Kate Middleton's Polarizing BAFTA Glove Trend Was Loved by Princess Diana 

Kate Middleton's appearance at the 76th British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) on Sunday night provided royal watchers with an opportunity to see one of the new Princess of Wales' celebrated red-carpet fashion moments.

Dressed in an altered version of an Alexander McQueen evening gown worn to the same event in 2019, Kate updated the look with an edgy, if polarizing twist: a pair of statement black opera gloves.

Though the inclusion of the accessory has provoked much discussion, the style is not unique in royal fashion history. Opera gloves have been worn by generations of royal women since the 17th century, though they earned their name in the 1800s.

Kate Middleton and Princess Diana Opera Gloves
Kate Middleton photographed wearing black opera gloves at the BAFTAs (left) in London, February 19, 2023; and Princess Diana (right) photographed wearing similar to a royal film premiere, March 5, 1989. The fashion accessory has been worn by royal family members since the 17th century. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

One member of the royal family in recent decades who notably accessorized her outfits with boldly contrasting opera gloves was Princess Diana, Kate's late mother-in-law.

Diana is credited with phasing out the style convention of royal women wearing gloves to royal engagements. She wanted to have direct contact with people, holding hands with hospital patients, the elderly and children. However, the princess did appear to enjoy experimenting with gloves for a number of her evening looks.

Like Kate, Diana was seen pairing black opera gloves with white dresses. There were shocking-pink satin variations with sapphire-blue gowns and mismatching pairs to create an asymmetric effect.

Another royal who began wearing evening gloves and kept the trend throughout her lifetime was Queen Elizabeth II. The late monarch paired them with her famous ball gowns and event dresses until the end of her 70-year reign in September 2022.

Here, Newsweek looks at a number of the royal family members' best opera-glove fashion moments:

Kate Middleton, BAFTA Awards, London 2023

Kate Middleton paired her white silk chiffon Alexander McQueen evening gown with a pair of black silk opera gloves and gold accessories for the 76th British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Festival Hall on February 19.

This was the first time that the royal has worn the style of glove at such a high-profile fashion occasion.

Prince William and Kate Middleton BAFTAs 2023
Prince William and Kate Middleton photographed attending the BAFTAs, February 19, 2023. The princess wore an Alexander McQueen evening gown with black opera gloves. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Princess Diana, America's Cup Ball, 1986

Princess Diana wore a pair of mismatched black and red opera gloves to accompany a dual-toned flamenco-inspired evening gown designed by London-based couturier Murray Arbeid.

The princess wore the ensemble a number of times, but most famously to a ball held Grosvenor House in London with Prince Charles in September 1986.

Princess Diana Opera Gloves 1986
Princess Diana photographed wearing contrasting opera gloves with a Murray Arbeid evening dress to the America's Cup Ball, September 19, 1986. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Princess Diana, 'The Phantom of the Opera,' 1986

Another Arbeid dress beloved by Diana was an evening gown constructed of layered blue tulle with small crystal-embellished stars across the bodice. The princess wore the dress on a number of occasions and included in the 1997 auction of her most-famous pieces.

In 1986, the royal paired the dress with shocking-pink opera gloves to attend the opening of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera.

Princess Diana "Phantom of the Opera"
Princess Diana photographed wearing shocking pink opera gloves and a Murray Arbeid evening dress to a performance of "The Phantom of the Opera," 1986. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Princess Diana, Munich Opera, 1987

On an official visit to Germany in 1987 with Prince Charles, the royal couple attended an evening at the Munich Opera House where they watched a performance of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

For the occasion, the princess wore another flamenco-inspired evening gown, this time designed by her friend and long-term collaborator Catherine Walker. This she accessorized with a statement pair of shot-silk blue taffeta opera gloves.

Princess Diana Munich Opera 1987
Princess Diana photographed wearing a Catherine Walker evening dress with blue shot-silk taffeta opera gloves for a visit to the Munich Opera, Germany, November 4, 1987. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana, 'Dangerous Liaisons' Premiere, 1989

Princess Diana debuted another opera-glove evening look for the royal premiere of the hit movie Dangerous Liaisons in London, March 1989.

The princess wore a black strapless tuxedo-inspired evening dress by the fashion designer Victor Edelstein and paired this with black opera-length satin gloves.

Princess Diana "Dangerous Liaisons" Premiere 1989
Princess Diana photographed at the "Dangerous Liaisons" royal premiere in London wearing a Victor Edelstein evening dress with black opera gloves, March 6, 1989. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Sarah 'Fergie' Ferguson, Duchess of York, 1989

Another royal who wore a number of fashion looks accessorized with evening gloves during her time in the royal spotlight was Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson, Prince Andrew's wife from 1986 to 1996.

The duchess wore a contrasting pair of black satin opera gloves with a layered gold chiffon evening dress to a private event in 1989.

Sarah Ferguson Opera Gloves 1989
Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson (when the Duchess of York) photographed wearing black opera gloves with a gold chiffon ensemble to a private event in London, October 20, 1989. Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II, RADA, London 1964

Perhaps the most-prolific royal glove-wearer of the last century was Queen Elizabeth II. She maintained the practice of wearing them both for day and evening events, even keeping a spare pair in her famous handbag, should anything soil the pair she was wearing.

The queen wore opera gloves with evening looks from her accession in the 1950s to the 1970s where she began wearing sleeves with her evening wear. The monarch still kept her gloves with these, though they are believed to have been a shorter style that would not wrinkle beneath her sleeves.

Queen Elizabeth II Opera Gloves
Queen Elizabeth II wearing opera gloves with an evening ensemble to view a performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), London, November 1964. The monarch continued wearing the fashion accessory in the 1970s. Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/Terry Disney/Express/Getty Images

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek's royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

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