I keep seeing long evening gloves everywhere I turn: on Casey DeSantis, on celebrities on the red carpet. But I think of them as very out of date. Why are they so popular, and are we really expected to be wearing them now? — Cynthia, Havana, Fla.
Elbow-length gloves, or opera gloves or evening gloves, have been around as a fashion statement since the 15th century, when Queen Elizabeth I reportedly appeared in an 18-inch pair with two inches of gold fringe.
They’ve gone in and out of fashion for years: Jacqueline Kennedy wore long white gloves to her husband’s presidential inauguration and inaugural balls and on numerous fancy White House occasions; Audrey Hepburn famously wore long black gloves with her black gown and pearls in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”; and there was Marilyn Monroe, in bright pink, belting out “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” But they started to make their current comeback on the runways just after the pandemic lockdowns.
The reason at that time may have been obvious (no touching!), but ever since, the trend has not just continued, but has become a full-fledged phenomenon. Long gloves come in leather, latex, lace, chiffon — you name it. They are now, as you point out, almost as ubiquitous as handbags and sunglasses.
They’ve been worn on the red carpet by pretty much every celebrity — Jane Fonda, Kim Kardashian, Olivia Rodrigo. They have no age limit. They’re just a part of a contemporary accessory wardrobe.
As Peter Allen (you know, the subject of the show “The Boy From Oz”) sang in 1974, “Everything old is new again.”
As to why, well, during the last round of shows, I seized a backstage moment to ask some designers to explain the appeal. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler said it had to do with extending the visual line of the arm. Gloves worn in the same color as, say, a sweater or jacket create an elegant lengthening effect — for day or evening.
Gloves can also add an interesting counterpoint to a dress, toughening up a lacy look, for example, or softening a strict one. They even look cool with a T-shirt (as Irina Shayk demonstrates in the photograph above). They have a way of making you feel soignée, as if you should be waving your arms around with great drama.
Also, they tap into all of those historical associations mentioned above and are buried deep in our lizard brains, which is what I think is actually the point with Casey DeSantis. Not to mention Melania Trump before her, who wore long light blue gloves to President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.
Long gloves, in the context of politics, are so connected to Mrs. Kennedy that when a first lady (state or federal) adopts the same style of dress, she implicitly connects herself with that White House and all the qualities related to it: style, youth, promise, change and so on.
So should you wear them? Consider them a tool: for health, attitude, audience manipulation. And then consider the message you are trying to send.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.