All in the Details

Shrug vs. Bolero: Everything You Need to Know

by Leah Bourne


There aren’t many articles of clothing that are appropriate for both a movie outing and a black-tie event. Except, of course, a high-fashion shrug or a distinguished bolero.

Both can be worn as a way to preserve some modesty, but don’t write either off as the frock you saw hanging in your grandmother’s closet. They can be made from a variety of knits, be bedazzled to the nth degree, and can undoubtedly elevate a look.

But when it comes to a shrug vs. bolero, many of us are left wondering—what exactly is the difference? Let’s break down the difference once and for all.

What’s a Shrug?

WHBM Shrug

Think of a shrug as a very cropped cardigan. Normally considered more of a casual outfit addition, a shrug looks great with jeans or over a dress at the office. Looking to work one into your ensemble? Try these two styles:

Knit Shrug

Do you, more often than not, find yourself absolutely freezing at work? A knit shrug is the perfect antidote to making sure you’re always comfortable at your desk, while looking fashionable, too. So forget your standby office blanket, and throw a shrug over a pencil skirt and bodysuit instead. This versatile garment also goes great with black pants and a tucked-in, button-down shirt, or over a sheath dress. And because it’s next to impossible to predict the temperature in your office on any given day, stash a go-to knit shrug in your office drawer—you never know when you’ll need it.

Embellished Shrug

How many times have you wanted to dress up an outfit, while also putting in zero effort? Probably more often than you can count. That’s where the embellished shrug—think sequins, pearls, or even beading—comes in. For instance, when you wear a beaded shrug with a tank top and jeans, your look will go from casual to refined with next to no effort. An embellished shrug can also be the perfect companion to either a knit tank dress or a little black dress.

What’s a Bolero?

WHBM Bolero

A bolero, on the other hand, is a slightly dressier item that tends to be reserved for fancier evenings out. You’ll often see women in the society pages of newspapers and magazines wearing matching boleros with their evening gowns. Think of a bolero as a very cropped jacket, with a little more structure than a shrug.

They come in a range of fabrics, from tailored knits to faux fur to duchess satin. And while the bolero may have been invented with the dressiest of occasions in mind, they’ve been a hit on the runway and coveted by street style stars, too—who are wearing them with everything from jeans to a pencil skirt.

Here are three styles of boleros you should know:

Knit Bolero

What’s the difference between a knit bolero and a knit shrug? Knit boleros closely resemble a cropped jacket, and tend to be longer and more structured than their shrug counterpart. They pair well with pencil skirts as a fashion-forward substitute for a traditional jacket. Knit boleros also look great with cocktail dresses.

So if you’re dressed to impress, but still feel like your look is missing something, adding a knit bolero usually does the trick.

Faux-Fur Bolero

Have you ever worn a fancy evening gown and wondered what kind of a jacket to wear? In the colder months, there’s no better, or more glamorous, option than a faux-fur bolero. And this fashionable piece can be worn all year long. Consider also pairing one with jeans and a T-shirt to achieve the perfect balance of casual and sophisticated.

Feather-Trim Bolero

And if you’re looking to make a bold statement, there’s really only one choice: the feather-trim bolero. This item is a showstopper, whether it’s worn over a cocktail dress or maxi dress. Dare to don one and you’ll no doubt have people coming up to you all night, showering you with compliments.

Our advice when it comes to the shrug vs. bolero? Throw out whatever preconceptions you might have had about them. Have fun and experiment because with these two items in your closet, your outfit options are virtually endless.

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