The 2021 Bohemian Fashion Style and History Guide
The 2021 Bohemian Fashion Style and History Guide
The word Bohemian typically brings to mind the ideas of being free-spirted, artistic, easy-going and relaxed. And that’s exactly what the Bohemian fashion style was born out of.
Who would know then that some artists over 200 years ago in Paris were building a style that would become incredibly popular in the new millennium? A style that was born our of necessity and dedication to creativity, has found main stream acceptance and adoption by a new generation of free-spirited individuals.
Bohemian style, or Boho style for short, today is all about being comfortable and confident in your own skin. Letting your personality and individuality shine through. But how did the style get to where it is today, and what exactly is boho fashion?
In this post we are going to take an in-depth look at boho style. We are going to look at the roots of the bohemians and where the style came from, what defines the style, and what it looks like. We will then talk about some famous bohemian icons that you can model your style on, and look into how you can dress boho-chic.
Finally, we will give you our favorite tips on what types of clothing you should have for your wardrobe and what you should and shouldn’t do with Bohemian fashion. So let’s learn all about boho now!
Where did Bohemian Fashion Style Originate?
Bohemian style can originally traced back to France at the end of the 18th Century. The French revolution ended patronage of creatives like sculptors, painters, writers and musicians from the wealth French aristocracy and royalty. This meant that many of these creatives that were used to living extravagant lives saw their main streams of income evaporate.
This forced many creatives into poverty, and they had to adjust to a new lifestyle that fit their means. Many slowly began to embrace a minimalistic lifestyle – focusing their energy into their creativity thought processes instead of achieving wealth.
The decreased focus on materialism led to a decreased importance of their wardrobes. The creatives began using older clothes, and repurposing them into new quirky outfits that expressed their artistic side.
Bohemian fashion continued to develop primarily in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Romantics introduced free-flowing clothing and accessories into their style – inline with their emphasis on emotions and aesthetics in art.
The aesthetic movement towards the end of the 19th century also rejected restrictive dress codes and clothing in favor of free expression. This led to the introduction of many patterns, prints and motifs into the Bohemian style of dress.
In the mid-20th century, Boho style began to catch on in the United States with the Beatnik and Hippie movements. Both embraced self-expression and individuality in favor of restrictive styles of dressing. The free-love and freedom of expression of this error continued to develop into the Boho-chic style that most associate with Bohemian fashion today.
What is Bohemian Style Defined As?
There is no clear definition of what Bohemian style is. Rather, it is freely expressing oneself in an outfit that incorporates a variety of common elements. Today, it is most associated with ‘Hippie’ fashion but it is just as much about being comfortable, happy and confident in the way you dress.
Many common elements of this style of dress are flowy, relaxed silhouettes and cuts, eye-catching patterns and prints, vibrant colors, heavy use of accessories, jewelry and headwear, relaxed footwear like sandals and the use of natural fabrics.
Matching different patterns or even clashing is quite common for boho fashionistas, as is layering. Dressing as a Bohemian is not about matching perfectly, but rather putting together eye-catching or flamboyant pieces to create an almost gypsy-type look.
What Does Boho Style look like?
The beauty of Boho is that it allows each person to express their individuality in the way that they dress. There are however many common elements that help define Bohemian clothing. Here are some of the materials, patterns, techniques, and styling that are most common in the style.
Bohemian Fabrics and Textures
Two of the more common fabrics (and similar) fabrics in Boho clothing are lace and crochet. The lace used in the clothing is rarely ever delicate silk or similar materials. Today, it is more common to find lace made with a more durable cotton thread. Crochet appears similar to lace in style and usually material, but it has a thicker, more raw appearance than the finer stitched lace.
Faux and genuine leather are also common fabrics used in Bohemian style. The leather is usually more worn out in appearance than brand new. It is also most found in colors like light brown or taupe, however black leather can also be used if worn correctly.
Denims are another popular and multiuse fabric. Denim is used for bottoms, tops, and outerwear by Bohemians. Light and dark denims can both be used, and it is common to see the fabric distressed or acid washed.
Suede and Rattan are two more materials that are common in Boho style. Suede can be used in clothing, accessories, or footwear. The softer texture of suede can also contrast well with the more rugged materials of denim and leather. Rattan is also commonly used in accessories or footwear.
The use of different patterns is one of the more recognizable aspects of Boho-chic style. Almost any pattern works, however there are some common patterns that are frequently used.
Floral designs either on a small scale or as a full piece are very typical of the dress style, and they can also be colorful or more muted. The floral design is almost never minimalistic though with lots going on to draw the eyes too.
Two similar patterns that are sometimes seen are also trellis and lattice. These are both symmetrical patterns, although trellis can come in a variety of different forms. Both are usually more intricate patterns and can be anything from stylized to looking like mosaic tiles.
Paisley is another pattern that is far from symmetrical. It is an exotic, free-flowing pattern that is very intricate. The Paisley design is almost 2,000 years old – having originated in ancient Persia – and often evokes feelings of symbolism or deeper meaning behind its pattern.
Other common patterns found in Bohemian style are Ikat, Kilim or Tribal patterns. Ikat is a pattern that uses dyed fabrics to create its intricate patterned. Kilim comes from Turkish rugs, and the style was later adopted to coats, bags and other types of outerwear. African tribal patterns can also be incorporated into a Boho outfit.
Techniques and Styling
Other common elements of the style are different techniques used when creating the clothing and styling elements that are added to create the eclectic feel.
Patchwork is one common element that is often found in accessories and outerwear. Leather and textile patterned patches are frequently incorporated into designs. They are frequently used as appliques to decorate the different garments.
Distressing clothing is also popular. Denim and leather are frequently distressed in Boho styles. Denim jeans and jackets can be distressed – and then even patched – to incorporate different techniques into an outfit. Denim can also be acid washed. Leather is usually distressed by being worn out prior to use.
Two other techniques that have some roots in the Hippie tradition are tie-dye and macrame. Macrame is a knot tying technique that is used for both decoration and clothing. It’s common in clothing like vests, beach wear and even bags. Tie dye involves dying fabrics with different colors to produce asymmetric patterns. Tie dyed clothing can also add another pattern to a Boho outfit.
Embroidery is also commonly found in Boho clothing. It is frequently used in peasant skirts and blouses, but also in outwear, vests and bags. It can help by adding an artistic touch to a piece of clothing. Fringe and tassels are also frequently added to clothing or accessories to provide additional style elements.
Famous Boho Fashion Icons
A fashion trend that has been around for close to 200 years has had its share of different icons. Henry Murger is often considered to be the first Bohemian in Paris.
He greatly desired to be an artist, but unfortunately wasn’t very good. He then tried his hand at literature and adopted the lifestyle that came to be known as Bohemian. He struggled for years without making money – but stayed committed to creating and interacting with other Bohemians in Paris until he finally achieved success and popularized the Bohemian lifestyle.
Fast forwarding to more modern times, during the 60s and 70s some of the best-known Bohemians were Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Donna Summer. All embraced the Hippie culture and style of dress, incorporating different layers, patterns, accessories, and materials into their wardrobe.
Bohemian fashion style continued to develop over time and then really began to gain mainstream popularity in the Early 2000s with some famous celebrities who adopted the style. Sienna Miller and Kate Moss are two celebrities that really helped increase the popularity of Bohemian dress in the 2000s. Both frequently combined different elements of style to create eclectic outfits that they became known for.
But the women behind the increased popularity among celebrities was Rachel Zoe. As a celebrity fashion designer, she was styling a many of celebrities that became known as popular style icons – like Sienna Miller, Kate Moss and Nicole Ritchie.
Many other well-known Boho icons of the 2000s are Vanessa Hudgens, Zoe Kravtiz, and the Olsen twins – Mary-Kate and Ashley. The style has become some popular that it is frequently now associated with big events like Coachella, Burning Man and other music festivals.
How to Dress in Bohemian Style
When it comes to putting together your own Boho look, there are a few things to keep in mind. Layering is one common element in Boho looks. Since matching patterns, colors and material does not have much importance in Boho style, wearing more elements from your wardrobe can help give you the chic look you are going for.
Flowy silhouettes and cuts are also a key to match the dress style. Looser and more casual clothing like maxi skirts, maxi dresses and peasant skirts are extremely popular. Oversized shirts, tunics and peasant blouses can also give you the flowy style that is Boho. One of the thinks to always think about is how comfortable you are in the clothes – the more comfortable the better!
Natural fabrics and materials are also prefect when it comes to Bohemian fashion. Synthetic fabrics are one of the largest polluters, so true Boho stylists usually opt for natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton, linen and even bamboo. Organic fibers are also extremely important as regular fabrics typically undergo extensive dyeing, bleaching and water use which are not very environmentally friendly.
Accessories and jewelry are also extremely common in this style of dress. And it’s almost the more the better! Handcrafted jewelry made from natural materials like bamboo, thread, etc. go extremely well with the Boho style. Other materials like wood and leather also work well for jewelry or accessories. Other accessories to consider adding to your wardrobe are scarves, hats, headbands, and belts. All of these can help create your signature Bohemian style!
Bohemian Clothing, Dresses and Accessories
There are many different pieces of clothing that can help you dress in Bohemian Fashion style – and we’ve mentioned many of them so far. But now, let’s take a deeper look at different types of tops, bottoms, dresses, footwear, and accessories you should buy to build out your boho-chic wardrobe.
You should choose general choose tops that have gentle silhouettes – avoiding clothing that is form-fitting or tight. Using tops that are off-shoulder, spaghetti straps or V-necks give off the relaxed feeling that you are looking for. Sleeves that are ruffled, wide or flared are good choices as well. And of course, don’t forget to choose colorful or vibrant patterns and prints.
Some good examples of these would be peasant blouses, tunics, lace tops, off-shoulder crop tops and kaftans. Crocheted or knit tops that you typically see at festivals like Coachella could also be a great warmer weather option.
For bottoms you also want to choose – you guessed it – loose and relaxed fitting pieces. Something with a cinched waist and relaxed cut can help you give shape to an outfit, but also keep you extremely comfortable. You can also used patterns and colors that will accentuate or give your outfit a more eclectic feel.
Examples of Boho-chic bottoms could be the peasant skirt, maxi skirts, lounge pants, and cotton or denim shorts. Other good Boho bottoms could be Dakini or Harem pants, or linen trousers that you typically find in beachy areas!
Easy-fitting dresses that provide a flowy silhouette are perfect for the boho-chic look. Any type of dress that is off-shoulder, high-neck halter, or has spaghetti straps with an A-line form are ideal. The dresses should be from ankle to knee-length to provide more movement while you are walking and really give your outfit the relaxed feel that you are looking for.
Colors and patterns are also encouraged, but more solid colors can also work here if you are layering with patterns and accessories. Some good examples of Boho dresses are maxi dresses, Grecian goddess dresses, wrap dresses, open back, and deep V-dresses. Ruffled sleeves, lace work and embroidery can also give your dress a truly Boho-chic feel.
Natural materials are very common in Bohemian style footwear. Leather, bamboo, rattan and natural fibers should be the main materials in any footwear you plan to use. Footwear that incorporates patterns, embroidery, bead, or fringe work are also great choices.
During the warmer months, footwear like open toe shoes, sandals flats and gladiator sandals are great to pare with your outfit. Leather boots – both ankle and knee-length – are great for winter and colder climates. Boho footwear is normally more neutral colors like browns and beiges that really help pull together the entire outfit.
We could write an entire novel about Bohemian accessories – but we will try to keep it short! The main accessories that you are going to want to focus on is your jewelry, bags, scarves, and headwear.
Turquoise is one of the most popular stones for Bohemians so incorporating that into your jewelry can help you look the part. Big, oversized jewelry necklaces, rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets are the perfect pieces to tie your outfit together. Jewelry from natural materials like wood, leather, and fabrics will also go very well with any Boho look.
Choosing crossbody bags or drawstring bags are great accessories for your outfit. The bags should have patterns or embroidery that can compliment those of your tops, dresses, and bottoms. Tassels, fringes, and pom-poms can also be present on the bag. Again, sticking to natural materials like macrame, leather, cotton, hemp, or jute are what you should shoot for.
Scarves should be colorful and loosely worn around your neck or wrist. Patterns like the ones we mentioned earlier are perfect for scarves. Shawls can also be a nice touch to your outfit and can also double as a scarf depending on what look you want to go for!
The most common types of hats for a boho look are broad brimmed. It is also common to see fedoras, straw hats, and floppy hats with embroidery. For colder weather, large, knit hats are the perfect way to keep yourself warm and still follow the boho fashion style.
Dos and Don’ts of Boho Fashion Style
A Bohemian lifestyle is all about self-expression and individuality, but there are still some things that you should just flat out avoid when dressing boho. You now know what types of clothing, fabrics, colors, patterns, and even fashionistas to build your style on – but let’s summarize some of the main Dos and Don’ts of boho fashion.
- Use flowy silhouettes in your tops and dresses
- Natural fabrics and materials are always better than synthetics – both environmentally and fashionably
- Mixed and matched prints and colors are a must – and matching smaller patterns with larger patterns is fantastic
- Rustic or vintage pieces are perfect for bohemian style
- Neutral colored footwear will never lead your wrong
- The more accessories the merrier!
- Layers will add depth to your look and keep you standing out from the crowd
- Artisanal or handmade dresses, tops and accessories are a better choice than commercial pieces
- Avoid minimalistic designs – bohemians don’t hold back in what they wear
- Don’t use too many neon or over-saturated colors. Choosing earthy tones with other colors to highlight in your prints is a better option
- Tight or form-fitting clothes are a no no – feeling comfortable and relaxed should be your aim
- Don’t use artificial materials in your accessories or outfit. Natural materials look much better in boho style
- Avoid going too retro – designs from before the 60s might be a little too far out
- Also, don’t get futuristic in your choices