Gloves have been used since prehistory and they have been worn for warmth, protection, a badge of distinction and as part of fashionable dress. During the Victorian era gloves were a status symbol and a lady wouldn’t dream of going outside without her gloves.
Gloves were made of kid, thread, silk or washing leather and these fabrics tended not to have much give so they had to be stretched when new or just washed. Given that the gloves were usually worn skin-tight these stretchers were used on the fingers so the gloves could be put on.
In the 19th century it was usual for middle and upper class men and women to wear gloves outdoors. In fact, it would have been considered inappropriate for ladies and gentlemen not to wear, or carry, a pair of gloves.
There were gloves for every occasion – daytime visiting, shopping, going to the theatre and attending balls. If they could afford it, women had many different pairs of gloves to match their outfits. They wore gloves to parties – and so did men. A pair of white gloves was the finishing touch to a man’s dress suit.
The stretchers are two strips of wood, silver or ivory, with rounded ends. They are hinged in the middle so that when the stretcher has been put into the glove-finger it can be opened up, stretching the finger out.