I saw an advertisement the other day for a furniture company which promised it would deliver its goods with “white glove treatment” for an extra fee. I found this an interesting anachronism for a current offering. Beyond a vague idea of what this might mean–after all it costs more so it must be special–what would a young adult make of this phrase?
When I was a little girl, white gloves had a specific function. They were what you put on your hands to go to church. I wasn’t taken to church, but my churchgoing friends filled me in on the dress code. My own first encounter with them came in Mr. Billings’ Dancing School, a rite of passage at my elementary school for all seventh and eighth graders. (As I wrote some time ago this did not apply to the Haitian girl who was the daughter of a live-in domestic. She was not invited.)
To attend dancing school, I was required to wear black shoes, fancy dresses and white gloves. The gloves were heavy cotton and buttoned at the wrist with a little pearl. The boys were dressed in suits, button down shirts, ties, oxfords and DARK socks. (Woe to the poor boy who forgot and wore white ones.) They did not wear gloves.
At Mr. Billings’ Dancing School we were taught proper etiquette which apparently included wearing white gloves to dances. Of course by the time I started going to dances, white gloves had bit the dust in favor of short skirts and “rock and roll.” I never did get to use my fox trot skills.
I have no idea why we were expected to wear the gloves. They did perform an important function however. They absorbed all the sweat from those extremely uncomfortable boys. We needed to wash the gloves after every Friday night class!