[Bolero Beachwear graciously offered me one dress for review, and I purchased the second dress with my own money using a press discount. I was not compensated for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]
In case you were wondering, no, Sweet Nothings isn’t going to become a fashion blog. I’m way too picky about my clothes, and I have a whole host of fit issues even apart from my boobs, so if I switched over to fashion entirely I’d wind up posting, like, three times a year. However, Bolero Beachwear has been getting absolutely rave reviews for their comfortable, easy-to-wear, full-bust-friendly, made-in-the-USA dresses, so when Patricia, the founder, reached out to me, I was happy to have a chance to try them for myself.
All Bolero styles use synthetic, wrinkle-free fabrics that offer a nice amount of stretch (without going sheer). The Erica dress is a newer style for Bolero (named after the lovely Erica at A Sophisticated Pair, who has some fantastic reviews of several Bolero styles), and it’s one of the few styles with sleeves, making it a great choice for Fall and Spring wear. Bolero made a name for itself with bright, bold, vibrant prints, but the prints didn’t really match my style, and I couldn’t see most of them working well with other items in my wardrobe. Patricia suggested the navy/white polka dot combination, and I readily agreed: it’s a classic style that’s easy to dress up or down. I was surprised and pleased when I opened the parcel to discover she’d included a solid black version for me to try and purchase if I liked—a little black dress is an incredibly valuable addition to my (conservative, corporate, slightly formal) work wardrobe. The Erica dress features three-quarter sleeves, a surplice top, and a super-full circle skirt WITH POCKETS! Hurray for pockets! The back of the top section is lined to help hide your bra or camisole.
I checked with Erica before sending Patricia my size requests, as I remembered she mentioned that Bolero styles can run a little generous. According to the size chart I’d fit a Large or Extra Large, but Erica actually suggested trying a Medium. She also recommended requesting a longer-length skirt, on account of my height, so Patricia added two inches to the skirts of both my dresses.
The dresses really are wonderfully full-bust-friendly. I’d recommend wearing a plunge bra, since surplice tops create deep v-necklines, but it’s so nice to have a wrap-style dress where the waistline actually sits under the bust, rather than getting pulled up on top of it. The shoulder seams aren’t pulled down, either; they sit nicely on top of my shoulders, where they’re supposed to be. I’m really glad I requested longer-length skirts, as the length helps balance the volume and keeps me from looking like I’m wearing a child’s party dress.
Next time I try a Bolero dress, I do think I might order a little differently: for one thing, in addition to adding length to the skirt, I’d ask for length to be added to the sleeves as well, as these tend to roll up above my elbows, and I’d prefer them to be a bit longer. For another thing, I might try the size Large instead of the Medium. The black dress comes up smaller than the navy one, and even with the nice back lining, I’m a little self-conscious about how tight the dress is across my back. I also wonder if the larger size might lower the waistline just a little bit, which I think I’d like, as I do sometimes tug the waistline down throughout the day. These are nit-picky comments though—these dresses fit WAY better than any other wrap-style dress I’ve tried in a department store recently.
I usually prioritize natural fibers when I’m picking out clothes, so Bolero’s fabrics are definitely a change of pace for me. Synthetic fibers sometimes make me feel hot and itchy, so if you have skin sensitivities, the fabric here is something to keep in mind. Sometimes I’ll wear a cotton camisole or full slip under my dresses, which puts a comfy, breathable layer between my bare skin and the material, and I’m honestly not sure yet of how often I’ll choose to wear them once temperatures start to climb again in the Spring. That said, these are SO easy to wear—as soon as I put one on I feel pretty and pulled-together. As it gets colder I do think static might start to become an issue for some—I wore a lace-trimmed silk slip under one of my dresses, but unfortunately the lace stuck too firmly to the skirt and rode up! However, I recently bought a 1950s rayon full slip with a heavier weight, and it worked perfectly. Also, this is awesome: you cannot make them wrinkle. I have left mine curled up on a ball on my dresser, stuffed into a suitcase, and rolled into a gym bag, and they come out looking fresh as a daisy.
One thing I didn’t mention above, but is fun to note, is that the Erica dresses come with removable sashes! They’re even extra-long for versatile styling—you can wrap them around you twice to cinch in your waist or do a single wrap and create a nice big bow. The default sash color for the navy/dot dress is a cheery red, and Patricia kindly included several other sashes so I could mix and match some different options. I personally don’t wear belts or sashes regularly, as I don’t like the look on me, but even though I’ll probably wear my Erica dresses on their own, this extra attention to detail is really lovely and helps add to the versatility of the dress.
Erica dresses are also really good for twirling.
Apart from this all-black version of the Erica dress that Patricia surprised me with, most Bolero dresses feature bright, eye-catching prints. While I’m sure these have their fans, I really think an expansion into more solids would be a great next step for Bolero. To be honest, I wouldn’t choose the more tropical prints for myself, but an oxblood or forest green version of the Erica dress? Absolutely.
Bolero dresses have a higher price tag than a dress you might pick up at a mass retailer like LOFT or the Gap. The Erica dresses retail at $140 each (marked down from $170, which was at the upper end of the collection’s price range). Bolero isn’t a mass retailer though: the garments are patterned specifically to fit fuller busts, they’re made in small batches or to order, so you can have adjustments made if you want (like adding inches to the skirt length) and they’re ethically manufactured in the USA. If you’re looking for a great fit, and you want to make sure that the people who made your clothes have been paid fairly for their work, Bolero is a fantastic choice.
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Dresses and Sashes: Erica Dress by Bolero Beachwear (c/o), XS-1XL, $140.
Shoes: Michael Kors (sold out); T.U.K. Shoes
Petticoat: Malco Modes
Photos: Lydia Hudgens
EmilyDecember 4, 2015 at 10:14 am (7 years ago)
I love these so much! I’m glad you do clothing posts from time to time because I also have issues finding professional clothes I actually like that also fit me. That polka dot one is adorable, and I’m definitely putting this site under my “things to save up for” list. They both look fanatic on you!
SweetsDecember 4, 2015 at 10:38 am (7 years ago)
Thank you so much, Emily! I’m so glad you like them! It’s nice to hear that this is useful to you, too– I will definitely consider doing more full-bust clothing reviews next year as opportunities present themselves.
Patricia McCawDecember 14, 2015 at 8:32 am (7 years ago)
Thanks for your kind words Emily, we hope to see you soon shopping our website. Please feel free to ask any question on fabrics or colors, we are very flexible.
Erica of A Sophisticated PairDecember 4, 2015 at 11:38 am (7 years ago)
These pictures are all FABULOUS! Sweets, you should be a professional model. Seriously. I love the twirl pictures. 🙂 That’s how I feel when I wear mine or the Carmen dresses. I agree that I think one of things I’d like to see in future collections is more solids like you mentioned. I have heard on my own reviews that people love the look of the dresses but the topical Miami vibe is not necessarily their thing for prints. Personally, I’ve been shocked with how much I’ve liked the bolder prints as I never thought of myself as a print person. There’s a really awesome graphic one with black/grays and then either blue or emerald green. It’s one of my favorites, but I also love the B/W print on the Erica dress too. Patricia sent me the navy polka dot one to display in the store, and it looks straight out of the 1940s. Perfect for that person who loves vintage-inspired clothes.
Re the fabric: Like you, I was concerned about how breathable it would be, but I think you’ll be surprised. I do tend to favor the sleeveless styles more in summer, but I think the fabric is breezy enough to work fine. I have two maxi dresses that are my go-to for hot days.
BTW (and sorry for the long comment), I think the best way to wear belts/sashes is to figure out the ideal with for you waist. I took a scarf and started wide and then kept folding down until I figured out which width in inches worked best. Since I have a long torso, very narrow belts look terrible, but I bet you could rock one. Food for thought. 🙂
SweetsDecember 4, 2015 at 6:45 pm (7 years ago)
Thank you, Erica! I’m looking forward to seeing how they do in the Spring– if a North Carolinian finds them comfy, I take that as a solid recommendation 🙂
RachelleDecember 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm (7 years ago)
Love the addition of the petticoat! Super cute 🙂
SweetsDecember 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm (7 years ago)
Aw, thanks! Erica actually mentioned that they’d be good for petticoats, so I decided I should taker her up on her suggestion 🙂
Patricia McCawDecember 14, 2015 at 8:30 am (7 years ago)
Big thanks for such a professional and great review Sweets! Your comments are really appreciated and helpful and as always, by listening and taking them in consideration, we are able to take our products to the next level. Your photos speak very loud about great fit for a busty and curvy woman and I’m glad you also talk about our work ethic and the beauty of being flexible to customize our dresses to specific needs, such as longer hems -or shorter too-
Our customers really love to know they can wear a dress over sixty times a year and the dress still looks like new. Tossing in the washer and dryer machine and our fabrics drying quickly, makes our clothes ideal travel companions.
We all need to wear something we know, it will be by our side even when the numbers in the scale are not something we are proud to talk about.
Finally, you will see more colors in the future and there are more full-bust clothing getting ready in the Bolero sample room.
Big Thanks again Sweets!
viragoDecember 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm (7 years ago)
You look sooooo elegant, especially in the black dress with the red lippie and nail polish! And thanks for the tip about the rayon slip … I live in northern New England, and the extra layer will not only keep dresses/skirts in place but also help keep me warm on my walk to work.
HeatherFebruary 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm (7 years ago)
I love these short dresses on you! I might want to try one now. After reading your review and Erica’s on Sophisticated Pair, I ordered a maxi from Patricia. I was hopeful, but not necessarily confident. I’m 4’11”, so length is an issue, both in the chest area and the overall length. I was so pleased, though, Patricia did a great job. Wish I could show you a pic. Can’t wait till upstate NY warms up enough to wear it! I’m 32H (but 11 weeks pregnant, so I may expand…) and so glad I can look forward to wearing something cool that stretches and still covers my boobs.
SweetsFebruary 26, 2016 at 10:07 pm (7 years ago)
Oh exciting! I’m so glad you found a dress you like– Patricia is so helpful when it comes to customization and fitting help. And congratulations on your pregnancy– sending you my very best wishes.