Long gloves are fashionable again, but who's really wearing them?

  • Style
  • Thursday, 23 Feb 2023

Long gloves were everywhere at the last British Academy Film Awards in London. Photo: AFP

Brought back to the forefront by television shows like Bridgerton, long gloves are now all over the red carpets.

Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian, Irina Shayk and Dua Lipa have all stepped out armed with these elegant accessories, and they are far from being the only ones interested in the look.

Millennials and members of Gen-Z fashion crowd also seem to be keen on the trend, albeit without ever actually wearing long gloves in real life, whether day-to-day or in the evening... or ever, in fact.

It's impossible not to notice the trend for long gloves, or opera gloves, which were all over the red carpet of the 76th British Academy Film Awards, held on Feb 19 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Kate Middleton made a remarkable entrance, walking the red carpet in a white asymmetrical Alexander McQueen dress accessorized with long black gloves, but Hong Chau, Hester Ruoff, Tatiana Korsakova and Sheila Atim also chose to slip into these ultra-sophisticated accessories.

More or less forgotten since the 1960s, long gloves have made a comeback in fashion after the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming the star accessory of the last two years.

That said, only a handful of privileged people are now (really) able to wear them in real life.

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A regal air

It's difficult to date the first emergence of long gloves, but Queen Elizabeth I is said to have worn a white pair with golden fringing in the 16th century, and an engraving dating from the 17th century showed Mary II of England with the said accessory.

These two historical references testify to the noble, even regal, nature of long gloves, which, at the time, were often made with luxurious and sophisticated materials.

But it was in the 1940s, and up until the legendary 60s, that long gloves rose to the rank of essential accessories, symbolising true Hollywood glamour.

Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis are among the celebrities who wore them during official ceremonies or social events, before the look fell out of fashion... until 2021, at least.

The Bridgerton show has its role to play in the return of opera gloves.

After landing in December 2020 on Netflix, the historical romance focusing on London's high society in the early 19th century brought these essential elements of the aristocracy's wardrobe back into the spotlight.

They had already appeared in 2016 in The Crown, to modest effect, but the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons managed to grab more attention.

Then it was the miniseries Inventing Anna that sealed their comeback.

Considering the scale of onscreen fiction's influence on fashion, that was enough to see long gloves gain ground on social media, especially among younger generations.

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Accessories for fairytale lives

As you might have noticed, long gloves have been making increasing appearances over the last two years in music videos, on red carpets, on stage, but also on the front rows of the fashion shows.

And they are also proving popular on TikTok.

The numerous hashtags related to these accessories have already scored some 10 million views, with a host of videos featuring them.

But while long gloves may have found a place in the wardrobes of many women around the world, unlike the overwhelming majority of clothes, they've often never made it past the front door.

And for good reason... these accessories are clearly not suited to everyday life, like the work commute or supermarket trips, let alone household chores.

Such is life for us mere mortals.

Except for a few fancy dress parties, at most, there is little chance that long gloves will one day be an everyday look on the street, like sneakers, jewel sweaters or soccer jerseys.

The pyjamas and the "no pants" aesthetics – two key trends of the year – have more chance of breaking through into the mainstream than long gloves. And that's saying something.

But fans can rest assured that there's always TikTok for experimenting with all kinds of clothing trends, without these looks ever needing to cross the line between fiction and reality. – AFP Relaxnews

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