Things you wouldn't guess about gloves

the book:

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson

published 2010  set in the 1920s

[Detective Dandy Gilver is poking around in a department store, on the pretext of buying gloves]

‘Do you know your size?’

‘Seven,’ I said.

‘Seven,’ she repeated, pulling off one of my own gloves by pinching at the fingertips and tugging. She spread my hand on the counter and screwed up her nose. ‘I’m sure you were once,’ she said. ‘Are you a horseback rider or is it tennis?’ Thus having informed me that I had the thickened fingers of a hoyden to go with my scrawny arms she took a sizing board out of her counter drawer and got to work on me.

So it was with some satisfaction then that I found myself able to reject the gloves she showed me without a pang. They were elbow-length kid, had cuffs like gauntlets, and were rather yellowed along one edge; I supposed that there was not much turnover and this pair had been in their drawer for some years now with the light getting in through the glass front of it. ‘Besides,’ I said, ‘I was thinking of black satin, actually. Or mauve.’ Miss Torrance physically recoiled. Of course, I would no more wear black opera gloves than I would stick feathers in my hair and dance a can-can but [ladies' maid]Grant keeps me up to date with the fact that elsewhere, far from Dunfermline and even Perthshire, such shocking articles were being worn. ‘I’m sorry, madam,’ said Miss Torrance in low tones. ‘But Aitkens’ Emporium does not stock anything of that kind. We have a rose beige that is most becoming.’


observations: Dandy did not think a shop in Dunfermline would stock opera gloves – they are the very long ones reaching up to the elbow - and her questioning doesn’t get very far, but she gives us an excellent and detailed couple of pages about fitting and buying, including the obscure word mousquetaires for the gloves. Catriona McPherson is by far the best of the historical detective novelists, her books are a joy to read. It has to be said, the plots are unlikely in the extreme, and not remotely realistic, but the character of Dandy is sheer delight – she is a nicely brought up matron, living on a Scottish estate with her husband and growing sons, who has taken up detection as a pastime. She is caustic and funny and completely believable in her unlikely way.

With thanks to Emma Weatherill.

Links up with:
This photo features a fine pair of gloves, and gloves indirectly bring Lawrie to Jo in Little Women. Miss Squeers wears long gloves for a date with Nicholas Nickelby. This Agatha Christie book suggests you don’t want to let your gloves fall into the wrong hands.

The picture is of the actress Betty Blythe and is from the
Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. The point about these gloves was that you could remove your hand while keeping the rest of the glove on your arm (if you can imagine such a thing) – in the picture you can see the keyhole design and buttons that make that possible.


  1. What a lovely excerpt! I always take a somewhat academic interest in gloves as I have large hands (goodness knows what Miss Torrance would have thought of them) so have never been able to buy all those lovely ones one sees in Accessorise, etc. (same goes for feet, sadly). So I really enjoyed reading this. And the picture is lovely (and apt).

  2. Moira - What a beautiful 'photo! And you chose such a perfect excerpt to show the fascination with gloves. 'Fraid I have long "piano fingers" so I don't know if elegant gloves would fit me or not... Oh, and Thanks for the comments about Catriona McPherson. I really do like what I've read of her work (Sorry not this one though).

  3. Love the photo and your post...thanks. Very nicely done...enjoyed reading your post.

    Stopping by from Carole's Your Favorite Historical Fiction Post. I am in that list as #4.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  4. I think I'll remember this particular "Dandy" more for the family complications than anything. Honestly, I only just finished reading it, and I had to work it out again in my head to keep it all straight.

    But second best was the description of the two stores. I'd have loved to have been a customer of the House of Hepburn.

    I have an old wooden (oak?) shop cabinet from London that I use for display. I love it so much. Four slight graduated shelves with horizontally sliding glass doors with a rounded notch ground into the glass for a finger hold on each panel.

    There's also a tiny little plaque that says Phoenix of Charing Cross. I'll have to google it. I haven't thought to before, since I've had it over 30 years. Pre-google for sure.

    1. Edited. It's NOT a shop cabinet. Aw. Phoenix of Charing Cross is a furniture maker, apparently, and made bookcases (that's what it is) similar to mine. I still love it, though.

    2. So long as you love it! And it does SOUND like a shop cabinet.


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