Opera Gloves: History and Fashion

Whether you’re a fan of opera or not, the genre itself is often credited with bringing a sense of style and elegance to musical performance. Nowhere is this more evident than the use of opera gloves, a revered fashion accessory for women dating back over 300 years.

If you’ve ever watched an Audrey Hepburn movie, you understand the allure of opera gloves. They provide a demure sense of sophistication and class, a perfect finishing touch for elegant evening wear.

The Particulars

As we know them today, opera gloves are typically about 20 inches in length, designed to reach just below the elbow. Popular since the time of Napoleon, they are most commonly seen at opera or symphony performances. Typically made of special goat skin leather, they are exceptionally soft to the touch.

Just as with most fashion accessories, these gloves have evolved through the years. Some styles reach well above the elbow, while others are slightly shorter than elbow length. Usually white in color, they are often decorated with jeweled fasteners and gold trim. Almost always, they are adorned with decorative stitching across the back of the hand.

Availability and Uses

Opera gloves are available from boutique specialty stores in a wide array of styles and prices. Typically, the average pair runs in excess of $100 or more.

Every few years, these fashionable gloves make a rousing comeback, usually triggered by a memorable performance of one sort or another. In the 1950’s, several glamorous actresses stirred women’s interest in buying a pair, most notably Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. They are also used in retro performance pieces like the stage show and movie “Chicago”, or at costume parties depicting an earlier era.

Most often though, opera gloves are seen, and used, where they began – at the opera. And with a recent surge of popularity for opera performances, it’s likely we’ll see this classic fashion accessory reinvent itself over and over again.

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