Mother told you so:
Naked hands collect brown "sun" (age) spots. Ultraviolet rays make wrinkles. Gloves protect against germs. And, dear, of course, you wouldn't want to touch all those things that other people have handled.
And Mother (experts grudgingly admit) was right -- if not always, at least in this case. Even so, like so much today, the wearing of gloves is not what it was when people knew how things were done, when no costume was complete without gloves of the proper color and length.
Writer Pauline Innis went by cab the other day to the Washington Club, the former Patterson house at 15 Dupont Circle, designed in 1902 by Stanford White.
"My cab driver, one of the wonderful old kind who knows his way around -- I'm sorry I didn't get his name -- recalled that in The Old Days, when Sissy Patterson held forth there, she used to hire him to sit outside her front door so he'd be available at all times to take her gloves to the cleaners. 'She had her gloves cleaned every time she wore them,' he said."
Innis herself, perhaps influenced in part by her husband, retired rear admiral Walter Deane Innis (very big on white gloves, those Navy men), is herself a great wearer of gloves, even in the summer.
"I don't wear them all the time, though I always did," she says. "Let's see, I wore gloves to the Folger garden party at the British Embassy, of course. And certainly to a wedding the other day. When I'm all dressed up with a hat, I feel I should wear gloves. I wore long white kid gloves to Reagan's second inaugural ball at the Convention Center. But that was a mistake, no one else did."
But Innis, whose book (with Maryjane McCaffree), "Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage" (Devon), is often followed at the State Department and the White House, claims that "manners are coming back" and takes that as a good omen.
"I'm keeping my gloves," she says. "You never know when they, too, may be back in fashion."
Crestwood arbiter Yvonne (Mrs. Lloyd) Clayton says, "The other day, Margaret Seagears gave an elegant tea at the J.W. Marriott, and most of us wore hats and gloves.
"I still have six pair of white gloves in all lengths. When our daughter Carol Clayton Grant married, she left behind five pairs. I wore them everywhere I went. When Carol was at home, we went regularly to the ballet, wearing our gloves."
Recently Carol's gloves came in handy for Clayton's granddaughter Robynn Scott-Clayton, 4 1/2. Robynn wore them at the second wedding of her father (Clayton's son) Robert. Yvonne Clayton, who very often consults with brides on their weddings, says that "they ask about gloves almost the first thing. I think it depends on the dress. I do have to warn them about either taking their left glove off or having it split so the wedding ring can be put on the finger."
Back when people dressed correctly, no one would ever have considered going to the White House without gloves, the length being determined by the time of day and the sleeves of the ensemble. But today, as Elaine Crispen, Nancy Reagan's press secretary reports, even the meticulously assembled first lady doesn't often wear gloves. "But of course she wore them for the dinners in Los Angeles and San Francisco for Queen Elizabeth," Crispen says.
The uniformed military men and women may be the major wearers of gloves today. Still, Innis says firmly, "All upperclass butlers and waiters at formal tables wear white gloves." And a far-flung correspondent reports that in Japan, all cab drivers wear white gloves.
Mary Young, Garfinckel's accessory buyer, says, "We have noticed an increase in 16-button gloves, the over-the-elbow evening styles, because of the barer ball gowns. Our sales of summer gloves stay consistent, year in and out. It's mostly an older customer who has always worn gloves that still buys silk-lined, white, bone and navy leather gloves or two-button short ones."
Short gloves, long gloves, white gloves, black gloves -- perhaps the real reason that people seldom wear gloves today is that at least one of every pair is lost.