Gloves as a fashion accessory, rather than as a necessity to keep the hands warm, date to about the twelfth or thirteenth century, late in the Middle Ages (c. 500-c. 1500). For years people had worn crude mittens, perhaps lined with fur, when working outdoors, but sewing techniques were not developed enough to allow for the delicate stitches that were needed between fingers. In fact, most people kept the hands warm by wrapping them in the excess fabric of their baggy sleeves. Beginning in the Middle Ages, however, advances in tailoring made gloves a desirable fashion accessory.
The first people to wear gloves in medieval Europe were members of royalty and dignitaries in the Roman Catholic Church, the dominant church in Europe. For church dignitaries, or notable figures, gloves were a symbol of purity. Rich people wore gloves for such aristocratic pursuits as falconry, which involved training falcons to land on one's hand. Early gloves were made from deerskin or sheepskin. By the time of the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, gloves were so popular that whole communities were known for their glove making. Since then, gloves have been worn for warmth and with fancy attire throughout the remainder of Western history.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.