Etiquette: Know the rules if you wear gloves to the prom

For the News-DemocratMarch 31, 2014 

Q. Lots of excitement in our house lately as our daughter has been invited to the prom! It's her first prom, or I should say, our first prom.

Several of her girlfriends had a sleepover at our house recently and they talked about prom all night. They were in and out of the family room with a question now and then, until my husband and I finally went to bed.

One of their discussions and a question or two was about wearing gloves or not and if so, length, color, etc. I hesitated to say a lot because I wasn't quite sure myself, so I thought I would ask if you could please give some do's and don'ts concerning gloves as an accessory for the prom.

A. Yes, indeed, what an exciting event -- the first prom! Every detail, from the hair to the shoes (and toenails, of course) must receive attention.

First of all, the length of the glove is determined by the type of formal or gown. Basically, the proper fashion rule is: The shorter the sleeve, or no sleeve, the longer the glove. The three categories describing the length of gloves are evening or opera, elbow and wrist.

Since most of the prom gowns in today's fashion are strapless or have tiny straps without sleeves, the preferred glove length would be the evening- or opera-length glove. It is also referred to as the full-length glove. The opera-length glove reaches above the elbow, to midbicep or higher. Depending on the length of the arm, the length of the glove can be anywhere from 16 to 22 inches or even up to 30 inches.

It is important to measure arm length before going opera glove shopping. To do so, hold a tape measure from the knuckles to midbicep.

To measure the hand or glove size, wrap the tape measure all around the widest part of the palm of the hand where the knuckles are, but do not include the thumb. Some gloves will be marked with an actual glove size, such as 6 or 8, but some may also just be small, medium or large.

You may also hear glove lengths described in buttons, whether or not there are actual buttons on the glove. The French coined this terminology. One button is a little more than 1 inch. For general information, eight-button is a glove ending at the wrist, 16 button is a glove ending at the elbow, 22 button is midbicep and 30 button is to the shoulder

Some of the opera-length gloves do have buttons, usually three, or snaps. Located at the wrist, they close an opening of about three inches. This type of glove has a specific name: "mousquetaire," another French word which, when pronounced, sounds like "musketeer."

Since a lady should not eat while wearing her gloves, the three buttons can be opened, the hand slipped out, the glove fingers then folded neatly and slid under the fabric at the wrist. After the lady is finished eating, she can pull out the folded fingers, slide her hand inside the glove and her fingers into the glove fingers.

If there are no buttons or snaps, the lady must, without drawing attention to herself, remove her gloves upon being seated at the dining table, and replace them when finished eating. Her gloves can be placed inside her evening bag. However, since the evening bag should be rather small, the lady will place her gloves on her lap, underneath her napkin.

A wrist corsage and bracelets may be worn over the glove, but they must be carefully removed prior to removing the gloves to eat.

The wrist corsage and the bracelets may be returned to the arm following removal of the glove. Again, this procedure should be without a lot of commotion or undue attention.

Rings should not be worn over the fingers of a glove. Rings can be worn inside. However, the stone should be turned into the palm rather than be poking up into the finger of the glove.

Other than when eating or using the ladies' room, the lady puts on her gloves in her bedroom and does not remove them until she returns to her bedroom.

The gloves remain on during the reception time, while drinking beverages and shaking hands. They are also removed prior to reapplying makeup.

The traditional colors are white, off-white, ivory, which can be worn with any color gown, or the lady may choose soft light colors, or bright colors to coordinate or match her gown.

Black opera gloves are not normally worn with a light-colored gown because the black will detract from the beautiful gown. Black, however, can be worn with black or other dark colors.

To put on opera length-gloves, each glove is slightly rolled or gathered with the fingers entering first, and then the rest of the glove is moved up the arm, similar to how a lady puts on her hosiery. There should not be a lot of tugging or pulling from the top of the glove.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to

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