Leather: uniting motorcyclists, punks, musketeers (more on that later) and fashion aficionados since, well, practically the very dawn of time. The textile equivalent to a sparkling A-list celebrity, not a decade has passed without the emergence of a trademark leather piece – from the 1960’s and its rocker motorcycle jackets, to the ‘70s and its patent platform Mary Janes. And, with those in the know nodding towards a new kid (skin) on the block, this year’s darling of the fashion world is one that’s very close to our heart – a classic pair of long leather gloves.
Whilst the current trend focuses on a hell-for-leather fusion of modern magic and the undeniable majesty of evening glove-inspired design, don’t let that fool you into assuming this to be a new-found fad. Oh no, not on our watch. In fact, with a rich history and a plethora of exciting reinventions in today’s fashion landscape, there’s plenty to unpack when it comes to our collection of seriously good leather gloves. So, like a thief in the night, allow us to strap you onto our proverbial motorbike as we zoom through a specialist masterclass in long black leather gloves and why – with a dazzling splash of Cornelia James magic – they’re bound to be your most timeless investment yet.
Fashion’s darling of the moment
Now, before we whizz you off into the depths of the past, let’s talk about what’s right in front of us. So, what’s causing the women's long leather gloves trend? Well, as a natural expansion from this year’s obsession with Bridgerton-esque opera gloves, it seems fashion has found another heritage accessory to fascinate over. As demonstrated by the myriad of leather opera gloves popping up in all four corners of the industry, the accessory is clearly having a bit of a moment in the sun…
In fact, during the recent Resort and Spring 2023 menswear runways, the industry’s big dogs sent a cinematic selection of creative accessories down the catwalk. In a New York stock exchange-inspired show, Balenciaga mixed leather gloves with athleisure, oversized outerwear and glossy balaclavas – contrasted by Moschino’s take on the trend, which merged together Dalí-esque surrealist aesthetics with its signature humour, all offset by the extra long length of stacked leather gloves. JW Anderson also showcased avant-garde leather gloves that were structured to drape over the hand from exposed mousquetaire openings, nodding to the heritage of the design. For womenswear, Marc Jacobs’ FW22 show featured a never-ending rotation of long gloves which offset each look with a tonal effect, whilst Dior complemented its moto-inspired panelled leather gloves with enveloping evening dresses.
Echoing the multimedia-filled world that we live in, recent coverage of the leather glove trend has been playful and eclectic, as opposed to pragmatic – but this is to be expected of runway collections. However, this hasn’t always been the case. So, as the accessory begins to trickle into our own wardrobes, let’s first examine the very root of the trend.
A triumphant past
Having explored today’s flourishing world of leather gloves, one could easily assume it to be a fleeting (albeit fabulous) trend. However, with historical roots that trace back over the course of several centuries, fashion’s ever-evolving affinity to the accessory actually started at the end of the 14th century. During this era, upper classes began to wear leather gloves whilst riding on horses, causing them to become synonymous with rank and wealth. As the century unfurled, leather glove-wearing began to trickle into the everyday. For those who could afford it, these gloves were crafted from soft skins and finished with intricate silk or gold stitching.
Circa the 1600’s, the simultaneous emergence of another major influence came about – one that would play a large part in the design’s evolution. What’s that we hear? Ah yes, here come the musketeers. Echoing the aforementioned trends of the time, the French musketeers were somewhat influenced by Renaissance-style clothing – creating a symbol of the French monarchy with their black suede boots, duelling pants, cavalier hats and leather gauntlet gloves. In fact, the long mousquetaire glove style is said to have originally derived from those worn by French musketeers, with some claiming the name ‘mousquetaire’ to have the etymology of ‘musketeer.’ To quote Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil's Dictionary, published in 1911, “Mousquetaire: a long glove covering a part of the arm. Worn in New Jersey. But ‘mousquetaire’ is a mighty poor way to spell ‘musketeer’.” Therefore, this is how the tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘here come the musketeers’ came to fruition – used to playfully reference a group of approaching women who were donning opera gloves.
With both influences considered, it was from this point onwards that the almighty leather glove would grow in popularity – leading us all the way up to the present day.
How to style your leather gloves
Well, faithful reader, we now arrive at the practical part of this whistle-stop tour. Exactly how should one be styling the almighty leather glove? Well, with a little guidance from yours truly, you’ll cut a fine figure in no time. Synonymous with daytime elegance, the style is likely to conjure up images of autumn and winter layering – all thanks to its natural insulation properties and durable construction. To harness the cool-weather appeal of this piece, try styling it with other luxury compositions, such as wool coats, cashmere knits and tweed capes (with the latter presenting the perfect opportunity to showcase the style, as it highlights the forearm with a layered effect). However, your gloves certainly shouldn’t be reserved to the depths of the winter. In fact, during springtime (and even the more blustery of summer days), a leather glove can be integrated into your wardrobe with sartorial ease. Conjure ladylike images of the ‘50s by styling yours with blooming floral dresses and lightweight trench coats – perfect for running errands in the city, cruising out to the beach, or exploring the great outdoors. For polished professionalism, it can also add another layer of textural dimension to your office outfits – try pairing it with a sharp white blouse, herringbone pencil skirt and three-quarter length blazer.
Thanks to the opera-esque styling and handy mousquetaire opening (traditionally used to slip the hand out in order to eat or drink during an evening of fine dining and dancing), the long leather glove can also be styled for the evening. Considering that our leather glove collection has been masterfully crafted from premium leather, you’re bound to turn any event into an occasion by going against the (leather) grain — all whilst remaining within the dress code rules, too. In fact, it can be worn during the most established of affairs – such as debutantes (a traditional evening event that involves ‘presenting’ a young adult to society) and cotillons (an 18th century social dance that was popular in Europe and America, and is currently experiencing a social revival) – with just a little sartorial skill. So, how to style yours? Well, whilst evening gloves are, by tradition, expected to appear in lighter tones of satin and silk, styling your black long leather gloves with the languid length of a flowing gown or a sharp tuxedo dress will offer an inspired respite from the expected. Try pairing your pair with precious diamonds and delicate lace for an elevated (but ultimately elegant) effect during your next big social appearance.
Care for long leather gloves
In a true testimony to our motto ‘buy better, buy fewer,’ what kind of fairy glove-mother would we be if we didn’t impart a little practical help in our final moments together? So, allow us to kit you out with a little TLC.
Firstly, let’s cover the basics. When removing your gloves, pull from the fingertip and ease the glove slowly over the hand. This avoids stretching the original shape of the leather and damaging the quality. Alongside this, it’s also imperative that you store your pair in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and direct heat. Of course, we couldn’t bear the thought of our precious designs being left in the dark (or should we say, direct light). That’s why a Cornelia James pair will arrive in a breathable dust-proof bag for extra safe storing.
Over time, leather absorbs the oils from your hands (as well as other particles that accumulate), causing them to look a little lacklustre. But fear not, for with Cornelia James, you have a glove for life. All you need is a little spring clean – and here’s how. Firstly, we’d advise choosing a mild soap that’s formulated without harsh chemicals. With a damp cloth, lather up and coat your leather gloves before using a clean damp microfiber cloth to wipe off the soap. Then, allow them to dry whilst pulling them a few times to stretch your pair back to its original shape – just avoid any external heat or direct sunlight, as wet leather that dries too quickly can become unpleasantly stiff. Also, if your gloves are stained, apply equal parts white vinegar and water with a cotton ball before dabbing the solution off with a microfiber cloth.
And there we have it. From the past all the way up to the present, we’ve officially covered all bases of our leather masterclass. Now that you’re a bona fide aficionado on the subject, it’s about time that you graduated with your own keepsake from our collection. So, what will it be?