Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gloves, Michelle Obama, and Mary Todd Lincoln

I recently read this article from the Daily Beast highlighting how Michelle Obama was not the first first lady to bare her arms on a regular basis. The author mentions Jackie Kennedy, who frequently wore sleeveless sheath dresses, and Mary Todd Lincoln, who "was known for her round, well-proportioned arms and could, on occasion, stun her husband by the depth of her d├ęcolletage." The ideal arm in Mary Todd's time was a bit curvier than Michelle's or Jackie's. In any event, these three women found that they possessed a feature that fit with the fashionable ideal, and played it up.

Here's the paragraph that really interested me:
"Mary Todd Lincoln was a major shopaholic, addicted to French fashion. In one extremely bizarre indulgence, she purchased 400 pairs of gloves over a period of four months. Gloves might be an answer for Michelle, too. She could show up on her next magazine cover buff, sculpted, and wearing those same elegant, long white kid ones. Above the elbow, of course. I’m not sure about the warmth factor, but think what she could do for the glove industry!"

First, while a web search brings up frequent references to MT's glove indulgence, I haven't been able to find the original source of this story. Anyone know if it's true? Remember, gloves were important and not always long-lasting. 400 is a large number regardless, but when you think that she probably wore 2-3 pair a day (morning and evening for sure, perhaps also afternoon if she wasn't at home) and that they were made of light-colored fabric or leather, it doesn't seem quite so ridiculous.

Second, I love the idea of reviving the glove trend! Gloves are formal and elegant and can really add a fun touch to an outfit. I have a personal penchant for gloves, but they're difficult to find if they're not the winter type. Vintage stores and estate sales have been my best sources. There is a fabulous glove store on Rue de la Republique in Lyon called Gants Favel, if it's still there (it was about 4 years ago). The process for trying on gloves- where you place your elbow on a pillow and the salesperson smoothes and fits the fingers to your hand- is a treat. There's a branch of the Italian store Sermoneta Gloves on Madison Ave. in NYC. They have a beautiful variety of leather styles, mostly for fall or winter. In NY, LaCrasia has produced handmade gloves for many years, but their website is less than stellar. The best sources for cotton gloves in a variety of designs is Finale gloves, where I got my wedding gloves.

Michelle wore a lovely pair of green gloves from J. Crew for the inauguration, which coordinated with her shoes. Those may have been for warmth, but she can branch out and wear gloves for style now that spring is coming. Opera-length (or for a twist, something like this pair) would be great for a white-tie state dinner, but there are plenty of options for daytime.

So how about it, Michelle? And one last hint- you don't have to have Michelle's arms to wear gloves, especially shorter ones. They draw attention to your hands and lenthen your fingers. Tres elegant!

First photograph: from Life, 1952, by Nina Leen. Second photograph: Model Dorian Leigh wearing pin-point taffeta dress w. full skirt by Mollie Parnis, long black gloves; from Life, 1950, by Gjon Mili.


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  2. That white glove make michelle pretty obviously she is so adorable.

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