Created By: jadmire on May 7, 2010 Last Edited By: jadmire on May 7, 2010
Nuked

Opera Gloves

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Trope
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 "Opera Gloves".

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.

Opera Gloves 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:
  • dominatrixes.

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.

This site contains a huge archive of photographs and other images of every imaginable type of Opera Glove wearer.

A subtrope of Clothing Tropes, Hand Tropes, Gorgeous Period Dress, Impractically Fancy Outfit or Pimped-Out Dress.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film

Live-Action Television

Music

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

Other
  • 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.

Real Life
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • May 6, 2010
    Duncan
    Miss Piggy wears lavender opera gloves, most of the time.
  • May 6, 2010
    TheBigSock
    The X Men have Emma Frost.
  • May 6, 2010
    SevenOfDiamonds
    I don't think Aurora wears opera gloves, she just has long pointy sleeves.

    Barbie wears these a lot but as it's really hard to fit for tiny hands, they're usually more like pointy arm socks.
  • May 6, 2010
    suedenim
    Is there some particular reason why these seem to show up so often in anime/manga a la Sailor Moon? If so, it would be interesting to note cultural reasons, etc.
  • May 6, 2010
    Generality
    Well, White Gloves are common in animation, because traditionally they were helpful in discerning hand gestures. As for Sailor Moon, it may have something to do with an overall opera/fancy western dressup theme. After all, look at Tuxedo Mask. Classic opera attire.
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    That's a VERY good question, and my considered reply is, damned if I know. :) I've never been aware myself of any especial reason why opera gloves and other long gloves should appear in anime and manga so often beyond Rule Of Cool. Anyone got any ideas? (For that matter, please post other series/characters who would fit this trope and I'll plug them in!)
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    I need some suggestions as to a good picture for this page. I'm leaning toward Rita Hayworth in "Gilda" but if anyone has any other ideas, give forth. :)
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Good points about White Gloves and Tuxedo Mask; I'll cipher out a way to fit both of them in. I have a glove incident from a classic movie that I need a correct trope on. In the old Rosalind Russell movie "The Velvet Touch", a pair of black velvet Opera Gloves figures in the plot when her character leaves them behind at the scene of an accidental killing. Query: MacGuffin or Chekhovs Gun?
  • May 6, 2010
    suedenim
    Interesting point about the "fancy western dressup" theme in Sailor Moon, but (to me, anyway) begs the question "So how does the sailor uniform stuff fit into that?" I'm presuming Japanese schoolgirls seldom if ever wear opera gloves?
  • May 6, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    School uniform is considered formal wear in Japan, if you can't manage anything better. Dunno if that fits in with opera gloves, mind.
  • May 6, 2010
    Lullabee
    Web Original
  • May 6, 2010
    Jonny B
    Didn't Rogue wear opera gloves in the X-Men films?
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Thanks for the latest updates (I'm writing from my other machine). Anna Paquin played Rogue, correct?
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Oh fudge. Something went wrong while I was adding the picture and I lost most of the entry. :( Did anyone happen to save it? If not, I'll just have to start over again. Sorry about that.
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Well, I think I've recovered it (and added some new stuff). However, I think I'll have to do future editing to this YKTTW in IE: for some reason, Firefox doesn't see the whole thing in the edit window. Also: What other tropes can you recommend to cross-reference to this one? Clothing? Sex? Historical?
  • May 6, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Is this really a trope? Or just a common occurrence?
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    IMO it is (a trope, that is). As I've said in the main article and several of the entries, gloves in fashion history have been strongly associated with high society and aristocracy, so that when you see a well-dressed woman wearing long gloves, it's almost an automatic assumption in many cases to think of her as being a socialite or aristocrat. (Or a Femme Fatale, stripper or dominatrix, if you like. :D ) Also, in current fashion one rarely sees women wearing long gloves anymore except in specific circumstances such as I've outlined in the article. There's also the Fetish Fuel angle to keep in mind.
  • May 6, 2010
    JoveHack
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Thanks. What category?
  • May 6, 2010
    Ronka87
    If you're looking for indexes, Clothing Tropes and Hand Tropes.

    Example-wise, you're good to launch (in fact, this is bogging down YKTTW for me), and it seems like a trope. However, the description could use some trimming. You can probably cut out most of the information about their history and the materials they're made out-- it's superfluous to the trope. The "dining etiquette" note, while interesting, is also superfluous. The trope is "long glove= elegance;" everything else is padding.
  • May 6, 2010
    randomsurfer
    On The Dick Van Dyke Show Rob and Laura were going to a formal dinner party in Alan Brady's place, to accept an award for [something]. The group presenting the award was Black. That day they both managed to dye their hands black while making a stormcloud costume for Richie of a school play. They both wore Opera Gloves to cover their hands (Rob stuffed the gloves up his sleeves) in order to cover up their hands lest their black hands be misconstrued; but Rob revealed the truth to the group, and a good laugh was had by all.
  • May 6, 2010
    jadmire
    Suggested edits made. I propose to launch this trope in the morning.
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