We've put together a few of our trusty and timeless favourites into one collection to make your gift buying easy - good for walking the dog in the morning and going to Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.
The hub of our glovemaking operation is a small, flint walled building that was built some 150 years ago to house dairy cows. All around us are pastures. A mile to the south, the green hills of the South Downs separate us from the salt seas of the English Channel.
It takes a lot to make a good pair of gloves. Great fabrics, selected with great care from mills large and small, skill and people with a passion for making things just right.
Almost everything we make is made to order. So that the person who is making your gloves knows exactly what you want in terms of glove size, style and dimensions. They will also know your name and you will know theirs because, when they’ve finished your gloves and they’re completely happy with them, they will sign the tag to say so.
The length of a glove up the wrist and arm is traditionally measured not from the fingertips but from the thumb seam at the base of the thumb. The traditional unit of measurement is a 'bouton' or, in English, a 'button'. At Cornelia James, we measure our button length in inches, so a 6 button length glove comes up the arm six inches from the seam at the base of the thumb.
The full story
The (largely French) master glovemakers who dominated the industry in medieval times were accustomed to placing a button roughly every inch up the sleeve of a long glove. They measured the interval between buttons using the length of their thumb from knuckle to thumb tip. This measurement is known, in French, as a 'pouce', which translates into English as both 'thumb' and 'inch'. Confused? We don't blame you! The 'button' is somewhat lacking in precision but one must allow for the fact that the 'button' emerged as a unit of measurement when land was measured in 'rods' - the aggregate length of the left feet of 16 men lined up heel to toe as they emerged from church - and furlongs - the length of the furrow that a team of oxen could plough without stopping to rest. At Cornelia James, the Master Glovemaker has a thumb which measures 1.33 inches, give or take, from knuckle to tip, so that our classic opera length glove would measure 16 inches up the arm from the thumb seam or just over 12 buttons. Roughly.However, even in the Middle Ages, the lack of an international standard was problematic and the cause of much strife and general aggravation. Today we face a global market and, moreover, we worry that, if we were to lose our Master Glovemaker and have to replace him, we would have to recalibrate our entire collection with reference to a different sized thumb. We like tradition as much as anyone and will cling to the use of the term 'button' to denominate glove length but, in the interests of clarity and accuracy in our globalised world, we have determined that our 'button' shall be equal to an inch. In metric terms that's precisely 2.54 cm. Or roughly a pouce.
Are we doing it wrong? All over the world there are factories churning out gloves by the container load. Here, at Cornelia James, it’s not quite like that. We do like to think of ourselves as having a factory - after all, we take rolls of fabric in and what comes out is gloves.
The mousquetaire is a feature which can be added to a long evening glove. It is an opening on the inside of the wrist fastened by three little buttons which allow you to remove your hand from the glove whilst leaving the sleeve of the glove on the arm. This is how ladies used to wear gloves while dining. They would put their hands back into the gloves only after the meal.
Gloves should be kept on when shaking hands, dancing, or presenting your hand to be kissed, but not when dining
Simply undo the buttons, gently tug the fingers of the glove off the hand and tuck neatly away. Practice will make perfect. Devilishly cunning and a godsend for those moments when a ring is being proffered or there is serious banqueting to be done.
At a time where fast fashion and mass production seem to be the easy option for both the company and the consumer, we take pride in knowing that each pair of our gloves is made by one of our glovemakers from start to finish. It isn’t something that we must do, but rather it’s something that we feel is important to keep doing. And because we make our own gloves, we have thought long and hard about the fabrics they are made from. Our Sueded Cotton gloves are unique to Cornelia James, and we have put a lot of effort into transforming this beautiful fabric into the classically brilliant glove that it is today.
Prepping the glove
A bad pattern and cut can set the glove up for failure, which is exactly why the preparation is arguably the most important part of the process. In the cutting room, the glove is cut into shape using a metal pattern and a press. The Georgina glove has four distinctive features: three points on the back of the glove, a palm vent at the wrist, a Bolton thumb and a welt. These features were all carefully thought out during the design process, and they work together to create a great looking, well-fitted glove. We don't expect anyone to know what these details are or why they are important, so here is a glossary for these terms:
Points are raised lines stitched into the back of the glove for a simply classic adornment and a snug fit. Georgina has three of these on the back of the glove, which is how it has been done for centuries.
A palm vent is a little cut out on the inside of the wrist which allows the glove to be slipped on with ease.
Sometimes, a quirk — a little V cut out — can be found in the fourchette of a glove between the fingers. A Bolton thumb is created when the thumb piece and the quirk are cut together into one piece of fabric. This is a better kind of thumb for gloves with thicker fabrics, like sueded cotton and leather, because the cut allows for more movement in the thumb.
Most gloves have a blind hem, while Georgina has a welt. This is a thin piece of material which is folded around the raw edge of the glove and stitched on. The function is the same, but the look is very different.
Glovemaker Ellie affirms, “With gloves, it’s all about the detail.” And it is true - small changes can create a noticeable difference in the feel and look of the glove.
Creating the points
Points are not a feature of every Sueded Cotton glove, but they are a classic decorative detail. They can be styled in different ways to help create a simply timeless glove design — they've been added to gloves since around the 18th century, so they definitely stand the test of time! A stencil and chalk pencil are used to mark out the top and bottom of each of the points. Starting with the middle point, the glovemaker uses a double needle sewing machine to sew each point from the top to the bottom marking. Glovemaker Lilly explains, “To get rid of the loose threads, we unpick the last few stitches so that the threads come through on the other side of the fabric.” They are then knotted and trimmed to secure the stitches.
Sewing the glove
The same machine is used to construct the first part of the glove - the thumb. The trank (the piece of fabric that has been cut into the shape of a glove) is laid out on the table, and the thumb piece is carefully lined up with the gouch (the hole cut out for the thumb piece) by aligning the thumb with the tongue. Lilly stresses the importance of precision when sewing the thumb with the gouch. “Everything must match up properly, otherwise the fit will be wrong.” A fourchette is a long and narrow piece of fabric sewn in between the fingers to join the two halves of the glove together. Fourchette is French for 'fork', so it is easy to imagine how the fourchette turns the flat fingers of the trank into fork-like prongs. The glovemaker begins at the top of the little finger, and each finger is sewn and tapered along the way to avoid long and bulky fingers. Any excess fabric is carefully trimmed off with fabric scissors.
To close the glove, the fourchette is sewn onto the other side of the fingers starting from the index finger. The glove is sewn shut all the way around, and down the side of the glove. Again, Lilly emphasises the importance of aligning the two layers of fabric with precision to ensure the best fit. Lastly, the glove is secured at the wrist with a welt instead of a blind hem. This is stitched around the edge, folded over and stitched again with a straight stitch industrial machine. As always, excess material is cut off from the inside.
Checking the glove
After every glove is sewn, it is thoroughly checked for sizing and faults, such as slip stitches or fabric flaws. As soon as the glove has had its welt sewn, it is tried on. Any issues found are mended and any remaining extraneous fabric is cut. The gloves are then turned inside-out and the fingers are pushed out with a glove stretcher. Again, the glove is tried on once again for one last check. Once both gloves are perfect, they are attached together with a needle and thread. A size and ‘Made by’ label is added, which is signed by the glovemaker so that the customer knows exactly who made their gloves. This gives the glovemakers a huge sense of ownership and responsibility, and they take pride in every stitch that they sew. Factory-made gloves just don't come close.
Can you do bespoke colours?
If you are looking for a precise colour match, some of our fabrics dye really well. In particular the Pure Silk and Duchess Satin are really excellent for dyeing. All we need from you is a colour reference, which can be a cutting of fabric in the right colour or a Pantone reference. The turnaround time is about three weeks and the cost is £120 per pair.
Can we do bespoke designs?
Yes - we can do bespoke gloves - tailored to your precise specification or whim. Please bear in mind that bespoke items normally cannot be exchanged or returned.
For any enquiries about bespoke gloves, please contact us.
"Design student flees Nazi scourge, arrives in England with suitcase full of fabrics, finds fame and fortune as glove maker to the Queen"
It is the stuff of legends and 70 years on the fashion business founded by Cornelia James continues to surprise. Cornelia had studied art and design in Vienna and arrived in England as a refugee in 1939. After the war, in a world made drab by rationing, the leather gloves that she made in a huge range of colours became fashion essentials. Vogue magazine profiled her as “the colour Queen of England” and Cornelia quickly established a thriving business supplying gloves to couturiers and leading stores.
In November 1947 the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Lt. Philip Mountbatten provided a vivid splash of colour against a background of unremitting post war austerity. Norman Hartnell made the Princess’ wedding gown and ‘going-away’ outfit and he turned to Cornelia James to provide the gloves.
It marked the beginning of a long association with the Royal Household marked, in 1979, by the granting of a Royal Warrant. Today it is Genevieve James, Cornelia’s daughter, who holds the Warrant as glove manufacturer ‘by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’.
The company's identity is underscored by the very close relationship that Cornelia James enjoys with the fashion press. ‘The Independent’ called Cornelia James “a fashion insider’s favourite”. Cornelia James’ products feature consistently in the fashion shoots of the world’s top magazines and fashion editorial.
We are glove makers. That is really all we do. But we try to do it really well and we have been doing it for a long time. We do it because we think that gloves are important and because a good pair of gloves is a thing of joy. You may be surprised to learn that there are 2.5 meters (that’s 8 foot) of stitching in a pair of gloves and at Cornelia James we have spent over 70 years trying to make each stitch perfect.