With winter about to take its hold full-force, we’re dreaming of airy and light boho fashion. It’s an aesthetic that feels like it’s been around for decades, but it’s actually fairly new.
There is a timelessness to the boho-chic look that makes it feel ever-fashionable, and it’s versatile enough to always look fresh. It also stands out as the kind of alternative fashion style that is quite well-accepted by the mainstream, despite representing a vagabond lifestyle and rejection of norms.
What is Boho Fashion?
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Boho fashion is a style inspired by the hippie fashions of the 60s and 70s, with a preference for natural fabrics and materials, flowy silhouettes, and ethnic motifs (especially in the form of prints and knits) from a wide range of cultures.
Boho fashion brings to mind a free-spirited person who travels a lot and perhaps buys their clothes from artisans in the markets and bazaars in the different locales they visit. Because of this, boho fashion is not minimalistic even though it can be very carefully curated -- it allows for high contrast pairings and a lot of accessories.
The cool thing about boho-chic fashion is that it adapts to the trends and silhouettes of its time while retaining some airiness, so whereas boho-chic in 2003 featured a lot of low-rise flared jeans, the boho-chic of 2019 includes high-waisted vintage jeans, instead.
A Brief History of Boho
In was in the early 2000s that people really started talking about boho or boho-chic as a style of fashion. The term “boho” which is short for bohemian, is much much older, of course.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, originally, Bohemian was a term applied to the Roma gypsies in France, who were mistakenly thought to have come from Bohemia. Soon enough, however, the term was instead increasingly applied to the free-spirited but poor artists who often found themselves living a lifestyle that at least economically, was not dissimilar to that of the heavily marginalized Roma people.
There are basically three elements that come together to describe a member of the bohemian subculture from the mid-19th century onwards: creative pursuits (music, art, writing, or journalism, usually), a rejection of social mores, and poverty. Constant travel (often because of economic necessity) and political dissent often came hand in hand with the bohemian lifestyle. Puccini’s opera La bohème famously told the story of a group of Bohemians living in poverty in Paris’ Latin Quarter. Over the years, the term spread to all of the major European cities and even made its way to the United States, and was applied on and off to various countercultures.
In the 60s, the hippie movement became the main counterculture, and it’s easy to see it as an extension of the bohemian subculture that existed in the previous decades, with the same values and a similar lifestyle. The hippie movement is notable because it also included a very specific fashion style that heavily influenced the modern-day boho aesthetic.
The Fashion Encyclopedia describes their style as including ethnic clothes and old-fashion garments, as well as “headbands, floppy hats, flowing scarves, and beads with blue jeans or bell-bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirts.”
While the spirit of the hippie movement continued into the punk subculture, aesthetically, boho-chic fashion is a more direct descendant. This style first reared its head in the early 2000s and is closely associated with celebrities like Sienna Miller, Nicole Ritchie (not to mention her stylist, Rachel Zoe), and Kate Moss. It is hard not to associate the style with music festival cultures, like the Glastonbury Music Festival and, more recently, Coachella.
From the mid-2000s and on, certain boho-chic elements have come in and out of style but since there was always an element of free-spirited whimsy to the aesthetic, it was also able to transcend mainstream fashion trends. At the same time, however, it has lost quite a bit of the counterculture edge and political ideals that the early Bohemians and the hippie movement had in spades.
The Boho-Chic Essentials
First, let’s cover the colors and prints of boho fashion. The neutrals of a boho wardrobe are usually earthy tones - browns, taupes, beiges, and faded denim blue. However, there is a lot of room for color, with bohemian prints figuring very heavily in the look. Florals, geometric patterns, and paisley are all fair game, while for winter, crochet and loose knits are ideal.
The staple garments include maxi dresses, shorter flowy dresses, and loose blouses and button-ups made of fabrics like linen, and raw cotton. Raw denim is also fair game. Flowy skirts and light-colored or distressed denim. If you feel brave, you can absolutely mix and match printed tops and bottoms, though generally, it’s safer to stick to only one printed garment. If your outfit is all neutrals, you can add a printed scarf for color and movement.
Beyond scarves, there is lots more room to accessorize a boho-chic wardrobe: a sunhat, vests (which are about to be huge in 2020), sandals made of natural materials or espadrilles, earth-toned slouchy boots, boho and bucket bags, and layers of dangly jewelry that can be made of a variety of metals, as well as wood and fabric.
The words ‘natural’ and ‘flowy’ should also come to mind with boho-chic grooming. Hair should be styled to be loosely wavy or curly, with the occasional messy updo or thick braid. Those who adhere to boho style usually keep their makeup looking very natural with bronzer used to provide a sunkissed effect.
Do you love the boho-chic style or do you think it’s lost its edge? Comment on Facebook and share your thoughts!