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Glove terminology thedreamstress.com7

Terminology: Fourchette, quirks and other glove terms

For this terminology post, we’re looking at glove terms: fourchettes, quirks, tranks and points.

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I love these words just because they are so random and specific.  Other than glove makers and fashion historians, who would know that there are specific words for the different parts of gloves?

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The main piece of a glove, with the back and front of the glove and the tops and bottoms of the fingers all cut in one, with only one side seam, is the trank.  It’s shown in pretty pink in the photo above.

Going between the fingers, and attached to the trank, is the fourchette (in lovely lavender in the coloured photo above), also called the fork or forge which is:

A forked strip of material forming the sides of two adjacent fingers of a glove

In other words, this bit:

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It is from the French, for forked, because a fourchette is forked, and allows the fingers to fork.

Some fourchettes have an extra little V gusset at the bottom, called a quirk (shown in beautiful blue in the coloured photo) or querk (scrabble players take note!) to allow more movement and better shape to the fingers.

A late 17th century description of the glove makers art describes quirks as:

Querks, the little square peeces at the bottom of the fingers

Gloves cut of very soft, stretchy leather did not always need a quirk, so their forchettes are a simpler strip, or have the quirk cut in one with the forchette:

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When the glove thumb piece and its quirk are cut in one, it is a Bolton thumb glove.

Knit gloves don’t usually have fourchettes, and some modern stretch fabric gloves also forgoe them, but most leather gloves from at least the 17th century to the present have some form of fourchette.

Silver embroidered and lace trimmed gloves

Silver embroidered and lace trimmed gloves, 17th century

North and Tiramani’s Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns has two excellent pattern for early 17th century glove with fourchettes (though sadly, they just call them forks) and quirks.

Usually fourchettes just form the space between two fingers, but there is a type of glove called a continuous fourchette glove, where one strip of fabric starts at the pinkie and runs up the side of the pinkie across the tip, down the side, up the next one, and so on until the end.

This type of glove may date back to at least the 13th century BC  (although the glove mentioned in that pamphlet does not shows up on a search of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts collection database).

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And finally, if you have ever wondered about the seam lines across the back of gloves, they are called points and originated as extensions of the finger pieces on gloves, to aid in better shaping.

Now, how many times can you come up with an excuse to use these terms in a week? 😉

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If you are interested in glove-making, I highly recommend Eunice Close’s ‘How to Make Gloves’, or the aforementioned pattern in Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns.


Close, Eunice, How to Make Gloves, 1950

Johnston, Lucy.  Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail.  London: V&A Publishing, 2005

North, Susan and Tiramani, Jenny.  Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns.  London: V&A Publishing, 2011

United States Army, Quartermaster Research and Engineering Command, Protection and Functioning of the Hands in Cold Climates, Volume 19

The Home Front at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea - 4

The Home Front at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea

Photos!  Pretty, pretty photos from my talk at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea!

And lots of them!  (well, of course.  This is me we’re talking about!)

And then, down at the bottom, some unexpectedly serious musing.  (well, of course.  This is me we’re talking about!)

The talk covered the immediate before-the-war fashions, and the effect of WWI on fashions during and after the war.

Usually I use my own models, but this time MWCS arranged all the models – a group of gorgeous girls (and by gorgeous I mean ‘interesting and lovely people’ not ‘look like a magazine model’) from a local college (that’s a high school in the US) or WelTec (a college in the American sense) and museum staff and friends for the men.  I missed my usual models because they are so fabulous, but really enjoyed getting to work with a new group, because they were also fabulous.

Before the talk, with models, and the amazing Sarah who arranged the whole event in my Poiret dress:

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Because we had male models as well as female, I was able to cover the importance of being in uniform to men at the time, and the societal contexts that made NZ men so willing and eager to participate in the war.

The uniform isn’t my work – it’s a rented piece.

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We also had a lovely rented 1920s dress, which I used to demonstrate the actual type of 1920s frock that most girls in New Zealand wore in the early-mid ’20s.

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It also gave me an excuse to discuss the difference between the flapper archetype as it is imagined today, the flapper archetype as it existed in the US in the 1920s, and the word flapper as it was used in New Zealand in the ’20s, where it mainly referred to schoolgirls trying things out (so most of the references refer to ‘flappers with their plaited pigtails bouncing’ or ‘a flapper with her hair pinned up for the first time’ – which isn’t how we think of flappers today at all!).  The model was quite amused to be a ‘flapper’ in her demure pink dress, and it was lovely that she was the right age too.

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One of the real triumphs of the night for me was the Luna Moth dress.  I’ve never been in love with the gown.  In fact, most of the time I don’t even like it.  But on the model of the night?  It was spectacular!  We only got a few photos of her in it, but she looked phenomenal.

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(I promise that that was steamed and pressed to absolute perfection when she left the dressing room – some silks just crumple the minute you breath on them!)

The other triumph of the night was my 1907 swimsuit.  The model was particularly charismatic, and I made a new pair of dazzle stockings to go with the swimsuit, a la the fashion plate in this post.

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I’m even happier with this pair than the first – they are more period accurate, and the pattern flows better.  Now I just need to make a shorter 1910s swimsuit to wear with them… (it never ends!)

The Home Front at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea - 12 After the talk there were drinks and snacks and mingling:

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And then a demonstration of period hair and makeup by WelTec.

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The hair and makeup demonstrations were focused on hair and makeup as you would do it for movies or stage today, extrapolating the beauty ideals of each period to create a look.  Very few women, particularly in New Zealand, would have been wearing much, if any, makeup in period.  There was lots of fascinating historical information given with the talk about hair and makeup and the ideals of each period.

It was quite different for me to have all the models with professional makeup jobs, and fully styled wigs.  Usually when I do talks the models wear absolute minimal makeup, because that’s period for most periods.  If I were to do, say, full 18th century makeup, I would want it to be very historical,  and at the moment I don’t have the time and resources for that.

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have Claire of The Vanity Case or Maryanne or someone else with a good grounding in period hair to do hairstyles for my models, otherwise I demonstrate to the models beforehand what we are aiming for, and we do our best on the day.

So it was different and unusual to have everyone so made up and glamorous, and while they looked stunning, they almost looked too perfect.  They were so uniformly polished and coiffed that it showed that they were all made up and styled to the same design.

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A single, perfectly executed, stylised theme is a conceit that works beautifully onstage or onscreen, because it helps to create the world of the story, and to add to the interaction between characters, and the suspension of disbelief.  Think of Coppola’s Marie Antoinette as the perfect example.

I don’t think such uniform perfection worked quite as well for the reality I try to show in period dress. I want everyone to look beautiful, but also like they had dressed and styled themselves – as if you had walked into a room in the period, and, just like a party today, every woman would have her own way of presenting herself.  All styled, they looked like bridesmaids or beauty pageant models (in a really nice way – the ones you’d pin on pinterest as a daydream of achieving that!).

So they were absolutely stunning, but in the end I’m happy that I won’t usually be able to have my models looking quite so perfect.

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All in all, a very successful and fascinating evening, and lots of wonderful new experiences for me.  Many thanks to the Wellington Museum’s Trust for having me!

Rate the Dress: Elizabeth Craven, Lady Powis, in flora and fauna

Last week’s Rate the Dress entry was an 1860s gown transitioning from late crinoline to early bustle.  The general consensus was that the transition was a bit problematic – the lace hip ruffle, and unresolved bustle fullness, plus the hard-to-swallow (pun intentional) from a modern viewpoint high throat, but that the dress still had a lot of lovely points – earning it a respectable but not stellar 7.6 out of 10.

This week we’re looking at a 17th century portrait featuring Elizabeth Craven, Lady Powis, in a coordinating jacket and skirt featuring embroidered flora and fauna.

The elaborate embroidery on the skirt and bodice highlight Elizabeth’s skill as a needlewoman, and her knowledge of plants and animals.  The sheen of fabric suggests that the embroidery might have been done on silk, rather than the more common linen.  This, along with her sumptuous double-pearl earrings, pearl necklace, and lush lace cuffs and collar, demonstrate her wealth.

The portrait makes a clear statement about Elizabeth’s status and accomplishments.  Does it do an equally successful job of speaking up for her taste?

Previous early 17th century fashions (invariably portraits) on Rate the Dress have been criticised for the improbably low necklines, which manage to dip well below the armpits without showing the slightest hint of cleavage, and the more peculiar silhouettes, like hanging sleeves and wheel farthingales.  Will Elizabeth, with her V neckline and more subdued silhouette, fare better?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.