“May I?”: Ava’s Wrist-Length Gloves in Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive

There was a time (early/mid 2000s, I think) in which I was obsessed with a fashion accessory: gloves. My spirit guides were Carrie Bradshaw and May Welland: though totally different, the protagonist of Sex and the City and one of the main female characters of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence had something in common – beautiful gloves and a peculiar grace in wearing them. At the time, I bought some lovely vintage pieces on eBay (which I’m still very proud of), but I haven’t worn them as much as I would. Using leather or embellished gloves in everyday life is unpractical, but the old flame has been rekindled after watching the latest film by Jim Jarmush, Only Lovers Left Alive.

The film speaks of a couple of vampires, Eve and Adam (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston), beautiful and damned jet-setters who live in Tangier and Detroit, respectively. Their quiet dandy secluded lives are distrupted by Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve’s younger sister who lives in Los Angeles. Bina Daigeler, the film’s costume designer, did a gorgeous job with this character. Ava is a rebel who wants to enjoy life and the advantages of being a vampire in the 21st century; her style totally mirrors this attitude. I will show you all her outfits, but first let’s focus on her lovely wrist-length gloves.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h12m25s168Gloves have a specific function in the film: according to the director, they are his contribution to the “mythology of vampire films, which is a cumulative thing,” (the reference is to fangs, holy water, no reflections on mirrors, threshold-crossing and sparkling skin in the sun). “We added in these leather gloves that they wear when they’re outside of their habitat,” he explained. “Why? Cause we had something that was ours that we invented. And we thought it looked really cool.” Asking the host to remove one’s gloves (hence the title of this post) doesn’t seem to have a specific function, though; probably it’s only a courtesy. Obviously Eve and Adam wear gloves, too, but Ava’s are the most interesting ones. We see them in detail in the scene set in a Detroit bar where the White Hills are performing.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h10m39s137They are made of light butter white leather and are a vintage piece, just like all the garments and accessories seen on the character.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h13m16s176vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h09m33s247They are embellished with a double row of cut-out elements.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h12m00s185vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h09m38s35The scalloped hem gives them a girly touch. I think they can be dated back to the 1960s. According to Edith Heal, the author of Gloves: Fashion and Etiquettepublished by the Hansen Glove Corporation in 1961, gloves should be worn when going “shopping, visiting, driving; and for outdoor festivities such as garden parties, receptions” and for “formal indoor occasions: receptions, balls, and on arrival at a luncheon or dinner party.” These fashion rules apply no more in contemporary times, but Ava seems to live in the past, when it comes to her style.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-09h07m47s206When she first appears in the story, she looks like a mix between Courtney Love circa 1993 and a pin-up wannabe. Lying on the decadent velvet couch at Adam’s, she’s wearing a stretchy sleeveless polka-dot mini-dress, a fluffy light honey (faux?) fur coat, her trusty gloves and a pair of silver mary janes. Her makeup-less face and her grisly/over-backcombed ginger-flax hair give her an urchin-like look: she means trouble.

ava_onlyloversleftaliveLater in the film, she sports a night outfit, which includes a black slip with lace details on the neckline and lower hem (another element reminiscent of Courtney Love’s style) and a light blue short nightgown, a garment which is definitely from the 1960s.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-09h08m42s255It is made of a synthetic fabric (probably polyester) and has a floral print in several shades of pink and green. The short sleeves and the front hem are decorated by a turquoise lace double band, which emphasize the romantic vibe.

ava2_onlyloversleftaliveNow it’s the turn of the outfit she sports at the bar. She wears a sleeveless floral print mini-dress, another piece from the 1960s. The print is abstract and is characterized by dusty shades of orange, purple and pink. Made of synthetic fabric, the dress has a sack shape; it is zipped on the back and is embellished by flounces at the lower hem, neckline and back neckline. It’s interesting to see how it is quite high-necked on the front, but v-necked on the back. This dress is not overtly seductive as the polka dot number, but it becomes such: Ava starts seducing Ian, Adam’s handyman (Anton Yelchin), at the bar and the short garment definitely helps in spicing things up.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-09h13m43s184The outfit is completed by below-the-knee silver boots and black cat’s eye sunglasses with glittering details. All these elements emphasize her 1960s look, which mixes the ingenue/good girl and the pin-up/naughty girl. Don’t forget that Ava is a vampire: we don’t know how old she is, but she surely experimented with this look in the 1960s; now she has perfected it and she knows it can help her achieve what she wants: human (possibly men’s) blood.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-09h13m09s100The last detail is a pair of white stockings with black polka dots, another piece of her nice/naughty puzzle. Ian likes her but he’s also intimidated by her; he wants to make a good impression on Adam by treating Ava good, but we can see a frightened shadow in his eyes. When Adam and Eve leave them alone in his studio/living room, they know what the girl is up to. Eve thinks neck-sucking is “so fucking 15th century”, but Ava clearly doesn’t agree.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-09h34m19s250When the two lovers find out what Ava did to Ian, they kick her out of their Gothic house in Detroit. Ava vanishes as quickly as she appeared, left on the street with her trolley, her fur jacket, silver mary janes, black slip and polka-dot tights. She’s fulfilled her function in the plot (disrupting the lovers’ quiet life and getting things in motion for them), but I must admit I was sad seeing her go. Tilda Swinton’s outfits are magnificent (especially her oriental/North-African loungewear and bed jackets) but Ava’s fashion game is far funnier, isn’t it? Now let me see where I put my 1950s beaded wrist-length gloves…

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7 comments

  1. Ho ereditato da una nonna acquisita scatole intere di accessori d’epoca, tra cui un paio di guanti bianchi di pelle fino al gomito: finché non trovo l’occasione, ci gioco in casa!
    Complimenti per la nuova grafica, la vecchia mi piaceva tanto e mi sembrava più personale, ma questa mi ricorda la grafica di Nars, e la gif del mago di Oz dà quel tocco in più :)
    Per finire, non commento molto spesso, ma questi sono i miei articoli preferiti (insieme ai vecchi Friday Guessing Game :( ), tratti sempre di film meravigliosi, e se come in questo caso non li ho già visti, mi invogli tantissimo. Continua così!

    1. Ah, che meraviglia! Io ne ho un paio color ghiaccio (vintage) che arrivano a metà avambraccio. Li ho portati poche volte con una giacchina autunnale con maniche a tre quarti. Devo ammettere però che fanno la loro figura ;)

      Grazie per i complimenti! Mi fa sempre piacere riceverli da te. Occhio che a breve arriverà un altro post ad ispirazione cinema…

    1. I’m sure you’ll love it. Excellent cast, nice script, beautiful Gothic atmosphere.

      Well, if wrist-length gloves are unpractical, imagine what wearing long gloves is like ;)

  2. ah, gli screencap di guanti nei film, quanti ricordi :-) mi tengo la lettura di questo post per maggio, sto cercando di aspettare pazientemente l’uscita del film in sala senza scaricarlo!
    io pure ho smesso di comprare guanti (dopo averne riempito un cassetto peraltro) ma devo dire che li metto abbastanza… quelli più lunghi semmai li porto arricciati al polso.

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