What are Elbow Gloves?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Elbow gloves are coverings for the hands and lower arms. In addition to covering the hands and wrist, the gloves also cover the forearms up to and sometimes just past the elbow. Elbow-length gloves may be worn as a fashion accessory or as a piece of safety equipment.

Elbow gloves were a common necessity for ladies' formal eveningwear well into the middle of the 20th century.
Elbow gloves were a common necessity for ladies' formal eveningwear well into the middle of the 20th century.

The use of elbow gloves used to be common with ladies´ formal eveningwear. Well into the middle of the 20th century, a pair of white gloves that extended to the elbow was considered a necessary accessory for any type of formal event, such as a dance or cotillion. The formal gloves were sometimes referred to as prom gloves, since young ladies attending a junior or senior prom would often include the gloves as an essential part of the formal dress.

Materials used for fashionable gloves varied from cotton to satin. While white was considered essential in many settings, black or red gloves that rose to or past the elbow were also popular. Many female celebrities of the 1940’s and 1950’s routinely wore these longer gloves when making personal appearances.

For a brief period in the 1950’s, elbow gloves for daywear also became popular. These gloves were often tailored to match skirt and jacket sets tailored for women. The jackets would feature a half-sleeve design, making it possible to include a set of elbow gloves that rose just to the elbow in the overall look. Often, the gloves were available in colors to match the outfit, while white gloves of this type remained popular with formal wear.

As designs and colors for ladies formal wear began to diversify, elbow gloves created as part of the formal ensemble also underwent a change. In some designs, the gloves became longer, with a few designers in the 1960’s promoting the wearing of gloves that extended to the middle of the upper arm. For a time, this was an especially appealing look with a strapless evening gown.

While wearing elbow gloves has declined since the middle of the 20th century, the long gloves are still available for sale. Often they are worn by the bride at a formal wedding, and sometimes are paired with the dresses worn by the bride’s attendants and maid of honor. From time to time, elbow gloves are included in fashion designs for a new season or as part of theatrical costuming. However, the elbow gloves never quite regained their old level of popularity after the cultural changes of the 1960’s.

Along with elbow gloves as a fashion accessory, there are also pairs designed as protective devices. These protective gloves are often used in research and manufacturing facilities where harsh chemicals are used regularly. In most cases, the gloves are produced using some type of strong material, such as neoprene, in order to stand up to the corrosive effect of chemical compounds and thus prevent the hands or arms from sustaining damage in the workplace.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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