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
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.