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 Home > product Knowledge > Evidence of Gloves from the 12th to the 16th Centuries
Evidence of Gloves from the 12th to the 16th Centuries

Archaeological evidence for mittens predates the medieval period in Europe and hand coverings of some sort have been a necessity if not also a fashion accessory throughout the medieval period. This information focuses on evidence from the 12th century to the end of the Elizabethan period in Europe and the British Isles and deals only with gloves.

Gloves are of two types: 3-fingered and 5-fingered.  The 3-fingered glove appears only on working men - never on women or the upper classes. One figure in the Luttrell Psalter shows a man and a woman engaged in weeding with identical tools, yet only the man wears gloves. Fairholt's Costume in England refers to the 3-fingered type as mittens or "country man's gloves". Both 3-fingered and 5-fingered types appear in depictions of working people.

A small tassel or perhaps a bell is often seen hanging pendant from the cuff. While early illustrations of gloves most frequently appear to show a one-piece glove and cuff, extending past the wrist, a shorter version did exist. In Fontevrault Abbey, France, the tomb sculpture of Henry II has the dead king wearing wrist-length gloves with an embroidered border and a circle of embroidery or applique on the back of the hand.

In the 15th century, gloves began to appear as a common fashion accessory in illustrations of both men and women. One portrait of particular interest is the painting "The Family of Uberto de'Sacrati", attributed to Baldassare d'Este in the mid 1400's. The lady in the painting wears gloves with the fingertips cut off and the one visible cuff is tucked into the sleeve of her gown, while the gentleman wears a single hawking glove of a material light enough to rumple at the wrist.

Embellishment could be simple slashing, tabs and ribbons, or the addition of elaborate cuffs, heavily embroidered with the costliest threads, gems, and lace. According to Norris, accounts of the wardrobe of King Henry VIII mention highly decorated pairs. Queen Elizabeth I was particularly fond of gloves and her wardrobe accounts list many pairs, including the ones that were perfumed, and the ones that were knitted.

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