“It is literally true that you can’t have too many jackets. Marjorie Howard reports that many of Schiaparelli’s clients are ordering just one evening gown and from three to six different jackets to wear over it. A young friend of mine who has spent most of her life in Paris and who knows fashions as well as the alphabet is going about these days in a simple black crepe dress varied by a series of different colored jackets. In Palm Beach last February jackets were extremely popular. All of which adds up to this: one spectator sports dress, one general daytime dress and one evening dress plus several jackets each, practically give you a summer wardrobe. And that’s a cheering fact, whether you consider it from the economical or dressmaking angle.” — Ethel Holland Little, Women’s Home Companion, July 1937.
Although it’s not referred to as a “Triad pattern,” the buyer got three different jacket patterns in Companion-Butterick No. 7459.
The jacket fashion that appeared repeatedly in 1937, however, was the bolero — a term which now meant a jacket that ended above the waist.
Here is an early 1930’s Schiaparelli bolero jacket from the Metropolitan Museum collection:
Elsa Schiaparelli was still making bolero jackets in 1940; this beaded jacket came in coral pink or in a blue version:
Mainbocher showed this bolero-topped suit in 1938.
Paris designer Lucile Paray showed this fur-trimmed bolero and evening gown combination in 1937:
This bolero jacket pattern was suggested for young women or teens in April 1937:
For more 1937 jacket and dress patterns for teens and twenties, click here. These two jackets were also featured in April of 1937:In May, the Woman’s Home Companion gave a full page to this dress with a matching or contrasting short jacket which ties at the waist:
Here it is with contrast trim:
These illustrations for jacket dress No. 7359 show how bolero jackets in different colors could diversify a small wardrobe. [I.e., the white jacket could be worn with the brown and white or the blue and white print dresses, as well as with solid colors; the rust brown jacket could be also worn with the black dress, etc. The easy-to-make bolero could make one dress look like many in the same way as a set of collars.]
For older readers, a bolero was combined with a halter-top evening dress, especially suitable for cruises and summer resorts. This pattern was available up to Bust measure 44 inches.
The combination of evening dress and jacket was also called a dinner suit. A bolero evening jacket, if made in fine linen or silk shantung instead of taffeta, could also be worn with day dresses. Again, the bolero in different colors gives variety to a limited vacation wardrobe — and only takes one and a half yards of fabric.
Maybe the reason I’m attracted to light-colored bolero tops with darker dresses is that the style is flattering to women who have narrow shoulders and wide hips. Even when the bolero was the same color as the dress, it was recommended for minimizing the hips:
“Everything about this (the wide sleeves, the contrasting top, the short jacket length) tends to add width above the waist giving [the woman who has two or three surplus inches at the hips] a well-proportioned silhouette.”
A Sheer Vintage Bolero
It might be fun to try to copy this vintage evening bolero, which has two layers of stiff organdy, each layer made of two layers of fabric treated as one and bound with a bias strip. This garment was badly in need of washing — it was originally white. You can see the deep armhole, which makes it a bolero, rather than a little cape.
Two layers of organdy were seamed at the right angle of the lapels, turned, and pressed, instead of being bound. There was no center back seam.