1 bolero1 hm 2007A few years ago I saw the exhibition of ballgowns at the V&A. One particular exhibit impressed me and it wasn’t a ballgown but a dress and bolero worn by Helen Mirren at the BAFTAs 2007 ceremony.  The design by Jacques Azagury wasn’t particularly complicated (I stood very close).  I think it owes its success to the fabrics.  Silk taffeta is rather like Mirren herself: shimmering, crisp, nacreous!  And the two colours suited her and each other perfectly: champagne and a mushroom brown.  Here’s a gallery of some notable dresses of that evening.  Which dress do you think should get an award?  Notice that it hardly matters how Mirren’s bolero is wrinkled.  It’s  very wearable.

1 bolero on dummyI decided to make a bolero using an old Ikea curtain: it’s a thick cotton which looks like denim but without the diagonal weave.  The purpose wasn’t to acquire another item for the wardrobe but rather to check the fit of my new bodice block which I made from the Winifred Aldrich instructions (I also used her instructions for the two-piece sleeve).  I wanted it to be as close-fitting as possible as I have in mind some designs for which little or no ease in the bodice is required.  I gave myself more bust coverage than in the original.  The shoulder seam dart is exactly as in the block which is a bit of an oversight (too close to the edge) but I didn’t trouble myself to move it as I was still thinking this was just a muslin.

1 inside boleroBut soon as I realised the fit was fine, avarice took over and I wanted Mirren’s bolero with ruffles!  The lining is some lovely soft stuff from the stash (bought for the Blue Velvet dress).  What a difference it’s made!  Not only does this now look cute on the inside (there’s even an ease pleat at centre back), but for such a close-fitting jacket, it slips on and off like a dream.

I really like it but… oh no, look at the back!  A bolero looks really bad with jeans.  And skirts or anything with a waist seam.  Damn, I’m gonna have to make another dress….. As with Mirren’s empire line, the essential requirement is that no horizontal seams appear in view below the hem.    1 back

Hm, maybe it’s time for the annual unearthing of my New Look 6459 pattern, with a side closure alteration.

Iconic Patterns recently released a Bolero pattern  which should be an easy make if you’re not inclined to draft your own.  Perfect for a summer afternoon at a party with Pimms (in an English garden, waiting for the sun).

15 thoughts on “Bolero

  1. Really lovely on you, M. I love the sleeves. I found a bolero really worked with a slim jumpsuit when I had one…think torreador/torero ! I think the same would apply to a smooth, highwaisted pencil skirt or similar trousers.

      • Of course, now you mention it, the Spanish influence seems obvious. While I was making this, I drove my daughter mad as the Bohemian Rhapsody got trapped in my head and I kept singing Will you do the fandango!

    • Those are great suggestions, thank you. I’ve never had a jumpsuit but then again I’ve not had dungarees before and now I’m almost done making them!. And a highwaisted pencil skirt: of course: I love those!

  2. What a fabulous curtain remake and not a yodelling Austrian in sight! I love this on you, its so feminine and elegant. Thanks for the links to that BAFTA website, must explore that further.
    I’m a bit anti Mirren – I know I’m alone in this. As something of a nip/tuck expert I think she has a little help at times to look less ‘worn’ and I get a little miffed that she insists she has nothing done. Others actors also have a little help, but she is most vociferous about her au naturelle state and it grinds my gears!
    Her dresser really gets her style though, always elegant.
    Hey good on you for updating your block. You really should visit Studio Faro’s website and have a go at some drapes and twists. Anita was mentioned on Fashion Incubator yesterday for her ‘pattern ppuzzles’.

    • You’re right. I half-watched her in a recent film where she played an assassin, and up close on a very big screen it was clear something’s been done… or else some very tight skin pegging was hidden in that famous head of hair. But I hope you didn’t say anything against Mirren while you were in the UK: she’s next in line to the throne (I don’t think Charles knows).

    • Oh no! Has she really been ‘under the knife’. I’ve always admired her for ageing so well and gracefully. She does have wrinkles when you see ‘un-airbrushed’ photos but, because she still looks so good, I felt better about mine 🙁

  3. The bolero looks good – on both you and St. Helen and I think it would look amazing with some high waisted trousers or pencil skirt. Funnily enough, I am involved in something loosely called a ‘Fashion Show’ tomorrow – ‘loosely’ because the clothes are second hand donated ones and the models are me and my doggie/cattie friends. We’re raising funds for the refuge and thought it would be a novel idea to model some of the clothes we’re given rather than have them hanging limply from plastic hangers. Anyway, I’m modelling a sheath style blue cocktail dress and found a bolero from long ago River Island which is a blue Chinese embroidered ‘silk’ number and, when I put it on over the dress, it was transformed. We’re only charging 5 euros per outfit modelled and I nearly decided to keep it myself until I remembered that both items were mine in the first place. Now you’ve given ‘the bolero’ such a boost I might re-think it.

  4. If Ms Mirren chooses to have ‘something done’, that’s up to her. She was the charming ingenue at the beginning of her career, and has probably fought very hard to keep that career going for the decades that she’s worked.
    Apparently in the recent PeeWee Herman Netflix film, they CGI’d his face to resemble his younger self. Ruebens was joking that if he’d just had surgery, they would have saved a lot of money.

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