With the headache of revamping the online store portion of our total website overhaul nearing completion and my brother on the mend from his recent experience, I want to dedicate time to one of my favorite store-related activities: Blogging! Ever since I was younger, I have loved to write, and blogging has been a wonderful outlet for me, even if the posts are not strictly personal. While today’s article is in the familiar vein of product reviews, it does hold an emotional significance to me as well. Some of you know by now that Anna Pardal was kind enough to name her Sophisticate style after our store, and Patricia of Bolero created and named a dress for me.
One of the complaints I hear often in this business from other retailers and from small business owners as a whole is how undervalued and unappreciated we can feel. Far too often, the valuable services boutiques provide are exploited by customers or downplayed entirely. Most of us, at one low point or another, have contemplated quitting altogether. What keeps us moving forward are those moments when all of the sacrifices and all of the negative experiences are eclipsed by someone reminding us why we started a lingerie business in the first place. We live for those moments when a customer is ecstatic with their new bras or when someone takes the time to leave us a review, and in this case, for the time two amazing brands bestow an honor on you and your shop. I will never be able to adequately express the pure elation I felt and continue to feel when I think about their kindness and generosity.
And to that effect, I would be completely remiss if I did not give my eponymous dress a fair and impartial review; however, since my blogging has been nonexistent lately, I am also adding a bonus review of the wrap dress too! Both dresses are a size small which is my standard Bolero size. In my Carmen review, I mentioned the firmer center band causes me to engage in an embarrassingly unflattering dance whenever I put it on because of my boobage, but with the Erica dress, I can get dressed (or undressed) much easier. Likewise, the wrap dress fits beautifully and reminds me of the wrap tops I reviewed in a longer version.
The Erica dress, in my humble opinion, is not only one of Bolero’s best designs but is also one of the most flattering silhouettes across designers. And I promise I don’t just feel this way because it bears my name. First, the 3/4 sleeve length is exceptionally flattering, particularly for women who feel self-conscious bearing their upper arms. With that said, I think the dress would look beautiful in a sleeveless version too. While I love to layer, I have heard from other customers they would prefer dresses with sleeves to avoid needing to wear cardigans or jackets to the office.
The faux wrap top portion has a flattering open neckline which tapers into a fitted waist with some strategic ruching to camouflage the upper tummy. Furthermore, the dress also comes equipped with the back fat banishing panel I mentioned in an earlier post, meaning your bra is easily concealed beneath the dress for a smooth, flattering look. Since cleavage is acceptable when you own a bra store, I rarely wear a camisole underneath, but the v-shaped neckline is lower cut. Anyone working in a more conservative environment will want to add a layer underneath, and when I need/choose to do so, I found a Perfect Cami works nicely.
While the top is more fitted and ends near my natural waist, the bottom utilizes the same circle skirt styling as Carmen. Built-in concealed pockets do not add bulk to the design but do offer a convenient place to stash my lip balm. Some of the feedback we heard on Bolero’s original designs centered on the body-conscious fit in the tummy region, forcing people to size up or skip the style altogether. As with Carmen, the Erica dress sports a softly draped and folded fabric to conceal the midsection while still falling gently across the hips. Of course, skirts or dresses which use this design like to flare with strong gusts of wind, and I would not recommend wearing this dress outside on a windy day. However, the construction does easily allow for using petticoats to increase the vintage vibe of the dress.
Because I suffer from a black/white/gray addiction (at the time of writing, I am wearing a black and grey sweater dress with black tights) and Patricia knows this, she sent me the Erica dress in a bold, black and white print. Before Patricia, I never thought of myself as a prints person, but I think I have been converted. If you prefer something a little more classic, the dress is darling in a navy and white polka dot print. For Fall, she has also released a new version with a classic autumnal palette featuring burnt oranges, rich reds, and deep yellow—all grounded by black accents.
Because she is a small business that does not employ mass production for her clothing, Patricia has not only been receptive to feedback but quick to accommodate requests. I won’t rehash my usual “Made in America/Support Small Business” routine again, but I always like to recognize when a company truly listens to their customers and finds a way to meet their needs. If you weren’t a fan of Bolero before, Carmen and Erica really change the game.
But what about the faux-wrap dress? (focus fades out for a flashback) Imagine 23 year old Erica (me, not the dress) wandering around Neiman Marcus for the first time, gazing in awe at what could arguably be described as a museum of high fashion. I couldn’t afford anything in there, but I had to know what a pair of Jimmy Choos looked like up close. Anyway, I meandered into the clothing section and was immediately taken with a Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress. On many occasions, I saw them featured in fashion magazines as “Must Haves”, and while $350 for a dress was like my entire clothing budget, I very very very carefully tried it on for fun. It looked smashing, and I absolutely loved it! And here’s the point of this side story: I love Patricia’s dresses more, and they cost less than half the price. At the time, I found a Ralph Lauren variation of the DVF dress for about $90 (originally $128), but the quality is no where near what you find here, most likely because all Bolero dresses are sewn by a team of seamstresses who can pay attention to each detail.
To be fair, the wrap dress is extremely body-conscious. It’s designed to hug curves closely, and if you are self-conscious about anything between shoulder and knee cap, it’s best to skip this one altogether. Like the original wrap tops, the upper section fits beautifully with a 3/4 sleeve a deeper v-neck (camisole required in more conservative environments), and the lower section has just the right amount of cling to accentuate my hips and booty without feeling skin tight. There’s also strategic ruching here as well to provide a little camouflage in the tummy region and to allow the fabric to lay better on the body.
While the dress is a faux wrap, the bottom is sewn like a traditional wrap so you have the two pieces of fabric folded over together. My only complaint is that the length is a wee bit short for me to wear with that neckline. I tend to follow the old “cleavage or legs, not both” rule. However, I plan to purchase/request a version with a longer hemline. Women who are more petite than me should not have an issue, but I prefer about 2″ more fabric at the bottom.
Featuring an intricate peacock feather and paisley print, the wrap dress takes the boldness factor up to an 11. The purple and teal versions are more subtle than the black and white, and the dress is also available in basic black too. I am considering ordering the longer hemline version in the black simply because the classic shape will work well for years to come. (I am sure my dad, who proofreads for me, is rolling his eyes at the thought of me buying yet another black dress.) Whereas Erica is a little sweeter and more vintage, the wrap dress is a va-va-voom sexy style, and I think it’d be killer for date night. Again, even in the plain black, I suspect this style will be a showstopper!