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What is Bohemian style and fashion? Bohemian look decoded

Posted by sandhya garg on


Boho Chic Style Explained

Have you ever wondered How to achieve Bohemian or Boho-chic style. A guide to bohemian fashion, bohemian dresses have been very popular lately. Ever heard the words- hippie, boho chic, bohemian style, gypsy style and wondered what exactly it was? Where do you find Bohemian style clothing? Find answers to all these questions and "Bohemian meaning" here.
In modern use, the term "Bohemian" is applied to people who live unconventional, usually artistic, lives.  The original "Bohemians" were travelers or refugees from central Europe. They were the true epitome of "Bohemian Lifestyle". 
Bohemian dress

Bohemian Definition

According to wikipedia- A bohemian is defined by

"Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. Bohemian Lifestyle involves musical, artistic, literary, or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the 19th century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities.

Bohemian Maxi dress boho chic fashion

Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and—in some cases—simple living or voluntary poverty. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème (literally "high Bohemia").

The term bohemianism emerged in France in the early 19th century, when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class, Romani neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who were mistakenly thought to have reached France in the 15th century via Bohemia (the western part of modern Czech Republic)."

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Bohemian maxi dresses

European bohemianism

Literary and artistic bohemians were associated in the French imagination with the roving Romani people. Not only were Romani called bohémiens in French because they were believed to have come to France from Bohemia, but literary bohemians and the Romani were both outsiders, apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. Use of the French and English terms to refer to the Romani is now old-fashioned and archaic, respectively, and both the French and English terms carry a connotation of arcane enlightenment (and are considered antonyms of the word philistine) and the less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness about personal hygiene and marital fidelity.

American bohemianism

In the 1850s, aesthetic bohemians began arriving in the United States. In New York City in 1857, a group of 15 to 20 young, cultured journalists flourished as self-described bohemians until the American Civil War began in 1861. This group gathered at a German bar on Broadway called Pfaff's beer cellar. Members included their leader Henry Clapp, Jr., Ada Clare, Walt Whitman, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, and actress Adah Isaacs Menken.

Similar groups in other cities were broken up as well by the Civil War and reporters spread out to report on the conflict. During the war, correspondents began to assume the title bohemian, and newspapermen in general took up the moniker. Bohemian became synonymous with newspaper writer. In 1866, war correspondent Junius Henri Browne, who wrote for the New York Tribune and Harper's Magazine, described bohemian journalists such as he was, as well as the few carefree women and lighthearted men he encountered during the war years.

San Francisco journalist Bret Harte first wrote as "The Bohemian" in The Golden Era in 1861, with this persona taking part in many satirical doings, the lot published in his book Bohemian Papers in 1867. Harte wrote, "Bohemia has never been located geographically, but any clear day when the sun is going down, if you mount Telegraph Hill, you shall see its pleasant valleys and cloud-capped hills glittering in the West ..."

In terms of Fashion - Bohemian style, often referred to as “boho” or “boho chic” is a style of dressing that was popularized during the 1960s and 1970s though it is possible to trace the roots back further to gypsy or nomadic clothing style from. 
Gypsies or nomads would wear long flowy dresses, breaded hair, multiple ear and nose piercings, kohl in eyes. 
In the mid-to-late 1980s, variants of the short and fundamentally un-Bohemian rah-rah skirt (which originated with cheerleaders) were combined with leather or demin to create a look with some Bohemian or even gothic features (for example, by the singing duo Strawberry Switchblade who took inspiration from 1970s punk fashion). In the 1990s the term, "hippie chic", was applied to Tom Ford's collections for the Italian house of Gucci. These drew on, among other influences, the style, popular in retrospect, of Talitha Getty (died 1971), actress wife of John Paul Getty and step-granddaughter of Dorelia McNeil, who was represented most famously in a photograph of her and her husband taken by Patrick Lichfield in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1969. Recalling the influx of hippies into Marrakesh in 1968, Richard Neville, then editor of Oz, wrote that "the dapper drifters in embroidered skirts and cowboy boots were so delighted by the bright satin '50s underwear favored by the matrons of Marrakesh that they wore them outside their denims à la Madonna [the singer] twenty-five years later".
 
The essence of bohemian is focusing on free and flowy fabrics. If you want to style yourself in the bohemian fashion, take steps to incorporate bohemian style into your wardrobe.
In the early 21st century, "boho-chic" was associated initially with supermodel Kate Moss and then, as a highly popular style in 2004-5, with actress Sienna Miller. In America similar styles were sometimes referred to as "bobo-" or "ashcan chic", or "luxe grunge", their leading proponents including actresses Mary-Kate Olsen and Zooey Deschanel. As if to illustrate the cyclical nature of fashion, by the end of the noughties strong pre-Raphaelite traits were notable in, among others, singer Florence Welch, model Karen Elson.
Remember though that the bohemian style also emphasizes finding the clothing that makes you feel in harmony with yourself and with nature, so don’t assume that there are any hard and fast rules about what is and isn’t bohemian.
Choosing natural fabrics is a good way. With such a focus on being in harmony with nature, you should look for clothing that is made of natural fibers such as silk, hemp, cheese cloth, hemp, linen, chiffon, lace, and cotton. 
  • Look for fabrics that have are fair trade and ethically sourced. If you aren’t sure and the shop owner can’t tell you, you can also search the internet for brands that have pledged to make their clothing out of fair trade fabrics.
Buy Bohemian style fashion dress
 How can you dress in Bohemian Fashion?
Try layering your existing clothing, wear a shirt under a dress. You can also try wearing a patterned loose oversized jacket or cardigan over your dress.  Choose oversized, flowing pieces. The whole idea of bohemian style is free and flowing. Long maxi skirts or peasant skirts are good ideas, as well as tunics and light tops. Anything that makes you feel light and comfortable is a good choice.
    • You can also look for flowing dresses that you can then layer other pieces over or under to get an effortless look.
    • Try to keep the layering towards the top of your body. You want the look the draw attention to your face, and if you do a lot of layering on the bottom (e.g. wearing pants under skirts) you will draw attention downwards which creates a “heavy” look. 
  • Emphasize your flowing pieces with one or two fitted pieces. Though you can certainly wear everything loosely fitted, if you want to, you can also throw in a few fitted pieces. For example, if you are wearing a very flowy tunic, you might then put on a pair of tight leggings, which will give you a bit of shape while also emphasizing the flowy shirt.
What is a bohemian dress?
Wear long flowy flared dresses. Printed dresses in light fabrics are great. Ruffled styles are also great. Big baloony sleeves on a simple dress can also lend a bohemian look.  Layer your clothing. You are trying to create a sort of relaxed gypsy look. This means that you will want to layer clothes over each other to get a truly bohemian look. As the look has been inspired by travelling gypsies and hippies who travelled with everything they owned, this means that they layered clothing over other pieces to keep warm and to avoid having to carry extra clothing.
    • You can, for example, wear a tight fitting bralette under a flowing shirt, you can layer a jacket over a loose-fitting tunic, or even layer all three together.
    • This has the added advantage that if you get warm or cold you always have a layer you can remove or put back on whenever you need to.
  • Look for second hand clothing to mix with your new boho dresses. A true bohemian is mixes brand new clothing with old garments, as the style focuses on vintage clothing in addition to caring for the environment. Head to your nearest flea market or thrift shop where you can probably find good deals on clothing, and you may even be able to find original pieces from the 1960s and 1970s, which will really boost your bohemian wardrobe.
    • If you know how to sew, you could even make your own clothing using whatever fabrics and patterns you like.
    • If you do buy new clothing rather than going to your closest trendy clothing shop opt for independently owned small businesses where you can find out how and where the clothing was made. The clothing will certainly cost more, but it will also probably be of much better quality and will last you a lot longer.
Bohemian hair and make up?
Go for long loose waves, try interesting braids, messy effortless hair all add to the look. In terms of make-up try lining your eyes with dark kohl, eye liner, nude lipstick and cheeks all create the bohemian mysterious look.
What can you do with real or faux piercings and bohemian jewelry?
The septum ring has been on bohemian trend for sometime now, you don't have to pierce your nose for the same, just wear a faux ring and voila- you are set. You can also wear small faux earrings for gypsy style bohemian look. Combine lots of chains and beads and wear around your hand and neck to complete the bohemian look. Multiple metal rings in fingers and a gorgeous cowboy style rimmed hat can all add to the boho look.
Sandhya Garg is a Project Runway designer. She studied and specialized in women's fashion at London College of Fashion, UK and has worked at Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Liberty London, Alice Temperley to name a few. She has her own successful resort dresses, special occasion dresses, wedding guest looks, swim coverups label. While on Project Runway Season 13, she won 2 challenges and was fortunate to show her collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. The brand has been featured in Marie Claire US, Ftv.com, Elle Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vogue online to name a few. 

She designs limited edition high end printed spring dresses, wearable art clothing and swim coverups. Beautiful prints are inspired from around the world to be worn during travel, resort stay or cruise holidays.

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