December 28, 2016

Bolero Patterning Problems

Above you can see both of the two boleros I have made in the last few years, and can see that they don't fit very well! Today I am delving into some research and some muslin mock ups because I just love the idea of little bolero jackets (and suits with bolero jackets as opposed to fully tailored blazers) but I can't seem to create one that fits me and lays properly! What's going wrong?

Of course I refuse to just buy a pattern, I hate spending money on patterns when I feel like if I just wrestle with paper and pen long enough I can make one myself. That doesn't mean commercial patterns aren't a good resource however, and I often look at the layouts of vintage patterns to get an idea of how to create my own. For example, take this pattern from the 1930s...

This pattern shows several styles of bolero jacket all with fun puffed or pleated sleeves. However, the darts to shape the jacket are different depending on the style. The two boleros at the top of the illustration show either a waist dart or for the one on the right what almost looks like a princess seam. The rest of the styles seem to indicate a single dart coming down from the shoulder. This shoulder dart style was what I used when I made my first attempt at a bolero that you see in the first photo at the start of this post in tan houndstooth. You can also see that I added little pleats under the bustline on that bolero because with just the single dart from the shoulder the bolero stood out strangely over the bust. I think the single dart, though so prevalent in 1930's and 40's bolero patterns, might just not work for me since I have a larger bust measurement (especially in proportion with my waist). 

Another bolero pattern with single darts in the front at the shoulder.
And again this one looks like there is only one dart in the fronts again...

 This bolero pattern from the 1950s has a just a single dart too, but this time from the side seam. Also this style is soooo cute and was what I was going for when I made my second bolero that you see me wearing with the matching circle skirt in Mexico above. I couldn't quite figure out the neckline with the mandarin collar, and the whole front doesn't fit well at all over the bust. Stupid bust! Though I made that bolero pattern by modifying my usual blouse pattern (which fits pretty well?) obviously it needs more ease or perhaps even a FBA or full bust adjustment which is something I have never tried before but am seriously going to try to see if it can fix my fitting woes. Has anyone tried doing an FBA on a pattern before? Did it help?

Then we come to patterns which show two darts used in the front to achieve the correct shape and drape. This 50's pattern has a lovely draped back but also has a fitted front achieved with both a side and waist dart.

 Though difficult to make out in the illustration, this 40's pattern uses two darts in the front as well, this time a shoulder and a side dart. You can see this best in the line drawing with the collar on the right side of the above image.

This style, again from the 50's, shows two darts again from the side and the waist (at least in the first bolero). With all of these patterns ranging from the 1930s through the 50s you begin to get the idea why I want to create a perfectly fitting bolero pattern to work with, the style of jacket is so prevalent through all three eras!

This last style is a bit longer and also completely different from the others in that the shaping is created using a princess seam instead of darts! It's not something I'd rule out as I chase the perfect fit, but I'd rather try and create a pattern with darts rather than fully separate into two front pieces.

So that's whats on my pattern drafting table, tackling the bolero! I want to make several of them when I finally figure out the pattern, including a new black cotton sateen one to replace the ill fitting one I made earlier this fall. Are their any fitting/drafting wizards out there who have tips on where I may be going wrong? Have any of you made a bolero jacket before and can recommend a commercial pattern in case I fail at making my own? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I like all this pattern detective work in search of the perfect fit. I am so impressed that you can make this all up without using a pattern. So many great bolero styles here, I liked them all!

    1. I usually start with my basic dress bodice pattern (or blouse pattern) that I know fits (or I thought I knew it fit, I just spent a whole day fixing it!) so i'm not starting from scratch every time! Still I quite like pattern drafting, its one of my favorite parts of sewing!


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