When you think of Queen Elizabeth, you have a very distinct outfit in your mind: coloured suit, hat, handbag, and of course a pair of gloves that help her make the most regal of waves.
Cornelia James glove makers have been in charge of the royal gloves since the founder made gloves for Queen Elizabeth II’s honeymoon in 1947.
Genevieve James, who is the creative director and daughter of the founder, says Queen Elizabeth wears gloves for many reasons. An outfit with a hat and handbag will look utterly unfinished without gloves. They protect her hands from dirt and damage when shaking hands all day. But that doesn’t mean she comes home with a pair of grimy gloves. “I think she always has two or three pairs in her handbag to spare,” says James. By the way, you can never really guess the actual reason Queen Elizabeth carries a purse or why she wears bright outfits all the time.
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The Queen usually get the gloves washed and repaired rather than tossing each £110 ($140) pair out as soon as they see any damage. “The royal family, I believe, is very economical and do not waste money unnecessarily,” says James. “She’ll wear her gloves for 40 years and will pull some out from a long time ago.” Instead of buying a new pair every week, the Queen usually makes a big order of, say, three dozen pairs, then won’t go back the rest of the year.
Queen Elizabeth II typically wears the gloves from the Francesca or (fittingly) Regina collection, with the length custom-made. Her gloves stretch five inches from the base of the thumb up the arm. “When you’re the queen and you’re shaking hands, you don’t really want to show your arms,” says James. “The glove goes a bit under her [sleeve], so you don’t actually see any arm.”
Each pair takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make, she says.
For years, the Queen’s classic gloves have been a product of brushed cotton. Recently, though, she requested something a bit lighter, thus James found Swiss cotton jersey from a factory in Switzerland. “I ordered seventy meters, which is a lot of gloves, but it’s the queen,” James says.
Queen Elizabeth isn’t James’ only royal consumer. princess Anne comes to Cornelia James, and James says her mom was accountable for getting Princess Diana into gloves. “Princess Diana never wore gloves for an extended time, and my mother noticed she bit her nails,” says James. “She said she should wear gloves. the next day we got a decision from the palace … and Diana asked for gloves.”
Cornelia James Ltd. has also made gloves for Kate Middleton. The Duchess of Cambridge is a fan of merino wool gloves with a bow from the Imogen collection—the same ones Taylor Swift wore in her “Blank Space” music video. Some of James’ other famous clients include Rihanna, Madonna, and the Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, and Mama Mia casts.
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It’s no surprise that even though they’d never met in person, James’ company made a big impact on Queen Elizabeth II.
“They’re an integral part of her outfit,” says James. “You never see her without gloves.”