A frivolous article about my purple gloves

Can you believe anyone would want to publish an article about MY GLOVES?  Well, yes they did!

‘Personal Style, Lucy Worsley’, as told to David Hayes.  From The Financial Times, 9 November 2013

me in my gloves‘My favourite accessory is a pair of long purple leather gloves. They are about five years old and are in a very distressed condition now; they are literally falling apart. I wear them with an extra pair of silk gloves and often with hand warmers – I get very cold hands.

The gloves were a gift from my husband and are from a shop called Joy. They are special because they are, firstly, a lovely gift – I like the colour – but also because they are long. I have many pairs of long gloves because my wrists get cold as I also like coats with short sleeves – what Jackie O would have called bracelet-length sleeves. They have appeared in numerous television programmes. Many people have written to me asking, ‘Where did you get those purple gloves?’ They have their own fan club. But they are now so distressed that I’m not allowed to wear them on television any more.

I’ve always being interested in clothes – and I’m also the curator of a significant dress collection with 12,000 objects in it – the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace. I’m particularly interested in clothes as a way in to the history of gender, society, health, hygiene, the body … they are a magic portal to the past.

My favourite item from the collection is an amazing silver dress called Lady Rockingham’s mantua from the late 18th century. This is a dress like they wear in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, one that goes out incredibly far to the side; hugely panniered with whalebone hoops. This particular one is made of silver thread so that, when it was seen by candlelight, the whole thing would shimmer. These dresses are very wide but they are not very deep and you can only take very tiny steps wearing them. There are contemporary descriptions of the ladies of the court gliding about as if they were on casters because they couldn’t walk properly. These women appeared like creatures from another world – and that was the point. If you were rich and elegant and at court you wanted to look like a strange creature; someone dressed in shinning silver, completely impractical but incredibly elegant.

I like to wear clothes that have some kind of relationship with the past. I like anything I can imagine Wallis Simpson or Nancy Mitford wearing. Those are my two style icons. It has always been the 1930 and 1940s that have interested me. I’ve always been like that – the idea that I might have gone through a punk phase slightly distresses me. My mum dug out a picture the other day of me aged 18 wearing a very boxy 1960s coat that I’d got at Oxfam. She pointed out that it was exactly like a coat I was wearing now. My mother always thought it was very funny that I wanted to wear the kind of clothes that she had worn in her youth.

My mother knows a lot about clothes because she grew up in the family drapers shop in Birmingham. She taught me to knit and sew and that kind of thing. I’ve made several successful flapper dresses – that’s always been my party wear of choice. I can throw together a flapper look at 10 minutes’ notice. I have a cigarette holder, many a feather boa at hand and all the diamanté you’d ever need.

I don’t wear a lot of actual vintage clothes as I don’t have much time to go round the shops looking for them. I do a lot of my shopping online – it is very rare that I go to an actual shop. I’m at home looking at things online, trying them on – and sending them back. That’s how online shopping and I get along. I’m single-handedly destroying the high street and I apologise for that.

I tend to buy clothes especially for filming; I enjoy putting together the clothes that I’m going to wear for a particular series. They do get a lot of abuse though; they get packed and unpacked, taken on trains and changed in and out of so the continuity is right for the different parts of the story. I have to try not to spill stuff on them, too, but they are always going to the dry cleaners. By the end of filming a series, they are not in good shape but I still wear them back in real life. I’ve just finished a series on the history of murder and I was dressed throughout as a murderess in black and red with very red lipstick. In fact, I’m wearing one of my “murderess” outfits today.’



19 thoughts on “A frivolous article about my purple gloves

  1. Peter Jones

    You always wear amazing coats on TV. Or perhaps it’s you that make them appear that way

  2. Catharine Edwards

    Your gloves are gorgeous – and particularly elegant with the bracelet length sleeves. I recently acquired some divine purple gloves from Sermoneta – they have an extraordinary colour range (I once had some dark pink ones from them) and lots of different styles. Mine came from a shop in Fiumicino airport but there is also a branch in the Burlington Arcade.

  3. Julie Gildie

    Great piece as always Lucy; adore the gloves! 🙂

  4. Andrew West

    A joyous piece as ever! I look forward to pictures of you in flapper regalia!
    Vo di oh doh Lucy x

    1. Frank Derryberry

      Second the request for flapper fashion fun foto.

  5. Emily

    I think it’s important for women to talk about their interest in clothes (if they have an interest, that is), as there is this notion that tends to carry on that we’re all frivolous and air-headed if we care what we look like. I don’t enjoy that I have sometimes felt the need to apologise for this interest – because after all, I can have an ‘intellectual debate’ and look excellent while doing it…! Also, brilliant style icons.

  6. alex williams

    The purple gloves are great but nowhere near as lovely as the red leather ones you wore – when you had a shooting lesson I think? Loved that pic – v stylish!

  7. Ade Edwards

    Hi Lucy~ reading one of your articles is a bit like listening to you recount over a cup of tea with a biscuit, i would like to ask our dear Lucy what particular period of dress is her most Fab!! one gets the idea it could be Edwardian to Art Deco style, where gloves were a part of a ladies accoutrement?

  8. Linda

    Lucy, love your series’s and gloves, how about a more in depth series about clothes through history, including undergarments etc, how did these lovely 18 C ladies cope with pregnancy? And other ladies issues?!
    I love Wallis/ Coco fashion too!
    Thanks for your hard work. X

  9. Susannah Bell

    Could a glove-maker not copy the gloves and make you several pairs to last you for the rest of your life?!

  10. Stacy

    How do I access the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection? I’m actually an archaeologist, but one of my pet interests is fashion history, particularly the 18th century. Must one apply to see the collection, or are there quick-and-dirty sub-rosa tours?

  11. john and marion harding

    Lucy, nice article; we love your gloves and your super dress style – just like your programmes, elegant, stylish, well-researched and turned out: an absolute treat to enjoy.

  12. John Atkinson

    The comment about ladies gliding around reminds me of Versailles, where I read that the gentlemen needed a gliding style of walking to avoid standing on the ladies’ trailing dresses. Must have looked pretty funny with the ladies mincing and the men gliding!

  13. Alan

    I know nothing about gloves, beyond the fact they keep ones hands warm, or ladies clothes for that matter but I do enjoy reading your articles.

  14. vanessa

    I always enjoy your programmes and your style, the coats are good, and knee length skirts/dresses. I particularly liked your hair done in a marcel wave when in the art deco bath!

  15. mick entwistle

    Like your wonderfull progtammes they go hand in glove together

  16. Harry Chong

    You have an excellent sense of fashion, Lucy!

  17. Malcolm Waite


    My wife goes through a box of hand warmers a winter, in her case end of August to late June, on the golf course.

    Just a thought.


  18. Charlotte

    I have the same favourite accessory as you…I don’t leave the house without my pair of Dents gloves. Nothing like a good pair of English gloves.


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