Monday, May 6, 2013

A fashion statement or necessity?


I'm old enough to still remember my mother wearing gloves and a hat to church. I even wore a pair to church when I was around 5. I think after that, the custom began to phase out except for special instances. My high school choir director made us wear long ones that reached our elbows for concerts. That was in 1974.

No one knows for sure who wore the first gloves. They speculate that cavemen might have fashioned a crude sort of glove or mitten for protection against the elements or to perform a special task. During the Roman times, silk or linen gloves were worn when they ate to protect against greasy hands. The type of glove making we know began in the 11th or 12th century.

Fashionable gloves were sewn by hand and the Gloving Donkey, invented by James Winter in 1807, allowed the seamstress to stitch more evenly. By 1870s, fashion called for short gloves during the day since most day dresses had full length sleeves and long, past-the-elbow length for evening wear since evening dresses were usually sleeveless.

The curious pride of the horseman extended also to his gloves. The cowboy was very careful in the selection of his gloves. They were made of the finest buckskin, which could not be injured by wetting. Generally they were tanned white and cut with a deep cuff or gauntlet from which hung a little fringe to flutter in the wind when he rode at full speed on horseback.” (from The Passing of the Frontier - Emerson Hough – 1918)

I was looking in my trunk of things I'd inherited from my grandmother and I ran across a box. Inside was a pair of really cheesy salt and pepper shakers with a note that said: the first Christmas gift our first granddaughter gave us. That would be me. Beside those was an odd apparatus that turned out to be a glove stretcher that my great-grandmother had used, circa 1880.

This generated an idea for one of my first scenes in Once Jilted so, enjoy an excerpt involving the glove stretcher:
A week later, Shauna attacked the set of silver like a banshee bent on scaring every guest in the castle. But then, the castle of her fantasies was little more than a two-story wooden frame house in Nyesville, Indiana. She picked up a fork that still had a coating of dry whiting and vinegar between the tines. After an hour soaking near the fire, the tarnish should come right off. The operative word being should. After scrubbing a stubborn spot, she dropped the fork and leaned her weight against the counter. Old enough to be on her own, she still worked like a slave with no future, living in a home that didn’t want her.
 
"Slacking again?"
She turned toward Madison’s shrill voice, determined not to let her nemesis nettle her today. "Aren’t you supposed to be at the Clayburgs for morning brunch?"
Madison pulled on white gloves and patted her perfectly coiffured hair. "Well, of course, but Mother had a tirade over her tight gloves. Seems someone broke her glove stretcher. I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?"

Of course not. In a voice of false importance, she replied, "Do forgive me. I couldn’t seem to get the top to my treasure chest open this morning. I needed the glove stretcher to pry the lid. It worked quite well, and I was able to count every gold coin paid for my services over the years."

Madison narrowed her eyes. "I keep telling Mother we need to replace you with someone younger. Your sarcastic humor is unwelcome."

Perhaps she hoped to provoke the Clevingers into dismissing her, forcing her to find a different situation. Truth be told, the thought of being on her own proved intimidating. She’d been saving all her money with the idea of leaving, but she didn’t think the amount in her purse would be enough. Not yet. Not while the country suffered economic depression, and jobs were scarce.

At that moment, Mrs. Cora Clevinger rounded the corner and entered the kitchen. "Madison, stop by Kupert’s on your way home and buy another glove stretcher." She held up the broken tool. The scissor-like apparatus had one piece dangling from a spring.

"I haven’t time. Make Shauna do it."

"Nonsense. You’ll already be out and about, and Shauna has other work that needs tending."

Other work? That didn’t sound good. Shauna stared at the mound of silver and wondered what other chores Mrs. Clevinger planned to drop in her lap.

"I’m sure Shauna wouldn’t mind procrastinating for a chance to go into town."

Shauna picked up a silver ladle, ignoring their conversation. The last thing she wanted to do was travel to town. Since her disastrous trip down the aisle, she’d avoided people. She’d even skipped church yesterday by offering to make a special dessert for the noon meal.

"Shauna!"

"Ma’am?"

"If you rub any harder, I’ll lose the delicate engravings on that spoon."

Shauna dropped the spoon like it had suddenly spouted thorns.


 

8 comments:

Ginger Simpson said...

It was nice paying a visit to Shauna again. I loved this story and I really enjoyed the history of gloves. I've always hated wearing anything on my hands, but I think that ties in with my claustrophobia. I do enjoy seeing them on the few celebs who choose to wear them on red carpet events. They definitely add a special touch.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Your excerpt certainly succeeded in whetting my appetite for more information on Shauna. Nice post. So glad you have somethings from your grandmother and great-gran.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I never heard of glove stretchers! Thanks for posting this article, and I enjoyed your excerpt, too. :)

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks all. And Ginger thanks for your kind words. This was such a fun story to write. They have a new program on one of the channels called oddities or something like that. I want to watch it as I think they post things from our past that we just don't think about anymore.

Ellen O'Connell said...

I too had to wear gloves to church years ago (and I have vague recollections of other times). I was raised Catholic, and even after the gloves disappeared, if you showed up in church without a hat, a nun would embarrass the heck out of you by pinning a tissue on your head. Never happened to me, but I saw it happen to others.

Ciara Gold said...

Oh my goodness, Ellen. I remember wearing hats and gloves to church when I was younger and then eventually, it was only on Easter Sunday. How times have changed.

Lyn Horner said...

Interesting article, Ciara. I also remember wearing gloves and cute little hats to church when I was very young. Then there were the long white gloves I wore to our senior prom. It was a hot, humid night so those gloves didn't stay on very long. Nowadays the only time I wear gloves is when gardening.

Ciara Gold said...

We had to wear those same long uncomfortable gloves as part of our choir attire. Ugh. Feeling your pain with that one.