Flash back to 2002. I was 16, a senior in high school, and on a desperate hunt for a dress to wear to my prom that was not neon, a potato sack, or too revealing. Everything I tried in my increasingly self-defeating quest would not zip over my boobs in the size which fit my waist, and after two hours of tedium and disappointment, I nearly cried when I stumbled upon a hidden size 12 dress, out of place and wedged between two spaghetti strap dresses (uh, no). My prom salvation was a sleeveless, A-line dress in an ethereal silver color, and the best part? A corset-style back which laced up as tight as I needed it around the waist without mashing my breast tissue into an unflattering blob. Sold!
Since then, I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more flexible sizing and fit elements incorporated into designs for clothing, whether that means a lace-up back, a tie element, or something else I’m not creative enough to conceive at the moment. Imagine how much easier clothes shopping would be if you had the ability to tighten or loosen certain areas of a garment without resorting to alterations. Patricia of Bolero Beachwear, who has been flush with new ideas the last few months, tackled this problem and created the Princess Ella Dress, a knee-length A-Line dress with a wide sweetheart neckline and corset back with interchangeable ribbons.
I joked with Patricia about my black dress obsession and how I need to inject some color, and like a true enabler (or as I learned last week, a “sonsacador” en espanol), Patricia sent a gorgeous black Princess Ella dress with a box full of colored ribbons along with a printed version for the review. As with all Bolero products, the dresses are made in the USA under ethical working conditions and feature a lightweight polyblend fabric which never wrinkles, dries quickly, and is ideal for travel. The elasticity of the fabric also allows some flexibility in sizing and fit, making them a favorite among fuller-busted people.
Because of that pesky weight gain I keep mentioning but not losing, I am wearing the size medium here, and in other clothes, I am wearing around a size 10/12. The medium fits beautifully and accommodates my UK size 30HH/32H chest easily. Even without the unique lace-up back, I love the shape and design of the Princess Ella. Three quarter sleeves are exceptionally flattering and versatile, thus enabling the dress to transition throughout the year, and the open sweetheart neckline reminds me of several Disney princes gowns. Center ruching contours to the bust and combined with the fabric gives people wearing D+ cups a comfortable fit.
Tailored at the waist, Princess Ella falls gently down the body in a soft A-line shape and lands slightly above the knee for a length and silhouette appropriate for work or for dancing. Unlike the Erica and Carmen dresses which use a circle skirt bottom, Ella drops straighter in the front although not as tightly as the Kim Skater Dress or the classic DD+ sleeveless. The use of a slightly roomier skirt is a nice compromise for anyone wanting a flare without the extra fabric or pleats of the Erica and Carmen.
However, the practical yet whimsical addition of the ribbon-laced back sets Princess Ella apart. The sewn-in loops can be laced with anything from thinner cords to beautiful ribbons, allowing you to customize the overall look from day to day. For the reviews, I used the ribbons Patricia sent in the dress, but I love the idea of experimenting on the solid black with a variety of textures, weights, and colors. As intended, the ability to lace the back tighter or looser improves the overall fit and can open the design to multiple body shapes.
My only caveat at the moment is the solid black color and three quarter sleeves (two things I love so much) are just too damn hot to wear right now. We had a high of 98 today with a “please enjoy this water while you breathe” level of humidity, and the thought of wearing anything other than sleeveless and airy was just too much for me!
If you’re new to Bolero, I recommend reading through my past reviews as each dress is a little different. Princess Ella makes for a lovely entry into the shapes, and I think the corset component could complement a more pin-up inspired fabric like stripes or polka dots well.