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Not Sure How to Wear Gloves? Let Us Give You a Hand

When picking out this classic fall accessory, not just any pair will do.

The most lasting image I have of a glove comes from classic film

The Godfather

, in which the mafia, otherwise referred to as "The Black Hand," would hang a black glove on the doors of its marked men.

How intriguing; how noir! I instantly wanted to get a pair for immediate femme fatal appeal. But after picking up a fashion magazine that chirped about gloves as the next handbag, the image cheapened. There's nothing mysterious about trendy accessories.

Daniel Storto, the darling of all Hollywood's most precious hands and self-proclaimed "brat of glove making" agrees that gloves should be an acquired taste, not a trendsetter's pet. So before you buy a pair this fall, make sure you've got the gravitas and individuality to convincingly pull off this classic style.

More Than a Handbag

Fashion magazines have been lazy the past few seasons with overworked glove styles, says Storto, who doesn't buy the "new handbag" hype. "Throw a pair of gloves in

with the wrong outfit and it's ridiculous," he says.

"I don't shove

a trend down women's throats," adds Storto, who prefers to design gloves for influential, intriguing women who are not fashionistas, like his latest series based on "MOMA momma" Dorothy Miller, the Museum of Modern Art's first curator. For the series, Storto fed white handmade leather gloves into an antique typewriter and typed on them. They are available at the

Julie Artisans' Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City for about $500 a pair.

Storto's glove innovations are sought by designers like Bob Mackie and celebrities from Renee Zellweger to Madonna, who, Storto says, "has great respect for the glove."

Tired with the expected opera-length (about 16 inches from the wrist) leather gloves, Storto champions the gauntlet glove, which extends to the elbow and flairs out like the wing of a jet plane.

"It's got a Hollywood 1940s feel," he says of this unique style. "I don't kowtow to the fashion thing."

Storto also recommends his snuggly, long evening- and gauntlet-style gloves made of cashmere or recycled sweaters, which he first introduced in a Vera Wang show, because "leather can be too cold and distant," he says. The gloves run from $100 to $800, depending upon the material used.

Fit for a Debutante

Jay Ruckel, vice president of New York-based

LaCrasia Gloves and master glove cutter, however, is still keen on the traditional opera length debutante gloves. The 1,000 or so debutantes who make their way to LaCrasia each year to purchase a pair of the classic white leather gloves show it's still a hot look; only one in 23 leather skins are selected for these famous gloves, which retail for about $200 a pair.

Ruckel predicts high demand for longer gloves this season due to the fall coat's shrinking, vintage-inspired sleeves. Some clients wear them pulled all the way up for a formal look and push them down to the wrist for everyday wear. The look harkens back to the days of southern belles and Emily Post, but can be worn today by everyone from debutantes to bikers to those with cold hands.

If you can't make it to LaCrasia, you can find

Portolano opera gloves with silk lining for $265 at



. Or, check out these other popular and versatile styles.

The Mit: Popular with rappers and younger Hollywood, this style, which looks like a fingerless glove, has actually been around for about 300 years, says Ruckel. Piano player and singer Alicia Keys has sported this style often because of the finger dexterity it allows. Plus, it's acceptable in formal as well as casual settings, says Ruckel.


Scoop: $90 from LaCrasia, this half-glove cuts down the back of the hand.

You can find these styles and others in materials ranging from faux leather, soft suede, and cashmere chinchilla even to python skin. Burberry's

patent leather quilted gloves will show you mean business this season, and can be found at

Neiman Marcus

for $800.

For the traditionalists, "leather is perfect to go rob a bank," says Storto, who prefers softer lamb suede men's gloves that come close to the elbow. Designers like

Duckie Brown are showing a return to softness in men's gloves, he says.

Ruckel has also made many pairs of white leather gloves for men, particularly fathers of debutantes and wedding-goers. Male rappers love the mitt style, he adds.

If the Glove Fits

Of course, proper sizing is essential -- no matter how stunning a pair is, if they don't fit properly, you won't be comfortable. Find your glove size by measuring around your knuckles in inches: Your hand size is this number less half an inch. For all his clients, Ruckel will often make a tracing of the hand to determine finger length. There are approximately 320 different hand sizes, says Ruckel, but most commercial brands offer four ready-made sizes, usually ranging from 6-9, one of which will most likely work with your hand.

While it may look elegant to pull a glove off one finger at a time, Ruckel says this will stretch the fingers out of proportion. Instead, pull the glove down your arm from the top, and over the hand as far as possible before gently pulling it off. A quality glove will fall back into its original shape once you take it off.

Never store gloves in a plastic bag for the long term, as this doesn't allow the fabric to breathe. Instead, use linen or a cotton pillowcase, Ruckel advises.

Gloversville, N.Y., used to boast 550 glove factories alone. Now Storto's storefront there is one of the last remnants of the golden age of American-produced gloves of the 1940s. He may be a holdout to a more refined era, but he and other custom glove pioneers are still slipping true believers into style.

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