What Is a Bolero Jacket?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A bolero jacket is a short cropped jacket that usually has long sleeves. The origin of the name is unknown, though the word bolero is also used to describe a traditional form of Spanish dance, and is the title of a well-known classical music piece by Ravel. Bolero jackets can be made of many different types of fabrics and can be used to dress up or down almost any type of outfit.

A bolero jacket made from satin is sure to dress up an outfit.
A bolero jacket made from satin is sure to dress up an outfit.

Commonly, this jacket will cover only the upper torso, shoulders, and arms, leaving the waist and hips uncovered. Many jackets fasten in the front with a button or short zipper, though some styles also feature long pieces of fabric that can be tied. The cropped shape of the bolero can help emphasize the waist by reducing fabric bulk around this area, and can also help create or enhance an hourglass silhouette. Silk, satin, and velvet are all excellent fabrics that will help a bolero dress up an outfit.

A bolero jacket can be handy for women heading straight from work or class into the nighttime scene. By wearing this jacket, skimpy shirts such as tube tops or halters can be covered up enough to wear to some offices. This handy trick can prevent dragging along a second outfit choice, making the transition from day to night as simple as removing the shrug.

Although some boleros can be worn at any time of year, they are often seen during spring and summer as an alternative to a heavier jacket or sweater. Wearing a bolero provides some warmth in case of seasonal breezes, but typically will not be suitable in especially cold weather. Additionally, the softer fabrics used to create many boleros will do little good against the rain.

Brides planning ahead for a wedding where weather may be unpredictable may do well to order a bolero jacket that matches a sleeveless or halter gown. In addition to providing a hint of warmth should the weather turn chilly, these garments are also excellent for covering up arms to preserve modesty during a formal or church service. A bridal bolero jacket can be an excellent accessory to a wedding dress, allowing an opportunity for detailing or contrasting embroidery. Additionally, a bridal bolero can be worn separately from the dress, perfect for slipping on at anniversary celebrations as a reminder of the wedding day.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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The bolero jacket originated in Spain as part of the gentleman's dance costume and also as the equestrian rider in bullfights and Alta Escuela or high school performances with Andalusian and Lucitano horses. The bolero is a short cut jacket that should fall just at the bottom of the rib cage and not at the waist.


If you're interested in updating the bolero look, then an organza bolero jacket is a good option. It looks old enough to be vintage, but funky enough to make a fashion statement.

On the other hand, if you're craftily-inclined, there are a ton of bolero jacket patterns out there. It's actually not that hard to sew a bolero jacket, or knit one if you're really interested.

One thing to remember with your boleros though is to make sure you get the length right. Too long and it looks like you're wearing an unfortunately cropped jacket; too short and you look like you're wearing a teenager's sweater. So keep an eye on the length, and you'll be good to go.


Can you give me the best advice for matching a bolero to a bridesmaid's dress? My sister is getting married in a few months, and she is totally freaking out about the possibility that it might be cold, so she's asking all the bridesmaids to get a wedding bolero jacket as well.

Unfortunately, most of the wedding bolero jackets you see are made for the bride's dress, not a bridesmaid's dress. And then on the other end of the spectrum you've got all the prom dress satin bolero jackets that just don't look formal enough.

So what should I do? The bridesmaid's dress that I'm wearing is sort of fuschia, and made of shiny satin. Any suggestions?


I love bolero jackets -- besides looking super-fashionable, they're just so versatile.

One of my long-term go-to pieces is a white satin bolero jacket. It works really well with jeans, but can also go over a LBD when I go out for cocktails -- it's the perfect transition piece.

If you're looking for your first bolero, then a lace bolero jacket is good, because then you can wear it at work rather than a cardigan, and it also looks fun paired with jeans or a more casual look.

Or you can get really funky with a fur bolero jacket or even a sequin bolero jacket when you go out to the clubs.

There are just so many options with this piece of clothing, it really is a must-have for any woman's wardrobe.

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