Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So Commonly Rare...

  Trevette asked me a while ago if I would share some of the early mitts here at the Museum on the blog, so I chose a few this morning, of my most prized and rare examples for your pleasure. You will find no fancy silk mitts here today, no colorful embroidery...no initials or love sentiments...just wonderful early linen mitts and gloves the ladies, both young and olde, wore everyday.  This first pair are for a young lady, and as you can see, have points that fold back over the back of the hand. From the fold, to the back edge, they measure 11" long....which actually, is the measure of the back of my own hand to my elbow....so why do I think these are for a young girl you ask? The wrist is a scant 4& half inches in circumference. There is no opening at the palm of the hand or inner wrist like on late 19th c gloves, so one's hand must be small enough to fit thru the narrowest part of the mitt's sleeve.

 The tip of the thumb is open, and there are 3 lines of decorative stitching at the back of the hand, ending at the foldover seam. These early gloves were stitched from fabric cut on the bias so they would be more flexible and fit to the arm better. In the 18th c it was common & fashionable to have the points that folded back over the hand. One could protect their skin from the sun, and yet still have their fingers free to do needlework, hold a tea cup ect.
 Please do click on the pictures to enlarge them~ the stitching is amazingly tiny, its very hard to see individual stitches with the nekkid eye!
  The thumb is set in deep, and is cut in a curve to follow the thumbs natural position and not have bulky wrinkles. Note the darn center front here~ one reason everyday linen gloves are so very, very rare to find, in single or in pair, is that they were indeed worn every day, and were subject to alot of stress...literally worn to bits. In fact, the match to this one I have not padded, as the palm has worn so very thin it is transparent.
  There is a join in the fabric that runs from the "i" in Repository up to the tip of the inner thumb~ one of 7 such joins on this mitt
  Here you can see the triangular flap folded over.  These were worn by Mary Wistar, born 27 Nov. 1765 in Philadelphia. Due to the size, she most likely wore them around 1775-80. She was not a small woman, as these were obtained with many other items of her wardrobe, so I could be stretching the date a little.
 This cunning pair of fingerless mitts are for a small child, and measure a scant 9" from end to end. They are made of extremely fine linen, with drawstrings around the arm edge.
 Cut to fit straight across the back of the hand at the knuckles, and without fitted thumbs, just finished openings, both of which have stress related tears at the outside thumb edge.
 Here you can see the size comparison ~ the fold over mitts are to the far right in the above photo, the childs across the top.  The single mitt to the far left, and the pair of gloves in the center, were worn by Mary B. Decon in 1794.
  The single mitt is of paper thin cambric~ you can see the thumb placement is similar to Mary Wistar's mitts, with the thumb ending even with the front hem~ this would cover the thumb up to the knuckle.
 The stitching on the back of the hand
  There is no rule that all mitts need have points, or a certain date range for one having or not having them, it was personal preference.....and depended if the wearer followed the fashion trends or not.  These too are cut on the bias, as they all are, but they have a simple fold over cuff with no drawstring at the elbow end.
  The gloves are my favorite, for too many reasons to list. They are very fragile and have several places in the fingers where the cambric has worn to beyond paper thin....but they also have darn after darn....both top thumb seams have been stitched over a few times...perhaps Mary had long nails that wore them out?  Here you can see the stitching at the back of the hand, along with those awesome finger gussets!
 The drawstring at elbow hem to keep them up on the arm~ 

In this fashion plate from 1803 you can see the gloves tie well above the elbow. (dont forget to click on it to make it larger)

  This engraving is from 1766, note the young woman's fold back mitts....tres fashionable!

 In this plate from 1784 you can clearly see the fitted thumb and open fingers of her green silk mitts as she delicately wields her scissors in one hand, and lace in the other.


Sherri Farley said...

Just amazing. Simple, but not!
Thank you for sharing such rare gems.

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Thank you for sharing such an intesresting insight into the museum's treasures. Yes, when I hear "gloves" I first think about silk or kid leather (or knitted ones), but these beautiful linen gloves are truly beautiful. And common people's clothing is really a rare find!


Jan Conwell said...

Oh my goodness. Beautiful.