October 18, 2012

How to size vintage gloves

My vintage outfit post earlier this week showcased an ensemble, which like many I wear, included a pair of vintage gloves (in this case the cheerful orange pair pictured below). As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of yesteryear gloves, and wear them year round, when outfit appropriate, as I truly feel they bring such a classic, elegant dose of style to many a look.

I've been buying vintage gloves for years now and have built up a decent sized collection of them at this point, especially since I've intentionally tried to find gloves in my size in a vast rainbow of hues (I kind of have a thing for creating rainbows when it comes to garments I wear often, as you may recall from this post on vintage dresses last winter).

In the comments on Monday's outfit post, some of you expressed interest in seeing how I store my gloves, and also in how to size vintage gloves. A post on the first (storing vintage gloves) is slatted for production and will appear here in the not-too-distant future, while today we're going to take a peak at the second topic: how to size vintage gloves.

If one heads out to the store today and buys a pair of modern gloves (be they winter wear, prom, wedding, or otherwise), you'll likely find that the sizing runs along the lines of small, medium, large, extra large, etc (sometimes with the words "long" added to the size, to indicate that the fingers are intended for those with lengthy digits; though, “long” can also refer to gloves that extend far up the wrist and possible also over the elbow, depending on the style).

Most vintage gloves however, did not follow this same method of sizing/naming and instead one would encounter a number either printed inside the glove itself (on the actual fabric or on a tag), or on a paper tag or the packaging that the gloves came in.

Generally speaking, the smallest size that one finds mid-century vintage ladies gloves in is a size six, with the range of sizes typically spanning from six to nine or ten, with half sizes (i.e, 7.5) included on that scale. Though, as with many types of garments still to this day, there was a little bit of variation in size between brands and the number they used on their gloves.

In order to determine what size of glove you wear, you'll need a flexible tape measure and either one of your hands (if your hands vary at all in size, you may wish to measure both, but unless that size difference between the two is quite significant, chances are you should have no problem wearing the same size glove on either hand).

Locate the widest part on your palm (often located right below the knuckles) and run the tape measure all the way around that part of your hand, as shown in the illustration below, in a relatively straight line.

How to size gloves illustration
{Image via Sharkwear Sports}

Though this measurement does not factor into vintage glove sizing quite as much, you may also wish to measure the distance from the base of your wrist to the tip of your middle finger as well, especially if you have fingers that veer on the especially short or long side. Write down all of the measures you just took and keep them someplace handy for future reference.

The measurement that you took across the widest part of your hand is what you'll use to determine the size of vintage glove that you wear.

Though, again, sizing did sometimes vary slightly from brand to brand, the following is a list of approximate hand measurements and the glove sizes that they often correspond to (it's good to note that if you find modern gloves, such as those sometimes sold in Europe and Asia, that still using number sizing, this chart should ring fairly true there, too).

Vintage glove sizes:

Size 6 = 6"
Size 7 = 7"
Size 8 = 8"
Size 9 = 9"
Size 10 = 10"

As you can see, the width of the widest part of your hand in inches corresponds to the size of the gloves. If your hand measurement happens to be 8.5 inches around, then you would likely wear a half size, in this case, 8.5.

My own hands measure about 7 inches around at the widest part, and accordingly, I often wear a size 7 vintage glove. However, I have relatively short fingers are small to average width hands that aren't too thick, so in many cases, I can wear a vintage size 6.5, too.

Keep in mind that the material a pair of vintage gloves was made from can also factor in a bit when it comes to sizing. Many vintage gloves had a bit of stretch to them, and thus you may be able to wear a half size or even whole size smaller (I have one or two pairs of size 6 gloves that are very stretchy and thus fit me, if you'll pardon the obvious pun, like a glove!). If you have particularly short/small fingers, this is one trick you may really wish to avail of, so as to avoid having a lot of excess material at the end of the fingers on your gloves.

{Fabric gloves, such as the elegant examples in this 1953 Shalimar ad, sometimes have more stretch/give to them than those made of materials such as leather and suede, but this is not a hard and fast rule, so when in doubt, try on gloves first or ask the online seller if the fabric has any stretch to it. Image via CollectorOne.}

Sometimes, whether buying online or in person, vintage gloves are not marked with a size, in which case (if this information isn't already provided) ask the seller to measure the gloves around the widest part (much as you did with your hand) as use this measurement as an approximate size. Again however, keep in mind that the type of fabric the glove is made from here may indicate a smaller size that what the glove actually is able to accommodate. Materials such as stiff suede, leather, kidskin, sturdy satin, and stiff cotton often have less stretch than fabrics like nylon, mesh, crocheted or knitted fibers, and elasticized/stretchy cotton.

Over the years you may have heard the suggestion that a woman should/could determine her glove size based on her shoe size. Though these numbers may be the same for some women, they certainly are not identical for all of us, myself very much included (I wear a size 6.5 of 7 glove and a size 8 or 8.5 in modern ladies shoes).

Vintage shoes can be slightly different from their respective numbers today (sometimes, I find, a vintage size 8 is bigger than a modern one, but certainly this is not always the case, by any means), so perhaps this was a bit more true for ladies in years gone by, but again, I think it’s best to work off of actual measurements to find the most accurate vintage glove size for your hand.

The width of a glove is usually it's most important sizing aspect, with finger length coming second, and wrist circumference third. If you have larger wrists, you may need to go up a half size with your gloves, or to buy gloves made from materials with a bit of stretch to them. This isn't usually too much of a factor though, as many gloves were designed to have some "breathing room", so to speak, in the wrist area. By the same token, if you're a fan of longer glove lengths and you have larger sized forearms, you may want to stick to gloves that are cut generously in that area or made from stretchy fabrics.

{This ad from 1950 shows a pair gauntlet style gloves, which are characterized by their turned up cuffs and overall length. Gauntlet gloves are sometimes fitted at the base of the wrist/forearm but often widen and include a roomy amount of fabric towards the cuff. Image via sharkysrevenge.}

Gloves have been in use for many, many centuries, with their widespread popularity only really dwindling in the last fifty or so years. Prior to the 1930s (approximately), it was more common to encounter gloves that had buttons up their wrists. Button wrist styles were still seen from that point onward, but simple slip on gloves (or gloves that included buttons only as a decorative element) became much more popular as the twentieth century progressed.

Old gloves, including many from the Edwardian and Victorian eras included buttons on the wrist part and thus were sometimes referred to by the number of buttons they included (this being an especially common French practice).

{A late Victorian Harrods illustrated ad from 1895 showing gloves in various button lengths. Image via seweccentric.}

Two button gloves, which were also know sometimes as "shorties", often traditionally included (as you can likely guess) two button on each wrist. Four button gloves came higher up the wrist (sometimes measuring ten or eleven inches long in total), six button gloves were an inch or two longer, eight button gloves were 14 to 15 inches, and so on (with buttons usually, if present, appearing in equal numbers, such as eight, twelve, and 16). Sometimes you might encounter extra long gloves that extend past the elbow and nearly to the wearer's armpit area that include as many as 27 to 30 buttons or their equivalent length.

You may have heard the term "opera gloves" or "opera length gloves" before. Opera gloves (also sometimes called “evening gloves”) are those that are were cut to hit right at, or more commonly, above the wearer's elbow, sometimes extending up towards the bicep area. Opera gloves are commonly found in lengths from 20 to 24 inches, and if buttoned, may have 14 to 18 buttons.

{A button-less example of opera length evening gloves from the 1940s. Image via vintage-13.}

Chances are though, if you're wearing gloves from the 1930s onward, buttons will not factor into play all that often, but I thought I would mention that subject here in case you happen to see a pair of gloves described by their button length (for example, "ten button gloves"). Occasionally, though few modern gloves sellers still do this, you might encounter gloves listed by button count/length, even though they do not actually include any buttons. No matter the number of buttons or button length given, you'll want to focus on the hand size first and foremost, as usual though.

One point to note regarding overall finger length is that if you're a fan of having particularly long finger nails (be they real or fake), you may need to buy vintage gloves with longer finger lengths, especially if you always wear long nails. Most gloves, I've found though, have a bit of room at the tips though, so this may not be too much of an issue unless you have naturally long fingers and are sporting lengthy nails.

If at all possible, try on a few (or more) pairs of vintage glove before you start buying. You may find that due to the size and shape of your hand, you need to go up or down a half or full size, or that you need to look for pairs with longer or shorter finger lengths. You may also find some materials more comfortable and enjoy wearing certain wrist lengths more than others.

{There’s a pair of vintage gloves out there to suit every possible outfit and occasion, as as your glove collection grows, you’ll likely enjoy matching, colour coordinating, or even intentionally clashing them with your outfits. Image via alsis35.}

Over the years I've bought the overwhelming majority of my vintage globes online, and would say I've had about a 90% success rate with the sizing. When gloves have failed to fit well, it has most often been due to excess fabric in the fingertips (I don't have very long fingers), and not as result of the palm/hand size itself being too small (this is because I always, always ask sellers to measure the palm size for me if it, or a glove size number, is not provided in the listing).

As most women used to own many (if not dozens, or in some cases if they were very well off or especially fond of gloves, hundreds) of pairs of gloves, the vintage market is still awash with these old school wardrobe staples.

Etsy and eBay are my two favourite online sources, and there you should be able to find oodles of gloves in your size, in a variety of colours, materials, and price points. As gloves usually weigh very little on a per pair basis, they have the added bonus of often not costing too much to ship, which is especially great for those of us who do not live in the US (where many online vintage sellers are based).

I urge you not to feel intimidated by vintage glove sizing (or wearing). Once you've tried on and/or bought a few pair of vintage gloves, you'll likely be able to know what size(s) work best for you, and then be able to purchase vintage gloves with a much higher degree of confidence.

Measure your hand, determine your approximate size, try on some gloves, buy a pair or two (or twenty!), and have then have scores of stylish fun sporting one of the most elegant, beautiful accessories of all time.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I've wanted to buy some vintage gloves but I had no idea how to judge my size and I've never come across a pair in my size in person. Now I can confidently shop online!

  2. The detail is so pretty on your orange gloves. They look so bold and dainty all at once.
    When I was growing up I used to play with my mom's glove collection. I just loved all of the girly accessories.

  3. Wow, I now feel I am thoroughly educated in the world of gloves! I just put them on, I learned my lesson of not trying them on and I went home with two of the same right handed glove!

  4. Such great article! I have such a hard time finding gloves that fit me. I have wide palms so I have to find gloves with some stretch or they won't fit.

  5. Oo, fun! Thank you for the tips. I feel like I've determined my size through trial-and-error, but I really do need to actually measure, just so I know. I came into a windfall of old gloves (10 pairs!) last night at choir rehearsal, one of the ladies brought me the gloves that had belonged to her & her mother. I'm still missing a few colors, including the peachy hue you have pictured, but now I feel confident to look up my size online for buying gloves, which is wonderful.

  6. Such a well written and informative post! I loved the blue cardigan and coral/orange glove look from the last style post. I have really short fingers and can't seem to even find vintage gloves that fit me well, poo! but I do love them.

  7. Great post! I learned so much from this!


  8. I just shared your post on my fb page-such an amazing amount of information! You did a great job mama! I will be going back to this post again I am sure!! Thank you for all the work you put into it! xox

  9. Dear Jessica, you're a real expert in vintage gloves. I own only two pairs and one is in a rather bad condition. But I mostly use them for decorating. In winter I wear modern vintage style leather gloves. Some have buttons. Thanky you for your advice. Hugs from Miss Maple

  10. Lovely post, I'm so glad you shared this information!


  11. What an excellent post! Also, I'm dying over those pink and navy ensembles.

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

  12. THANKS for the guidance! I'm still a novice at adding gloves to an ensemble...but I love them! So I'm always trying.


  13. Thank you so much for this post. It was exactly what I needed. Now Im off to measure my hand and start shopping! =)

  14. Oh, how neat! I've got long, slim hands, so I don't fit any of my late grandmother's lovely gloves :(. Poor me. But I love the look of gloves, and would love to find some vintagey ones sometime!

  15. Fabulous post. So much information:) I had to learn the hard way about vintage gloves:) I have long fingers and there are a few pairs I have that are just to small:) I find a lot of these women had dainty feet and hands, which is the opposite for me:))


  16. Great post! I love vintage gloves :) I think I have about half a dozen pairs. I'd have more if my hands weren't so darn large. I always have problems finding gloves that fit!

  17. Awesome, informative post! I was intimidated by buying vintage gloves online until earlier this year. I found out my glove size in a costume fitting at a theatre I was working for. The costumer, of course, measured the widest part of my hand and I said "oh! *that's* how you know!". Life changed. :)

    Can't wait for your post on storing gloves!


  18. Gloves are so close to my heart, especially living so close to Gloversville, NY once the glove making capital( http://www.gloversandtanners.com/ ). Troy, NY, where I live, is called the collar city because the detachable collar was invented and produced here.

  19. I always notice your gloves- so elegant. What a great guide! Thanks for sharing! x

  20. Hello dear Jessica,

    Thank you for the very adorable message you left for me on my "Sniffle" post.

    I was out of service for several days this week, and now there are many things to attend to...especially laundry. I hope to get caught up and be back into blogland soon.

    Hug, my dear friend.

  21. What a beautiful post, and educational too!! I never knew about glove sizing, so this has been helpful - I've been wearing a 7.5 but think I'm actually an 8.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Now it's well and truly chilly I'll have to get some of my gloves out!

    Porcelina xx

  22. I only wear gloves in the winter months but I've never really known what size I am so this is a really useful post.

  23. Thanks for this educational post! I have gone off the rule ├┐our glove size is your shoe size" that I was told many years ago...it is not always true...as I've discovered! xx Shauna

  24. This is brilliant!! Thank you so much for sharing!


  25. Cheerful Sunday greetings, dear ladies, thank you one and all for your immensely nice comments on this post. I've very happy to know that it's helped some of you learn how to size vintage gloves. There is still such a good selection of yesteryear gloves out there, so I hope that you're all able to find many pairs in your size(s) still these days to go with your beautiful vintage ensembles.

    ♥ Jessica

  26. This is so so helpful!
    Ruby xx

  27. Wow .... so informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  28. I reread this great post because I'm getting ready to buy some gloves for Spring!

    1. How wonderfully exciting, Kathleen! Are you buying new, vintage, both? If you're going the vintage route, I've had particularly good luck with etsy (eBay has been pretty good, too, but I got burned there once on a mixed lot of vintage gloves, many of which arrived in unwearable tatters, despite the listing making no mention of them being in rough shape, and have been a touch leery of glove shopping there since, though I have done so nevertheless). Can't wait to hear more about your new gloves!

      ♥ Jessica

  29. Jessica, Thank you for detailing the wonderful world of vintage gloves. Have you ever come across a source for the lasts on which gloves are made? I need to repair two lovely pair of vintage leather gloves and having a size 7.5 form or last on which to slip the gloves so I can restitch the finger seams would be ideal. Thanks for any help you can provide. Susie in Seattle

    1. Hi Susie,

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment and question. My apologies for taking a few days to respond to it. My trusty laptop of some four years bit the dust last month and I was computer-less without it until the new one that I ordered online yesterday arrived.

      I think that it may be eBay to the rescue here, as there are (at the time of writing) 26 vintage glove molds/forms there at the moment. These are not always precisely the same as a true glove last, but some of them might do the job. Here's the listings: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_nkw=vintage+glove+mold&_frs=1 (remove the word vintage and you get considerably more listings).

      I've repaired numerous pairs of gloves over the years with the same problem (restitching fingers), and usually just turn them inside out and sew tiny stitches by hand. A last/mould would no doubt make the process easier (and perhaps more exact), but as I'm sure you know already, it can be done by hand (or perhaps even machine - I'm not a sewer, mend the very basic and some mending jobs).

      I hope this helps a little, my dear.

      ♥ Jessica

  30. i have approximately 20 pair of size 61/2 assorted gloves. suede-leather-crocheted-cotton. circa 1950,most never worn more than once. most hand made. is there someone who might like to have them? btroutman27@gmail.com

  31. Hi Betty, have you considered selling them, either individually or as a lot on eBay, etsy, Ruby Lane, or through the local branch of an online classifieds site in your area (such as Craig's List or Kijiji?).

    Vintage gloves in good shape are usually easy to find a buyer for, especially if they're reasonably price.

    Wishing you much luck in doing just that,
    ♥ Jessica

  32. Just found this oldie but very good post. Thanks, now I will try to find some gloves online after having trouble guessing what size to get for years.

    1. I'm delighted to hear that you found this post and really hope that it helps you nail down your glove size.

      I've since written another post devoted to gloves that you may find useful as well. Here's the link to it: http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/2015/01/my-top-tips-for-glove-etiquette-and.html

      Many thanks for your comment & have a terrific weekend,
      ♥ Jessica

    2. Thanks - I will try it out.
      Have a great weekend too.