Princess Kate keeps tradition alive with dramatic black opera gloves at Baftas

The Princess of Wales arrived at the 2023 BAFTAs wearing a pair of statement black opera gloves – a move in line with royal tradition.

Princess Kate stunned at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank Centre on Sunday 20 February, where she walked the red carpet in an off-shoulder Alexander McQueen gown she previously wore to the 2019 awards ceremony.

Kate Middleton, who arrived alongside the Prince of Wales, accessorised the all-white gown with a pair of $27.90 (£18) cascading floral earrings from Zara and full-length black opera gloves.

The 41-year-old royal transformed the Grecian-inspired Alexander McQueen dress by replacing its original shoulder corsage detail for a draped, white chiffon train. But it was the contrasting dramatic black gloves that elevated the look.

“Opera gloves are transformative; they have enormous leverage,” Genevieve James, creative director at royal glove supplier Cornelia James, recently told People. “They turn any event into an occasion and a dress into a statement.”

Kate Middleton has often been seen sporting gloves from Cornelia James, a British company that’s held a Royal Warrant since 1979 and made gloves for the late Queen Elizabeth II since 1946.

While it’s unclear if the Princess of Wales is wearing a pair of black gloves from the manufacturer, the full-length opera gloves appear quite similar to the “Melissa” Velvet Opera Glove ($216).

Princess of Wales attends the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Princess of Wales attends the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Princess Kate isn’t the first royal to wear opera gloves for special engagements. In fact, the accessory has been donned by royal women for generations, including the late Princess Diana, who often wore mismatched pairs of gloves to contrast with her dress of choice.

In 1986, Diana wore a flamenco-inspired dress designed by Murray Arbeid, which she famously paired with one red glove and one black. That same year, Diana donned another blue Arbeid dress embellished with small crystal stars to the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, The Phantom of the Opera. She elevated the blue dress by pairing it with hot pink opera gloves.

Princess Diana also became known for phasing out the long-standing accessory during many of her royal engagements as a way to connect with others.

“She abandoned the royal protocol of wearing gloves because she liked to hold hands when visiting people or shake hands and have direct contact,” Eleri Lynn, the curator of the Diana: Her FashionStory exhibit, told People in 2017.

Princess Diana most notably did away with royal tradition in 1987 when she shook the hand of an AIDS patient without gloves, ultimately sending a message to the world that HIV/AIDS could not be passed from person to person by touch.

As for Kate Middleton, the mother of three shocked royal commentators when she arrived at the British Academy Film Awards in her “sustainable” outfit choice.

“This time, it has cascading shoulder embellishments,” said a Sky News presenter about the recycled white gown.

“And her earrings, they’re floral chandelier earrings. Where are they from? Zara!” the journalist continued. “Who would have guessed that? £18, Thomas the producer says.”

“What a bargain, says Amy,” she continued, presumably referring to somebody in the studio.

While the 2023 Baftas marked the sixth time Prince William and Kate have attended the awards ceremony together, it was their first time attending the show as a couple in three years.