Roundup: Wedding Boleros

These are not 2004's coverup


Parker J. Pfister via East Side Bride 

Q: Hi there!

I just saw your post on wedding veils that really don’t suck and I’m wondering if you can do a similar post on wedding boleros! While my church isn’t requiring that I wear one, growing up in Catholic schools has left me feeling a little awkward about walking into church in a strapless dress. My dress is being custom made (by Mom!) so I have some flexibility, but we’re having a hard time finding inspiration. I hate the look of a shawl and every bolero I’ve seen is hideous.

Much appreciated!


A: Dear Christy,

Once upon a time, way back in 2004–2005, you couldn’t get out of bed without bumping into someone wearing a bolero. The reason you can’t find a bolero you like now? They just aren’t on trend at the moment (see previous comment about 2004). Which means that the stuff that is available, well, it ain’t cute. In fact, I tried to back out of this roundup on that very principle, but then Meg showed me the picture from Christine & Michael’s wedding above, and the score quickly became Meg 1; Maddie 0. In my efforts to find a non-cheesy bolero, I discovered that the key to weeding out the really stunning stuff from the crap is to expand your definition of what a wedding coverup looks like, and more importantly, what it’s called. The majority of wedding coverups share mostly the same basic structure. A bolero by any other name will still cover your shoulders enough to make you feel church appropriate. So if you hate shawls and don’t like any of the boleros you’ve seen, then don’t wear one of those! Instead, try searching for shrugs, capelets, cropped jackets, or any one of the totally awesome things I’ve found for you below. You and I both know I’m secretly pulling for feathers, or at the very least, that bombshell capelet from BHLDN.

1. Jenny Packham Santorini Feather Bridal Wrap (£546) 2. Ostrich Feather Shrug Jacket by The Wedding Dresser via Etsy ($895) 3. Pissarro Nights Beaded Overlayer ($78) 4. BHLDN Trickling Capelet ($140) 5. Heloise Lace Top by Leanimal via Etsy ($225) 6. Milly Perforated Neoprene Cropped Bolero ($195) 7. Pissarro Nights Beaded Lace Shawl ($78) 8. White Vintage Lace Caplet by dahlnyc via Etsy 9. Party of the Year Sequined Bolero from Ruche ($69.50) 10. Ann Taylor Angora Blend Shrug ($95) 11. Montaigne Beaded Capelet from Ruche ($98.99) 12. Joan Rivers 3/4 Sleeve Sequin Shrug from QVC ($59.75)

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  • Caitlin_DD

    If my dress didn’t already have sleeves…! You could totally have a more refined ceremony coverup, and then get glamorous (feathers!) for the reception.

  • Alison O

    um, I need the BHLDN one. just to wear around the house. that and #1. and 3, 9, 10, 11, and 12 wouldn’t hurt, either. esp. since i just moved from the east coast to LA–i’m used to layering, but the layers had better be pretty thin here if one doesn’t want to sweat through them all. maybe if I get an office job somewhere over-air-conditioned i’ll get to wear my cashmere et al some day…

  • Laura C

    I actually got a really great non-wedding bolero recently at Anthropologie. Black with giant gold flowers. And I got it way on sale, so it was that much more of a win.

    But the most fabulous wedding cover-up I ever saw basically took the place of a veil, too. It was gauzy white with sleeves and then I want to say it tied or pinned in front — came together at just one point. But then the back was this huge long train. So when she took it off, she didn’t need to bustle her dress or anything because she’d had the effect of, like, a cathedral veil and a dress with a train all in one, while covering up for church. I wish I could describe it better!

    • genevathene

      That sounds so lovely! You wouldn’t happen to have any (non-identifiable of the bride) pictures, do you?

      • Laura C

        Unfortunately not! I actually went and looked to help myself come up with a description and didn’t see any. Maybe I’ll ask her husband where it came from.

  • Jill

    Wanted to chime in to say that my church did require a cover-up but 1) I hated the look of a normal bolero/shrug and felt they took away from my dress and 2) we didn’t want to spend a ton of $$ since I knew I would take it off for the reception. With Octavia Spencer’s 2013 Oscar look as inspiration (See: we simply took a long and very wide piece of tulle, gathered it, wrapped it around my shoulders (straight and kind of drapy across the front, ends towards the back) and secured. My grandmother actually put snaps on both ends of the tulle and the inside of my dress to make a kind of “v” in the back, but you could be even less fancy and just pin or use a brooch to secure once it’s on.

    • Sarah E


  • InTheBurbs

    Don’t be afraid of color – my mom made me a bright purple caplet that I would have happily worn for the ceremony if I needed it – but my Catholic wedding was a bit less formal…

  • Kaya

    I found a gorgeous wedding wrap thing at Zara… It was listed as “open front cardigan. The “oatmeal” color looked lovely with my ivory dress and I felt stylish (rather than bridal).

  • My bolero didn’t suck… but I never would have thought to go full on red without my sister choosing it for me. Go sisters! And Etsy.

  • Inmara

    I had a simple cover-up made by seamstress from piece of teal blue satin – it was cut somehow fancy, like a circle with one slit to the center, and was very adjustable. Get used a lot due to windy and rainy weather, and everyone complimented the color! Total cost around 30$ (OK, seamstresses are cheaper here, but it is doable by everyone who has sewing machine).

  • Lisa

    I have been looking for a good gold sequin jacket ever since the cover-up round-up last year (the sequin jacket in that one was discontinued), and then today #12 appears!!!

    • Lisa

      Noooo… the gold is sold out! :(

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Nooo! What about one of these instead?

        • vegankitchendiaries

          SO PRETTY

        • Lisa

          Ooo, I think I like these even better since they’re more open up top, which would allow people to see the beadwork my mom is going to do on the top better. I also put myself on the waitlist for the Joan Rivers jacket since I can sometimes wear an XS.

          And I’ve looked at Etsy for practically every other thing for this wedding so how did I not think to go there for this?!

        • ASH

          YES! I was just popping by the suggest that exact gold sequin bolero!! I bought it for my wedding and it was stunning!! I only wore it for parts of the day (not the ceremony) but it felt really special and perfect.

  • Class of 1980

    I never dreamt that strapless dresses would have such a long run.

    But since they have, wouldn’t you think wedding dress manufacturers would automatically create coordinating sheer coverups? The BHLDN one shows what could be done. Then people wouldn’t have to look all over Hell’s half acre trying to find one that actually compliments their existing dress.

    The solution seems so obvious. ;)

    • Meg Keene

      YOU WOULD THINK. You would think.

      But I think the fact that no one was doing APW first means the wedding industry is not terrifically good at filling gaping holes in the market.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I wonder if it depends on where you are. When I went to a small bridal salon on the Peninsula in 2012, the consultant said she did “build ups” all the time for Mormon brides when she was in Idaho. Certain designers had regular-bra options, just like they have train/no train and bustle v. zipper v. button-back options. She couldn’t remember which designers and didn’t have any pictures, but I understood it had to do with adding fabric to cover the collarbone and shoulders.

        I’m not Mormon, I just wanted sleeves for my winter wedding. I ended up getting a custom-made dress.

        • Meg Keene

          Sadly, build ups are not really sleeved dresses. They’re… not very cute, usually. You can change a dress that’s sleeveless to have sleeves, but the structure of a strapless makes most buildups not as cute as you’d hope.

          So yeah, they’re common, but no, they’re not the ideal solution.

          • Class of 1980

            1000% agree. I had the (bad) luck of watching a couple of TV shows where they converted strapless dresses to cap sleeves for brides with religious requirements for modesty. The build ups also involved making the neckline higher too.

            I’m sure someone somewhere has done it successfully, but these looked awful. It was obvious at a glance that they had originally been strapless!

      • Class of 1980

        Ha ha! Yep.

      • laurasmash

        I tried on a Vera Wang dress at David’s Bridal the other day, and the sales lady brought me a matching shrug/shoulder coverup thingy that was designed to match the dress! So, some designers are getting the idea :) I think this was the one

  • iz

    i almost got this for my own wedding for the evening in case it got cold, but luckily the weather stayed warm all night. However, I still think it’s beautiful.

  • Heh

    Recently, in a bout of uncertainty surrounding my short-sleeved wedding dress, I tucked the sleeves into the dress and realized that I actually kind of rock a strapless dress (I know, betrayal). But, our wedding is this coming winter, so for the outdoor parts I really wanted something to toss over my shoulders. Enter APW, timely as always! I’m actually knitting myself a bolero from this awesome colorway that I’ve been referring to as “dark Lisa Frank”. If it turns out horribly, I might just go for feathers Maddie. I just might.

  • deepbluedream

    I am so devastated! I went to buy #10 and this item doesn’t ship to Canada! :( :( :(

    • Kat91314

      Um, I’m in NY. If you order it & ship it to me, I’ll just re-ship it up to you if we trade addresses. Just sayin’ :-)

  • Alynae

    My go to wrap for formal events is a pashmina that is worn over the shoulders, then under the arms and tied in back to create a bolero effect. You could do this with any tulle or material already in your gown or veil really easily! I like it because its easy and looks really nice from the front and the back. Here is a general idea

  • Lisa

    That angora one is awesome.

  • Hannah B

    If you have more time/money and love bling, both Hayley Paige and Carol Hannah (a fellow project runway alum to above listed Leanimal, aka Leanne Marshall,) have shown some absolutely drop dead gorgeous boleros/jackets. CH even sells some of them online! For example, .

  • Emily

    Etsy is your friend.
    I ordered this bolero for my Sydney winter wedding in June last year from a seller in Istanbul. Prompt, hassle free. I was able to choose a teal colour from a wide range of colours. If this isn’t your style, this seller and other Etsy sellers have different styles to choose from.

  • Our seamstress, Miss Brache from Etsy, made my bolero, dress, and M’s vest. Custom was the way to go for us.

  • My dress had sleeves, but it was winter. I used a coat and scarf to add color to my outfit. I’ve seen white coats, capes, etc for wedding dresses. But I love how my dark black wool coat and purple scarf looked with my wedding dress. And I love that I still wear the coat and scarf when I happen to be in a place where it’s winter (Southern Arizona doesn’t really do the whole winter thing).

  • Jade

    I’m having a spring wedding but I already know May in Canada will be too cold for me (I’m never warm unless it’s 28 degrees and humid) and I’ve had terrible luck with finding a cover-up, everything takes away from how awesome the dress already looks on me.

    Might just suck it up and deal with being a little chilly. If anything, I’d find a pashmina shawl in oatmeal or beige to throw on in moments of weakness.

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