A Ceremonial Nuisance
Gloves: Hand coverings made with a separate sheath for each finger and for the thumb
Fads in length and color came and went, but long or short, trimmed or plain, well into the twentieth century no lady would venture out into public without her gloves. Fashion-conscious women of the rococo era changed their gloves five times a day and left them on while eating meals and when playing the harp or clavier. Conversely, a noble with gloved hands could touch nothing of value. Friends were always offered a bare handshake, a custom that continues to this day.
Pulling gloves on and off again was a ceremonial nuisance. But occasionally, for men, the rules were warped for practicality’s sake. On a hot day a gentleman should leave his gloves on to shake hands with a lady rather than offer her a sweaty palm, one nineteenth-century etiquette writer explained. “If it be off, why, all very well,” he concluded, “but it is better to run the risk of being considered ungallant than to present a clammy, ungloved hand.”
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