Glove Story of the Week - Valentine’s Day Traditions | The Fashion Museum

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Glove Story of the Week - Valentine’s Day Traditions

Welcome to week two of our new series showcasing the world-class Glove Collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, cared for and housed here in Bath at the Fashion Museum.

15 February 2019

"If that from Glove you take the letter G, then Glove is Love and that I send to Thee" - noted on a Valentine’s Day card from 1834.

This week we have taken inspiration from Valentine’s Day and have selected a beautiful pair of over-the-wrist ruby red suede leather gloves by Miloré. Dating from the 1960s, the gloves feature an eye-catching pattern of four curving stems of stylised flowers stamped into the sueded leather on the back of each hand.

The colour red is strongly associated with romance and passion, and cards and gifts containing red hearts and roses are traditionally given by admirers on 14 February as symbols of their love. But, did you know that gloves actually have a connection of their own to Valentine’s Day?

Towards the end of the Elizabethan era, gloves became a traditional Valentine’s Day gift for women and remained so for many years. The diarist Samuel Pepys references this custom in an entry from February 1660-1:

“Then my wife to Sir W. Batten’s, and there sat a while; he having yesterday sent my wife half-a-dozen pairs of gloves, and a pair of silk stockings and garters, for her Valentine’s gift.” 

Another tradition we’ve heard about was the custom for men to send a gift of gloves to a lady on Valentine’s Day. The suitor then had to wait patiently until Easter Sunday; only then if his gloves were worn by the lady in question did he know that she returned his affection, suggestive of the ancient ritual of winning a lady’s hand. There is also a belief that if a woman finds a single glove on Valentine’s Day, then the missing one to the pair will be in the possession of her future true love (we love this one!).

Gloves have a long history of being given as gifts. They appear as love tokens in Elizabethan poetry and along with garters, stay busks and rings – all items in direct contact with the skin – were offered and received as a signifier of love and commitment. Gloves were also bestowed as favours. Dropping a glove was regarded as a sign of a lady’s favour towards a lover, who would retrieve it and wear it on his body, and in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, it was common practice to remove a glove and give it as a gift to a favourite.

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London continues this rich tradition of giving gloves as gifts today, honouring guests at Livery lunches and at the annual banquet with a specially selected pair.

The maker of this week’s gloves, Miloré, was one of the many gloving firms based in Worcester in the West Midlands. Worcester has been a historic centre for glove-making in the UK since the 1700s with records showing that, at the beginning of the 19th century, at least half of all the glove-makers in England were based in and around the city. By the middle of the 20th century however, when these gloves were made, only a few Worcester gloving companies survived as gloves became less fashionable and free trade allowed in cheaper imports.

Miloré thrived in the post-war years under the leadership of Emil Rich, a skilled glove-maker and business man, one of many Jewish refugees from Germany in the late 1930s. Rich took the firm in a fresh direction developing its iconic glove-shaped ‘Stylish Gloves’ logo and the distinctive lower case ‘miloré’ seen on this striking pair, and turned the company into a leading 1960s fashion brand.  

We would love to find out more about Emil Rich and Miloré so please do get in touch at [email protected] with any stories and photographs – it would be brilliant to hear from you.

We will also be posting Glove Stories over the coming weeks about other Worcester-based glove-making firms such as Dent Allcroft & Sons established in 1777 and Fownes, who moved to Worcester from their base and factory in London in 1887, as well as the many glove-makers centred in the towns and villages of Somerset, Dorset and West Wiltshire, so watch this space!

Our new display Glove Stories runs from 2 March 2019 to 1 March 2020. To celebrate we are highlighting one fabulous pair of gloves from this wonderful collection every week.

Glove images courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.