Opera Gloves Are The Fall Accessory You Didn’t Know You Needed


Yep, gloves. The kind that your grandma would carry in her purse, sure, but also any of the sheer, leather, or latex variety will do. Whether you don them under the guise of sun protection, royally-inspired modesty, or plain old fashion, there’s no denying that fashion can’t get enough of the red-carpet favorite this fall. The humble glove is having a breakout moment, morphing from practical garment to avant-garde accessory, and it’s been a long time coming.

For starters, it’s not an entirely unexpected trend as gloves have been slowly transitioning from practicality to fashion for the past few years. Designers like Marine Serre and LaQuan Smith have been teasing opera-length gloves on the runway, the latter tapping into a combination of debutante and dominatrix energy while the former specialized in long, moon-printed second-skin gloves. Serre (who branched out on her own after working under Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga) is notably one of the designers who brought masks to the runway pre-pandemic as a commentary on pollution, so it’s no surprise that she was ahead of the curve with gloves. While the delicate, skin-tight gloves of Serre’s making may not be the most practical for preventing the transfer of germs, it’s hard to deny the general trajectory as art tends to imitate life.

Valentino has been sending out gloves on the runway this past year for both their Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall/Winter 2021 haute couture collections in an array of in-your-face colors, from elbow-length leather gloves trailing up the arms of a model in a pink glitter vest to neon gloves peeking out from under the armless, structured Lady Gaga dress. Daniel Roseberry also has a fondness for gloves as displayed by Beyoncé, who stunned in a Schiaparelli creation with long black gloves for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. The accessory functioned as almost a faux sleeve as if the singer had slipped on the entire look in one fell swoop.

Other designers have hopped on the glove train, accessorizing arm space that sometimes goes untouched if not for a bracelet or two. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ first menswear collection that debuted at the beginning of 2021 involved plenty of gloves, mostly leather and some featuring coin pouches attached to the hand for easy access to your credit cards. Gucci chose a more delicate route for their Spring/Summer 2020 collection in Milan, pairing skin-tight gloves with fragile lace and lingerie-inspired detailing. Jeremy Scott played with mismatching opera gloves and an oversized glove shawl that drapes over Precious Lee’s shoulders in the most perfectly impractical way for Moschino Fall/Winter 2021, whereas Miu Miu chose uber-practicality for Fall/Winter 2021, decking out their models with pawlike fluffy gloves as they strutted through a snowy mountain landscape.

It isn’t just the bigger players that have dabbled with this new accessory, either — smaller designers are making gloves cool again, too. Jeddah-based influencer and designer Alaa Balhky of Alaa Bint Hashim has been playing around with sheer, delicate gloves since her 2019 launch, peppering her Instagram feed with editorial shots of lace-covered hands in various states of jewel-covered opulence. Balhky says, “I’ve been seeing gloves since the Rodarte presentation in 2019, and wanted to create something fun that took us back to a time where you matched [your] gloves with your hat.”

Seymoure Gloves, founded by Melissa Meister and Tiffany Anderson, specializes in sustainably crafted leather for the on-the-go woman in a style is reminiscent of a vintage driving glove. They’re gloves that are made for fresh, fashionable practicality, with the added bonus of being washable (try running them under water and you’ll see for yourself). There are niches to be filled within the glove market, and designers from across the globe are stepping up to the plate to fill in those gaps with slow fashion and sustainable practices for guilt-free glove-wearing.

And in the way that fashion always imitates life, designers have started to look to street style just as much as the designers also function as the initial source of inspiration. We have our digital world to thank for this trickle-across effect, leveling the playing field where street style stars are born out of nowhere thanks to their ability to hop on a social media platform and share their sartorial creations for all the world to see.

While some creatives are donning gloves to pay homage to the decades of Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn, others aren’t reaching as far back for inspiration. The 2010’s punk-rock arm sock à la Avril Lavigne is seeing a resurgence in popularity along with the matching skinny scarf, acting as the next evolution of the ever-popular matching knit set where gloves are meant to mimic sleeves with cutouts, another strong, recent standout trend. Even dresses with matching gloves are more so meant to create the visual illusion of a sleeve as the more updated, cooler sister of the off-the-shoulder silhouette. Fashion is leaning into the glamour and mystery of a long, impractical opera glove with a playfulness that allows for multiple iterations — unsurprising, as maximalism and boundary-pushing has been the name of the style game as of late.

The influx of rubber gloves lives on the other end of the spectrum, as creatives have flocked to the household staple to use it for editorial styling. The kitchen glove is unexpected and even jarring to see in the context of fashion photography, offering vinyl texture and rubbery contrast against fine jewelry pieces like rings and bracelets. This particular styling hack is also a playful jab at the past year of ads for protective garments, a cheeky twist on the cleaning product commercials that 2020 offered no shortage of.

The glove trend takes something practical and turns it into wearable art that comments on the state of our lives. The glove isn’t new, it’s spent time evolving within subcultures and throughout past decades, so your eyes peeled for all sorts of variations as we move into this new decade. Because perhaps in the past the glove functioned just to obscure a fingerprint or to blanket a touch, but don’t be fooled — we’d venture to say that it has evolved in the face of the way our world works today. Maybe the appeal of the glove is that it aids a newfound touch aversion in a way that’s aesthetically beautiful, or maybe it’s just the appeal of how the glove just barely teases skin-to-skin contact. Either way, it’s clear that fashion is seeking to find beauty in something as mundane as a rubber glove, adorning every inch of skin that could possibly benefit from an accessory.


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