When Queen Elizabeth II made a surprise appearance at London Fashion Week, she stood in stark contrast to the rest of the well-heeled room. That’s mostly because she’s the Queen of Great Britain – but, sartorially speaking, it was because of her black bracelet-length Cornelia James gloves, which come in handy for shaking the hands of countless commoners. As if by royal decree, Her Majesty set the tone for a season of gloved looks – from clunky fireman styles at Calvin Klein and flannel mitts at Thom Browne to marabou-trimmed Mulberry confections and Moschino’s Jackie O opera styles. At Louis Vuitton, racehorse models carried next season’s It bags with a single piped leather driving gloved hand. It was part Princess Margaret, part Michael Jackson.
A sci-fi lover since childhood who slept with a Star Wars helmet on his bedroom mantelpiece, Nicolas Ghesquière’s latest show for the French house remixed wardrobe staples with a futuristic hybridity and asymmetric bent. That’s where the single gloves came in – to balance out the mismatched proportions. However, as anyone who owns a pair of leather gloves will know – in 2018, the single-gloved look is a practical conduit for quite literally single-handedly scrolling through Instagram and checking emails.
Ghesquière’s gloves were doubtlessly crafted from the buttery leather that only Louis Vuitton has on tap. In the show, which took place at the Louvre, a handful of the gloves (pun intended) were worn with chunky crystal-studded bracelets for added elegance. Others were balanced out with a costume brooch or retro Star Trek-esque logo patch on the opposite side of the chest. The styling trick resonated with his discordant vision of luxury, seamlessly blending computer motherboard prints with drapes of silk and streamlined tailoring.
But back to the timeless appeal of gloves – there’s more to them than you may think. As designers are reconfiguring the codes of femininity in the age of the #MeToo movement, there’s something about gloves that have a powerful symbolism – they say ‘No, Thank You’; ‘Don’t Touch’; ‘Hands Off’. If you’re a clean-freak, they’re perfect for taking the tube. If you bite your nails, they’re a quick-fix concealer. If your Shellacs have grown out and you’re embarrassed, they’ll be your saviour. Just like Vuitton’s embroidered arm leggings, opera gloves too can slim the arm and make bracelet and ring jewels glimmer even brighter. Come the first chill of autumn, wool gloves keep you warm – and fur-lined driving gloves keep you warmer. And, if you need any more convincing, just remember the comically prescient words of Absolutely Fabulous’ Patsy Stone – “one can never have too many hats, shoes or gloves”.