Whenever I give a costume workshop, there is always one topic that catches fire and sets off almost endless questions. In Orlando, this topic was gloves. When were they worn? When were they taken off? What were the "rules"?
This is the kind of minutia that writers obsess about. It's entirely possible that someone out there has an etiquette guide from the 18th or early 19th century. I've never encountered one, so what you'll find here is simply my understanding of "the rules".
One tiny thing to clear up first: During the Georgian and Regency era, gloves do not have that tiny, pearl-buttoned opening at the wrist that we all associate with long opera gloves. That sexy little detail is Victorian (and late Victorian from what I understand).
On to "the rules" . . . If a lady expected to be outside her own home, she wore gloves. So, if she's riding, traveling, visiting, shopping, going to a ball, or the the theatre, she's should be wearing gloves. Inside her own home, the only time she would normally wear them is if she was hosting a ball or party (gloves being a traditional part of formal wear).
When does she take them off in public? To eat. If she is at a ball and is taken in to supper, she removes her gloves and sets them in her lap. If she is visiting a friend and is served tea, the same "rule" applies. Why? Because gloves are expensive and stain easily. If she's visiting a friend and intends to stay for a long period of time, she might also remove them, and leave them with her hat and coat. Try to think of it as the difference between being formal and being relaxed. A relaxed gossip with your best friend does not require gloves.
So, any questions?Anyone want to point me at an early etiquette book?