March 1, 2017

Back to the Bolero Pattern

If you will remember back with me, all this recent fit fixing of my bodice patterns started out with my failure to make a bolero pattern that fit properly. Well now that I've got my basic bodice pattern working it's time to finally make a bolero pattern that fits!

Except, finding out just how to draft a bolero pattern is pretty hard to find advice on. My pattern making books had nothing, and searching the internet seemed to turn up a lot of finished bolero patterns, but no help on how to draft one from a bodice sloper. So much for just following some directions!

Looking at the little drawings of the pattern pieces shown on the back of vintage patterns (thank you pattern manufacturers!) it looked like a lot of the vintage patterns used darts that were pretty small, and anyone who has sewn for a large bust measurement knows, those darts aren't small! So it was with trepidation I dove into testing some of the options that seemed most common in vintage patterns.

I really do detest making muslins, but I am also rather used to it now after fixing my bodice pattern, so I broke out the alphanumeric paper and fabric. I set out to find the best bolero solution for me, having seen vintage patterns that used either one dart or two darts on the bodice front for shaping. I tried four variations, 1) the two darts I had on my bodice pattern unchanged (call this a control if you will, or just the one I already knew would fit) 2) all of the fullness moved into the side dart 3) keeping the side dart but moving the waist dart into a shoulder dart (like so many of the vintage patterns have) and 4) moving the fullness from the side dart into a shoulder dart and then letting the waist dart stay but not sewing it shut. That last one I figured would look a bit like this bolero below...

Which perhaps if I had a smaller bust measurement it would have, but on me my bust just does not work with this boxier style! Which was a trend with most of the options I tried. Option 2 with all of the fullness in one side dart might work if I really curved the dart approaching the bust, but I wasn't super happy with it. Option 3 proved unfruitful because I didn't like how the shoulder dart looked (which I think is part of why I don't like my tan hounds tooth bolero much as well). What did that leave me with? Well option 1 of course, which had the same darts (side and waist darts) that are on my new happy bodice pattern. Greaaat, more work I did for nothing ha! Well no, not nothing, I learned I really just don't like shoulder darts much, and that the all-fullness-in-side-dart does work but is a bit fussy.

So having arrived at where I started, with my same bodice pattern just with two inches hacked off the bottom to make it cropped, what else did I change before labeling it my "basic bolero" pattern and cutting out my next project? Well knowing I was going to be wearing the bolero over other clothing, and that jackets need additional ease added, I added 1/8 of an inch to the shoulder on the front and back (especially since I will probably be putting some kind of shoulder padding/stiffening in these boleros) and I also added 1/8 of and inch to the side seam on the front. Why the front and not the back? Because it is my bust that is the problem you see, isn't it always! I wanted that extra bit of ease in the front so that the bolero fronts don't pull away to the sides like my other boleros have in the past. My standard sleeve pattern still fit quite well into these adjustments (an additional 1/4 of an inch at the armhole due to the shoulder ease added) as it has some ease built in. I also added a 1/4 inch of "flare" to the bottom of the side seam so that the bolero would hang a bit looser instead of being as close to my body as a bodice would need to be. After all these minor adjustments I cut out one last muslin to confirm everything was as it should be.

So now I have some more black cotton sateen laid out all ready to be turned into a new bolero jacket. The resulting bolero will match both my sateen pencil skirt and my circle skirt as they will all be the same fabric. Can't beat coordinates for easy styling! I'll show you all the results soon :)


  1. Looking forward to seeing a lovely bolero! With all the fitting work that you've done, it should be fabulous.

    1. Thanks Irene! I still have to master how to get perfectly smooth darts on a open jacket like this but progress is progress and I'll take it :)

  2. I think it will be well worth all this trial and effort to get a really well fitting bolero that you are happy with. Looking forward to seeing it.

    1. Thanks Kate-Em, I finally have the pattern working mostly now!


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