A 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.
I 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.
But 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.
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).