The Return of This Controversial '90s Trend Has Divided Our Team

As editors, our job is to see past our own style preferences and have the ability to look at fashion objectively. While we might not personally resonate with a particular trend or item, everything has its place in the style ecosystem. Most of the time, we can be impartial about said trends and items, and embrace them for what they are: not our cup of tea, but certainly someone else's. However, over the last few weeks, there's one particular buy that's been the subject of debate in our Slack group.

The bolero fashion trend first peaked in the '90s. I remember buying a khaki crochet number from Stradivarius and showing it off to my (probably unimpressed) friends when I got back. The bolero has been called many things in its time—arm warmers, shrugs, sweater sleeves, and sleeve scarves—but the same principle applies; it's a close-fitting cardigan or jacket, cut short at the front and back so that only the arms and shoulders are covered. And now that its back on the scene, proving to be as divisive as fashion trends come.


(Image credit: @SOLENEOJ)

Everyone on our team agrees that it can look chic (we have plenty of evidence to support this). What we can't seem to understand is its actual purpose. "For me, there should be more of a distinction between arm warmers and boleros," says our assistant editor, Nell Block. "Arm warmers implies that it's just on the arms whereas a bolero is akin to a little jacket, which is fine by me. If you're going to wear arm warmers in the truest sense, wouldn't you just wear a jumper?" 

"If I'm cold, I'd grab a jumper," says editor Emma Spedding. "This is a look that's aesthetic over function, which is cool, but let's not dress it up as anything else." 

Let's look at the aesthetics more closely then, shall we? Our Shopping Editor, Joy Montgomery, sees its potential but concedes that styling is key to the bolero's success. "Tonality is key with this trend," she stresses. "I like the bolero fashion trend when it's worn in a co-ord sort of way. The pieces don't need to match perfectly, but sticking to the same palette will make it more expensive looking." 

She's not wrong. We've trawled through Instagram to bring you some of the chicest examples of how to wear the bolero fashion trend, all of which share a common thread: tonality. Take Solène (above), who pairs her brown textured bolero with a fawn-coloured bra top. It works, and there's plenty more outfit inspiration where that came from. Scroll below to see some of our favourite bolero fashion trend looks, then shop the best arm warmers/shrugs/sweater sleeves/sleeve scarves around. 



(Image credit: @ALYSSAINTHECITY)


(Image credit: @CHAINKYR)


(Image credit: @CHAMPAGNEMANI)




(Image credit: @LEFEVREDIARY)




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Maxine Eggenberger
Deputy Editor

Maxine Eggenberger is Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor and has over thirteen years of experience in fashion journalism. She been creating engaging and elevated style content specifically for Who What Wear UK since 2018, covering runway reports, emerging trends, long-form features, self-styled shopping stories and columns, including her edit of the best new-in buys. She ensures the highest editorial standards are met across the site, leads the editorial team in their SEO strategy and keyword planning, works closely with the beauty team on content initiatives, represents the brand at industry events, and regularly contributes to social media, including her own Who What Wear UK TikTok franchise, French Style Fridays. Previously, Maxine appeared on ITV's This Morning in her own fashion segment and has interviewed countless celebrities—everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Prior to Who What Wear UK, Maxine’s career began when, after completing her first-ever internship at Look magazine, she was offered a position on the brand's fashion desk. She accepted, leaving university a year early in the process. Her passion and natural talent for writing and styling meant she swiftly rose through the ranks to become the title's fashion news and commercial content editor, with a stint as’s fashion and beauty writer along the way. She later served as Look’s acting Editor in Chief, overseeing both print and digital, before embarking on a successful freelance career, working with Grazia, The Pool, and Marie Claire amongst others.

Maxine is based remotely from her countryside home near Edinburgh where she spends her downtime renovating her house, walking her dogs, hosting friends and trying to master the art of making Old Fashioned cocktails.