Chop­sticks, hair piece, or just cut­lery?

A must-have item made sure women were able to fit into their gloves eas­ily, as re­porter dis­cov­ers for our

Cambridge Edition - - OUT & ABOUT -

Is it a use­less pair of scis­sors? Is it a hair clip? Is it strange chop­sticks?

Those were ques­tions run­ning around in my head when Kathryn Par­sons from the Cam­bridge Mu­seum showed me five of the strange ob­jects.

But no, they were ac­tu­ally glove stretch­ers - a must-have for any woman dur­ing the 19th cen­tury.

Dur­ing that time, ‘kid’ leather gloves were ex­tremely pop­u­lar de­spite the fact they were hard to put on, es­pe­cially af­ter be­ing washed.

Af­ter ev­ery wash a glove stretcher, shaped like blade­less scis­sors, were used to en­large the fin­gers of the gloves.

They also helped re­store the fin­gers af­ter wash­ing, as they of­ten came out stiff and wrin­kled.

The Cam­bridge Mu­seum had six pairs, all of which had been do­nated by var­i­ous peo­ple from 1993 to 2002.

Par­sons found some old leather gloves in the col­lec­tion as well, which looked as though they were from the same era as the Cam­bridge Mu­seum stretch­ers.

‘‘They look like hunt­ing or driv­ing gloves,’’ she said.

‘‘Gloves were very pop­u­lar up un­til about the 1970s.’’

The mark of a lady at that pe­riod of time was to have small hands and feet, which is one rea­son why the snug fit­ting gloves were worn.

A well-fit­ting glove was also a com­pli­ment to the tai­lored ap­pear­ance of mens cloth­ing. A white pair was the fin­ish­ing touch to mens dress suits.

There were gloves for all oc­ca­sions in­clud­ing shop­ping, go­ing to the the­atre, and day­time vis­it­ing friends.

If women could af­ford it, they would have var­i­ous pairs to match their var­i­ous out­fits.

The kid leather was very fine, and was meant to fit over the hand like a sec­ond skin.

Other ma­te­ri­als gloves were pro­duced and made from in­cluded thread and silk.

The Es­sen­tial Hand­book of Vic­to­rian Eti­quette, pub­lished in 1994, ad­vised the only time it was re­quired to re­move gloves was while at the ta­ble.

The stretch­ers at the mu­seum were made from what looked like bone, ivory, ebony and wood.

They stopped be­ing use­ful in the 20th cen­tury as women wore gloves less.


Gloves were ex­tremely pop­u­lar un­til the 1970s, and were made for ev­ery oc­ca­sion.


Glove stretch­ers were used to stretch the fin­gers of gloves af­ter be­ing washed.

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