Put the Blame on Mame!
Opera gloves (it seems the name more or less developed at random because this style was so often worn to operas and other such events) are long (elbow-length or longer, usually reaching to the upper arm or even the shoulder) gloves worn by women as an accessory, usually
to a formal outfit such as an evening gown or wedding dress. The "elbow-length or longer" part is the key; gloves which cover a substantial portion of the forearm, up to just below the elbow, can legitimately be called "long gloves" or "evening gloves", but never
Most popular during the Regency Era
(roughly 1790 to 1814, so you'll see them in a lot of Jane Austen
adaptations), the late Victorian Era
, Gay Nineties
and Edwardian Era
(roughly 1870 to 1914), and the World War II
years through the early Sixties. Mostly confined to "specialist" fashions since then (wedding gowns, debutante outfits and the like), though there was a minor revival in the 1980's.
are usually associated with the following character types (not an exclusive list, but these are the types most frequently seen wearing long gloves:
- royalty (empresses, queens and princesses) and the aristocracy:
- socialites, especially debutantes and stuffy grande dame types:
- burlesque strippers:
- chorus girls and showgirls in general:
- singers, especially opera divas and big-band singers in 1940's movies:
- fashion models (in which case said models will probably be wearing Opera Gloves as accessories to their outfits in a Fashion Show):
- Femme Fatales in film noirs and spy movies:
- brides and bridesmaids:
As noted, Opera Gloves
are closely associated with the aristocracy and royalty, especially during the 1870-1914 period, (in fact, gloves in general have been a symbol of royalty and authority for millennia) and many fictional queens, princesses and noblewomen will be portrayed as wearing them as part of their Gorgeous Period Dress
. They can also be Fetish Fuel
, especially when worn as part of a dominatrix outfit, or if featured in a scene with a stripper (or somebody imitating a stripper) where the ecdysiast slowly
removes her gloves, one at a time.
As a general rule, if Opera Gloves
are a solid color (usually white) and unadorned except by "points" (three stitched lines on the back of the glove's hand), they are most commonly associated with Gorgeous Period Dress
. Gloves with more-or-less fanciful decorations are generally associated with Pimped-Out Dress
contains a huge archive of photographs and other images of every imaginable type of Opera Glove
A subtrope of Clothing Tropes
, Hand Tropes
, Gorgeous Period Dress
, Impractically Fancy Outfit
or Pimped-Out Dress
Anime and Manga
- Rita Hayworth in Gilda, possibly the most iconic Opera Gloves scene in cinematic history.
- This sequence was spoofed by Sophia Loren (also see below) in her 1970's film Get Rita.
- Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn's "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" number matches Gilda in iconic status for this trope, and Madonna spoofed it in her video for "Material Girl".
- Another famous Marilyn Opera Glove scene is her "That Old Black Magic" production number from Bus Stop. As Cherie, Marilyn wears a distinctly down-at-the-heels showgirl outfit, including very cheap-looking black opera gloves.
- Famous Marilyn Opera Glove scene number 3: MM wears glittery black Opera Gloves with a strapless tiger-stripe gown as she Vamps Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch.
- Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace, Funny Face, Sabrina (though those gloves, as noted above, are not true Opera Gloves, reaching to just under the elbow), My Fair Lady and several other movies.
- Natalie Wood in Gypsy, Sex And The Single Girl and The Great Race.
- Deborah Kerr in The King and I (Did Not Do The Research: Opera Gloves were not worn at this time, the 1860's; wrist-length gloves would have been worn with the outfit in question).
- Sylvia Kristel in Lady Chatterley's Lover and Mata Hari.
- Helen Mirren in The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover.
- Gina Lollobrigida in La Donna Piu Bella Del Mondo (Beautiful But Dangerous) and many other movies.
- Sophia Loren in Madame, A Breath Of Scandal and Lady L.
- Ava Gardner in The Great Sinner, 55DaysAtPeking, One Touch of Venus, My Forbidden Past, etc. (Oddly enough, she does not wear black Opera Gloves in the actual scene in the movie that made her a star, The Killers, though many photographs exist of her wearing gloves with that outfit.
- Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau in Viva Maria!!
- Jane Russell in Son Of Paleface, The French Line, The Las Vegas Story, etc.
- Danielle Darrieux in The Earringsof Madame De, Rich Young And Pretty, etc.
- Martine Carol in Nana (wrong for the time period, the Second Empire), Madame Du Barry, Foxiest Girl In Paris, etc.
- Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, The Bride Wore Boots, All I Desire, Remember The Night, Illicit, Forbidden, etc.
- Kim Novak in Pal Joey (with Rita Hayworth), Just A Gigolo, The Legend Of Lylahclare, etc.
- Sean Young in the Affectionate Parody Fatal Instinct.
- Barbara Carrera in the 1980's comedy Love At Stake.
- Anne Archer in Love At Large.
- Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!!, The Portrait Of A Lady, Batman Forever, and The Golden Compass.
- Lana Turner in The Merry Widow.
- Scarlett Johansson in A Good Woman.
- Ashley Judd in DeLovely.
- Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again and many other films.
- Jane Powell in Two Weeks With Love (where she combines this trope with Of Corsets Sexy).
- Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall and Taina Elg in Les Girls.
- Gloria Grahame in Macao (a very unusual pair that looks sewn, sleeve-fashion, to her blouse).
- Jeanette Mac Donald in many of her 1930's musicals, with and without Nelson Eddy, e.g., The Love Parade (her debut), Love Me Tonight, The Merry Widow (her version), Bitter Sweet, etc.
- Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief and The Swan.
- Joan Collins in The Stud, Annie: A Royal Adventure! (a children's movie), The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Seven Thieves'', etc.
- Loni Anderson wears dominatrix-style black leather Opera Gloves in the kids' movie Three Ninjas High Noon At Mega Mountain.
- Lesley Anne Down in The Secret Agent Club.
- Almost any filmed version of Anna Karenina (e.g., the ones starring Vivien Leigh, Greta Garbo and Sophie Marceau) will feature the lead actress wearing Opera Gloves in at least one scene.
- Almost any Golden Age of Hollywood musical will have at least one big "production number" with either the lead actress/singer and/or her backup singers/dancers wearing Opera Gloves as part of their Pimped-Out Dress.
- Virtually any filmed adaptation of one of Jane Austen's novels:
- Doris Day in Pillow Talk, April In Paris, Romance On The High Seas, etc.
- Ann Margret in The Last Remake Of Beau Geste.
- Most versions of The Prisoner of Zenda:
- Salma Hayek and PenÚlope Cruz in Bandidas.
- Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer.
- Sonia Braga in Moon Over Parador.
- Jane Seymour in Somewhere In Time.
- Romy Schneider in the Sissi trilogy (though, again, wrong for the time period.
- The great Spanish singer/actress Sara (Sarita) Montiel in many of her late-1950's and early-1960's films.
- Maria Felix in French Can Can.
- Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia, Elena And Her Men, Under Capricorn, etc.
- Cybill Shepherd in The Lady Vanishes, Daisy Miller, etc.
- Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews in the Princess Diaries movies.
- Barbie has opera gloves as an accessory for many of her outfits, but due to the difficulty in modeling fashion dolls' hands to the required level of detail, they're more like pointy arm socks.
- Mel Odom's "Gene Marshall" fashion doll series boasts many outfits accessorized with Opera Gloves.
- Because the delicate leathers and fine fabrics needed to make gloves were so hard to come by for so many years, a Real Life trope grew up over the centuries in which gloves (until the 16th century largely an article of male wear) became closely associated with aristocracy and authority. Logically, therefore, the first women recorded as wearing gloves in the 16th Century were noblewomen (chief among them Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine De Medici). One of the first women pictured wearing what we today would think of as ladies' long gloves was England's Queen Anne, at the beginning of the 18th Century.
- As noted above, Opera Gloves of the mousquetaire style were popularized in Europe and America in the early 1870's by the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, who reportedly wore long gloves to make her arms (which she considered to be too thin) look more attractive.
- The Empress Josephine is said to have worn long gloves for the same reason, and also did much to make the style popular in post-revolutionary France. (For that matter, Napoleon himself is said to have owned over 200 pairs of gloves!)
- The famous Gay Nineties American musical-theater star Lillian Russell is said to have caused a sensation by cycling down New York's Fifth Avenue, riding a white-and-gold bicycle given to her by "Diamond Jim" Brady and wearing a spectacular cycling outfit accessorized with shoulder-length white OperaGloves.
- During the late 1940's and early 1950's, Queen Elizabeth II and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, were almost never seen not wearing Opera Gloves at any public event. To this day, the Queen is still known as a great white-glove wearer, though she doesn't really wear the true Opera Glove that much anymore.
- Marilyn Monroe appears to have loved Opera Gloves: she wore them (and other styles of gloves) on many, many occasions during the glory days of her career.
- Grace Kelly was famous for wearing white gloves (Opera Gloves as well as other styles of gloves) both onscreen and offscreen.
- Audrey Hepburn is another renowned glove-wearer of the past century, though she's best known for wearing the so-called "coat-length" style (about 3/4 of the way up the forearm), rather than Opera Gloves as such.
- The legendary 1950's pinup model Bettie Page frequently wore Opera Gloves (usually black leather) in her Fetish Fuel photo shoots.
- Dita Von Teese, with her retro style of fashion, often wears Opera Gloves with both daytime and evening wear as well as for her professional engagements.
- To this day, debutantes attending the famous Vienna (Austria) Opera Ball, as well as its imitators, are still required to wear all-white outfits, including white Opera Gloves.