Born out of a need for modesty and traditionally associated with Regency-era England, debutante balls and old Hollywood, opera gloves appear to be having a modern-day resurgence.
In the decades since Audrey Hepburn used hers to pull out a pastry in front of Tiffany's, they've popped up here and there, of course, as a playful accessory for red carpet events, designer runways, formal galas and Playboy bunnies. But this time, it feels different. Never before have they appeared on so many runways over the course of a single season, selected by designers with such varying aesthetics. They were one of the biggest red-carpet trends of 2020 awards season. They've even popped up in mainstream music videos, including Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" and Olivia Rodrigo's "Good 4 U."
For Fall 2021, they featured heavily in collections by Gucci (as part of Alessandro Michele's "hacking" with Balenciaga), Prabal Gurung, Rodarte, Prada, Jonathan Cohen, Brock Collection, Marc Jacobs and Altuzarra, to name a few. And while Gurung and Cohen styled them in a somewhat traditional context — with eveningwear — Rodarte put them on the beach, Brock Collection in the woods, and Altuzarra and Jacobs in slouchy knitwear that looks more appropriate for pandemic-era at-home dressing than a black-tie gala. The momentum continued into the recent haute couture collections: We saw several iterations at Fendi, Balenciaga and Valentino, where they came in an array of colors and were styled with everything from gowns to mini dresses to trousers to menswear.
I *Carrie Bradshaw voice* couldn't help but wonder what was behind this resurgence. Have the brands just been watching too much "Bridgerton"? Or could we all actually start wearing this purely decorative, largely impractical accessory in our everyday lives?
According to Hallie Spradlin, Director of Accessories + Visionary at trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops, it has to do with the re-contextualizing of something that once felt unattainable and reserved for high society.
"What's interesting in the return of this item is that it falls under another trend we've been tracking, which is breaking the barriers of tradition and reclaiming items that were typically or historically worn by the elite, because the same rules for dressing no longer apply," she tells me in an email. "By taking these symbols like opera gloves (or related, pearls or collegiate styles, to name a few) and opening up the context, the aesthetic becomes more approachable and accessible for all."
The timing is also worth paying attention to. Those who've come out of the Covid-19 pandemic with a deep desire to dress up again (and with...a newfound appreciation for gloves?) could give this trend a real shot at going big.
"Consumers are finally feeling a rush of optimism and are bursting at the seams, ready to reunite in a dramatic fashion," says Spradlin. "Dinner parties are elevated and people are more likely to experiment with daring silhouettes with a why not? approach to dressing, and what better way to dabble in frivolity than choosing accessories like opera gloves to complete an outfit."
"There's also a playfulness and a nostalgic aspect to it, allowing consumers to indulge in over-the-top ensembles as a way to release, but also express the joy of having a reason to dress up again," Spradlin adds.
So, will we see this trend trickle down from luxury runways to more commercial offerings? We're already starting to.
"Some more commercial brands have started showing opera gloves in their seasonal offerings, including a feather-trimmed style from influencer-favorite brand Cult Gaia that hints at and validates the trend on a more commercial basis," Spradlin points out.
Kai Collective is also selling them, as is VTMNTS, a new, more commercial brand by Vetements, which put them on men for Spring 2022. They also come with a matching knit mini dress (that's already sold out in most sizes) at Heaven, Jacobs's accessible, Gen Z-targeting line.
Hadlin thinks influencers are the final piece to this puzzle: "As more and more influencers continue to show the versatility of opera gloves as a wearable statement, it has the legs to become an emerging commercial trend for upcoming seasons."
If you're ready to jumpstart this trend yourself, shop a few options in the gallery below.
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