.

    I buy garden gloves at Home Depot. They often meet a messy or unhappy end so I’m happy not to spend too much.

  21. Distracted Frog

    I second wearing vintage ball gloves to shmancy events. My hands have not grown since I was twelve and my nails are probably chipped from creating the rest of my accessories the night before. A pair of gloves with fingers that taper at the ends and are slightly too long (5mm or so) allows me to feel like a grown-up glamorous woman and not a 12yo playing dress-up in Mum’s closet.

  22. Erika

    I’m going to go back and read the comments after making my own 🙂

    I wear fingerless mittens as soon as my hands start getting cold. So, a lot. I have enough pairs (all black), to be able to wash them regularly.

    I wear long gloves when I’m driving. I’ve got big hands, so I trawl eBay for vintage ones in my size. Since Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, this is well worth doing – my hands and a decent portion of my forearms are protected. I don’t care so much about outfit co-ordination, just coverage. Two pairs only at present, need to find more.

    I wear lined leather gloves in winter. I try to buy a new pair most years, building a collection of colours and lengths. Again, eBay has been a fairly reliable source and again, longer gloves rather than wrist-freezers.

    Practicality tends to dictate how you wear them. Taking them off for food/drink just means you have better control with your fingers and they don’t get as grubby/greasy. Yes, you can shake hands whilst wearing gloves, but it will show if you feel uncomfortable about it.

    When you take them off, don’t scrunch them. That looks icky and also is especially bad for leather ones. Smooth them flat, hold them together (fold or roll and pop in your handbag).

    HANDCREAM. Keep your nails neat (they don’t have to be polished) and the skin in good nick by using handcream at least once a day. That will make them look and feel better. Having said that, as a gardener and one who sometimes plays mechanic, it can be really hard getting sap/grease out from under the nails.

    Bottom line – I Love Gloves. But really, our hands and our faces show our lives and I think that’s wonderful.

  23. Tina

    Thank you for all the info, advice and love. I was touched by all the sharing and research that Sally et al provided. Thank you!

    I did attend the wedding sans gloves. Couldn’t figure out a way to get gloves into the mix without seeming forced. Drat! But I did give myself a manicure without polish and, you’re right, that helped my attitude a lot.

    It was my best friend’s daughter’s wedding, whom I’ve known for 25+ years. She married her perfect match and someone that I ADORE. It was the happiest day of my year so far…even with my knobby knuckles. Imagine that.

    Harriet-Thank you for your comment about “getting over it”. It was a relief to read that. Every physical change always brings some resistance from me. It usually takes me a few months of grieving, accepting and eventually loving every new wrinkle and bump that comes with being lucky enough to be this age (61). My hands have changed drastically in the past year (the doctor says it’s normal aging for me). My hands have developed large aching joints with fingers that no longer straighten. They’re starting to look like Disney witch hands. (Oh curse you, animated stereotypes!) So I am still working on associating this look with something more positive, such as, a life well lived. But honestly, it is some work to get there. It doesn’t happen without some thought and gratitude on my part.

    I loved all the glove suggestions. Nice to know there are other kooky glove types like me out there. I just ordered some Protexgloves and am looking forward to a trip to the resale shop when my daughter is in town. Never occurred to me to shop gloves there too.

    Thanks, again! Tina

  24. Emily Stowe

    I wore vintage gloves in my friend’s summer wedding. Each bridesmaid was given our own pair, which were thrifted by the bride, and we each had a different pastel colored lace dress. They looked awesome! Very ladylike for carrying our bouquets! I must admit though, I was happy to take them off as soon as possible- they were a bit hot in July.