One of the questions I field frequently about Bolero dresses is whether they were going to have any styles which are a little less body-conscious through the midsection or that have a fuller skirt. Ladies and gents, please allow me to introduce the impossibly lovely, effortlessly flattering Carmen:
Featuring a sleeveless design for easy layering, Carmen provides extra space in the chest before narrowing for a fitted empire waist and then draping beautifully into a tummy-concealing circle skirt. Like other Bolero dresses, the armholes are narrow enough to avoid showing any bra, and the center ruching contours well across the cup size spectrum. In the front, the fabric is lined, allowing you the glorious freedom to wear whatever bra you like without fear of the seams or texture showing, and in the patterned variations, the mix of colors discreetly conceals nipple issues. The back comes higher than the skater or original D+ dresses, which was another concern.
The tailored waist band darts inward shortly below the bust but avoids the common pitfalls of many empire waist designs. Often, the seaming for the waist or narrow band designed to hit below the bust can create a boob-bisection where it sits horizontally across the chest for a less than flattering look. Even in larger cup sizes, the waist of Carmen sits where it should, but more importantly, the way the skirt floats down the body remains fitted enough to not add additional volume to the abdomen.
Visually, the contrast of the band slims the waist or underbust, depending where the dress falls, and the circle skirt bottom features the most beautiful movement I have ever seen in a dress. It’s lovely the way the skirt swooshes around the legs with walking or moving, and I have been known to twirl around the store because it’s so much fun to do.
Because of the wonderful quality of movement, the Carmen makes for a perfect party or dancing dress, and the designs transitions easily with accessories. Dress it up with heels and sparkly jewelry, or play it more casual with flats and a cardigan. The length of mine works for either because it hits just above the knee, which is my personal favorite length. One of the things I love about all of my Bolero dresses (of which I have more than a few!) is how versatile they can be given the right layering pieces. In our climate, the dreamily smooth, no-wrinkle fabric is also fairly seasonless even in winter, provided you add some layers.
Be forewarned, nevertheless, that like other similar skirts, there is the potential for a full-on Marilyn Monroe moment if the wind catches the fabric just right. I have this problem with my 50s-esque skirts too, so I try to wear shorts or tights just in case.
For the review, Patricia sent me three different dresses to try, and I ended up keeping both the solid black and the blue print. The black Carmen embodies the quintessential little black dress with its classy marriage of modern with vintage. The narrow band of the waist features a peek-a-boo crocheted geometric print which coyly exposes the skin beneath; however, if baring your belly is not your thing, rest assured Patricia has versions with a solid cover. Personally, I think the hint of skin adds unique flair although for work, I either wear a belt on top of it or, in the case of the black one, layer my Anna Pardal Hibiscus Longline underneath the dress. The longline adds to the pattern of the crochet while still covering the skin.
As much as I love the black, I adore the blue abstract print. Green is my favorite color, and I was very close to ordering the one shown in the stunning Leah of Hourglassy’s review were it not for the fact I already have a green-based Bolero. My new goal is to get one of her dresses in every color. Forget tasting the rainbow, I want to wear it! I was disappointed in my decision because the print has so much depth and vibrancy in person. Patricia manages to find these unique trend-transcending prints for her clothes, some of which are more classic like polka dots while others deftly mix bright, contrasting hues. For this print, there is an artistic exploration of the many shades of blue all anchored by the black.
Finally, there is the lovely solid teal dress with a richness that flatters most skin tones. Like the black dress, the teal is classic and sophisticated although the band here eschews the crochet detail for a translucent mesh. One of my peonies makes an appearance, and while I am not one for showing my stomach, I like how the dress offers a muted cut-out component which is on trend. Of course, you can order something solid too.
Did I mention the Carmen has pockets? I freakin’ love pockets in dresses. In fact, I just like pockets in general, so to have a gorgeous beautiful dress like this with pockets is sort of my nirvana. They are sewn into the folds of the circle skirt so as to be invisible and not interfere with the flow of the dress, but they are also deep enough to hold my credit cards and phone without diminishing the beautiful of the silhouette. The only thing better than pockets are practical pockets!
For Bolero, I usually take a size small, and these dresses are no different. However, I never ever want anyone to witness how I take off and put on the dress. The narrow band and my 30HH boobs, especially when adorning Comexim or Anna Pardal bras, engage in a mild skirmish. When I put this dress on over my head (because my butt ain’t small either), I pull all the skirt down first, making it seem like I am wearing one of those old tent-like maternity tops. Then, I gently pull up one boob at a time little by little until they are above the band. Afterwards, I adjust everything into place. It’s a sacrifice I will endure to ensure the band fits snugly at my waist, but I look ridiculous while doing this. Having given the Internet that charming visual, the mesh one is significantly easier than the crochet piece, but the tighter, woven nature of the crochet waist bands means I take my time in the morning . . . and try to wear bras without texture.
Quality is exactly what you expect from Bolero. I’ve heard that some people would never spend $150 on a dress, but these dresses are worth every penny. Not only are you supporting a small business, but in a time when people demanding fair wages and responsible manufacturing, Bolero is ahead of the curve, paying her sewing team above minimum wage and producing them in an ethical setting. She makes her dresses to order too and is open to modifying patterns to improve fit. Most of the dresses at Nordstrom cost as much if not more than Bolero, and they are mass-produced with lower quality. My philosophy is buy fewer higher quality pieces, but I know that isn’t for everyone so no judgment here. I will say that I wear these dresses all the time because they are the easiest thing for my job. I toss them in the wash, and they come out looking new every time. It’s a product I believe in, which is why I am such a big supporter of her, and I hope if you haven’t tried her designs yet, you will soon.
Carmen is an online exclusive for Bolero at the moment, but you can purchase it on their website BoleroBeachwear.com. They offer free shipping, and new customers receive 20% off their first order!