The bohemian style (or Boho, as it’s now commonly referred to as) is more than just another fashion trend that will fizzle out over time. It’s a culture in its own right, with a long, complex, interesting history and a very specific ideology. It started out in the 18th century as a style reserved only for those living in poverty, then became regarded as a ‘hippie’ fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s come a long way since then.
Currently, boho fashion is part of mainstream culture and fashion, defined by its effortlessly relaxed, creative, artistic attire, consisting mainly of loose-fitting clothes, bold accessories, and a combination of different textures and materials. Its ideology revolves around liberation and environmentalism, with a firm stance against society’s constraints and materialism.
Read on to discover the captivating history of Boho fashion and the ideologies behind it, and learn how to imitate it yourself!
The word ‘bohemian’ has been used for more than 200 years, with the first known use occurring during the French Revolution. It referred to an alternative sense of style and was usually associated with and used to describe creative people such as artists and writers, as well as well-known eccentric intellectuals, who often lived in poverty and wore old, mismatched, used clothing as a result.
Society’s general perception was that this style was similar to that of nomadic gypsies, who originated from the Balkans in Eastern Europe – more specifically, in an area called Bohemia. Consequently, ‘bohemian’ began to be used to describe people that made up a culture associated with artistic expression and creativity, as well as disregard to social constructs and mainstream aesthetics – i.e., a ‘counter-culture.’
Romanticism – a literary and artistic movement – originated in France in the 18th century, largely as a reaction to the formality of neo-classicism. Around the middle of the 19th century, the romantics began to incorporate distinctive flowy garments, colorful materials, distressed fabrics, and gypsy-inspired accessories into their fashion; consequently, they started to be associated with the French bohemians.
Wearing these types of garments was extremely unusual for this time, as most people tended to stick to societal rules and norms in their everyday lives, including how they dressed and expressed themselves through their appearance. However, this move away from mainstream fashions of the era was monumental, as it marked the true beginning of the bohemian fashion style.
What had started as a way of dressing due to necessity – for example, lack of money and poor living conditions – had started to evolve into an ideology that transcended the boundaries of fashion. It now stood for concepts such as anti-materialism and breaking societal conventions, which attracted an increasing amount of people who wanted to explore the world outside the strict society that they had grown accustomed to living in.
This was the birth of the Aesthetic Movement, which embraced a new style of clothing consisting of loose fits, artistic designs, medieval-inspired accessories, and hand embroideries – a far cry from the stiff, tailored garments of the previous era. Comfort was the ideal, with clothing such as corsets viewed as artificial and unattractive. In essence, this was a fashion revolution that steered people further toward the bohemian style that we know today.
During the Aesthetic Movement, writers and musicians began referencing the newly emerging bohemian culture in their literature and music, which shows the influence it was beginning to have on society. Artists such as Puccini and Henri Murger even dedicated pieces to the bohemians, and the general perception of them, as well as the style in general, began to become more favorable.
By the early 20th century, designers had started taking bohemian fashion to the next level. Paul Poiret is an example – an artist who incorporated a variety of ethnic details, including Russian and Middle Eastern elements, into his designs. Furthermore, textile designer William Morris created a variety of patterns for fashion as well as interior design, featuring intricate and ornamental paisley and floral prints.
The 1960s brought about revolutions regarding societal norms, common perceptions, fashion, and lifestyle, mainly thanks to the Hippie Movement, which focused on love, peace, acceptance, and artistic and creative expression. Hippies wholeheartedly rejected mainstream values such as materialism and capitalism, as well as the customary social constructs and ideals.
This directly influenced the clothing styles, with people using fashion to assert their agreement with the concepts of the Hippie Movement. Ethnic dresses, mixed prints, and different textures began to rise in popularity, as well as specific styles that are still associated with bohemian style today, such as fringes. This was in direct contrast to the classy, streamlined, clean silhouettes that were popular in the previous decade.
In the hippie-dominated decades of the 1960s and 1970s, celebrities such as Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, and Janis Joplin fully embraced the bohemian trend with their signature flowing clothes, flared pants, wide sleeves, and shawls. However, although they can be regarded as the ‘original modern bohemian trendsetters,’ they were the minority and generally regarded as ‘alternative’ as opposed to mainstream.
With the new millennium came a new wave of boho style in the mainstream global media. The style began rising in popularity around the year 2000 and has continued on an upward trajectory ever since, with celebrities such as Nicole Ritchie, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Sienna Miller, and Zoe Kravitz leading the way and cementing their positions as bohemian fashion icons.
Although the bohemian style was generally regarded as a counter-culture throughout its history, this perception began to change in the early 2000s as a direct result of the popularity of celebrity culture. A range of people in the spotlight – including models, singers, actors, and clothing designers – began to adopt the style, appearing in magazines and on television in long, flowing dresses, distressed denim, paisley prints, and suede fringing.
As a result, boho style – which was now also beginning to be referred to as ‘boho chic’ – finally began to achieve mainstream status, becoming an iconic trend in its own right. An increasing number of big-name designers began to incorporate boho elements into their clothing and accessories lines, meaning they were now being featured on catwalks and in fashion magazines.
These days, there’s a broad spectrum of bohemian fashion. With so much experimentation in recent decades, the style has evolved and now incorporates a range of looks that are all grouped together under one umbrella. Some bohemians wear outfits that are reminiscent of the swinging 60s, with flared sleeves and pants, as well as funky patterns and bright colors.
Others, however, dress more romantically, utilizing lace and florals – and some have even adopted a more ‘city’ version of the traditional style, with edgy, urban designs. Personal preference is paramount, with almost anything going, as long as it sticks to the basic principles of bohemian fashion. There’s one thing for sure – there are many different ‘types’ of modern-day bohemians. Which type are you?
You could refer to ‘hippie bohemians’ as being inspired by the original modern bohemians of the 1960s – that is to say, the ones sporting the funky tie-dye prints, psychedelic swirls, and patterns, long and flowing dresses and skirts, headbands and hair accessories, and sandals. Think Austin Powers – the focus is on the abstract and expression using colors and patterns.
However, there’s another look that ‘hippie bohemians’ often go for – that which consists of vintage rock t-shirts paired with long skirts and studded boots – perhaps with a worn-out leather, suede, or denim jacket and statement jewelry. Although they’re extremely different from each other, both of these bohemian looks have taken their inspiration from the same era.
Those that adopt a 1970s bohemian style still incorporate elements of the hippie era, but the main essentials include platform shoes or, alternatively, clunky wooden heels, flared denim jeans, and huge trumpet sleeves – the bigger, the better, in fact. This also applies to the jewelry, which generally consists of large, statement pieces made of natural materials in bright colors and extravagant designs.
Another staple of 1970s bohemian style is groovy, funky prints – again, similar to those found in hippie bohemian style. It generally focuses on freedom of expression, and the mantra ‘anything goes.’ This was especially true for women, who, up until that point, had generally been living within tight social constraints – the 1970s was the time to get out of the mold.
Romantic bohemians – as the name suggests – take their style inspiration from the romantic era, using vintage materials and patterns, lace, delicate crochet, and intricate appliques. They tend to gravitate toward softer hues such as neutral colors, blush tones, ivories, and pastels rather than deep, rich shades. As a result, floral patterns are incredibly popular with romantic bohemians today.
In general, the idea is to take traditional bohemian style but infuse it with whimsical, fairytale, carefree elements – think sheer, floating fabrics with embroidery and embellishments, complemented by braids and loose curls. This an ideal look for brides who want a bohemian look on their wedding day, which has become increasingly popular among women of all ages in recent years.
The ‘edgy bohemian’ is easy to spot in a crowd – keeping far away from the whimsical, free-flowing, romantic elements of boho style as discussed previously, they tend to go for darker colors, black leather (whether in the form of bags, jackets, or jewelry), studs and metallic elements as opposed to sequins, and vintage – sometimes even grunge – t-shirts.
Jewelry and accessories are, in general, made from leather or have metallic elements to them, rather than including wood, crochet, sequins, or gems in the design. Put simply; you can’t really picture edgy bohemians running through a meadow filled with flowers on a sunny day – it’s much more of an urban look in comparison with other bohemian-inspired styles.
The ‘country bohemian’ is exactly what it sounds like – picture lots of denim, cowboy boots, Daisy Dukes, and hats, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Generally, there’s a distinctive color palette used, consisting of predominantly warm hues such as rich browns, caramel, and mustard – possibly with some more vibrant tones such as burnt orange or a deep red.
One thing that can’t be overlooked is the embellishments – with fringing undoubtedly being the most commonly adopted by country bohemians. This fringing is usually leather or suede and is often added to bags, jackets, shorts, and shirts – anything, really! Studs, metalwork, leather belts, and perforated accessories are also common additions to this type of bohemian style.
As discussed earlier in this article, bohemian fashion is largely based on an ideology of non-conformation to social trends, norms, and expectations – bohemians themselves are breakers of the mold and trendsetters of alternative styles, and they’re celebrated as such. The ‘eclectic bohemian,’ however, goes one step further than that by refusing to even conform to the – albeit loose – rules of bohemian style.
Eclectic bohemians tend to wear a mishmash of clothing pieces and accessories, often with each representing or acknowledging a different era, style, or culture, that has been put together to create an abstract yet cohesive outfit. The only rule is that no fashion rules are followed – creativity is, without a shadow of a doubt, the main factor.
Boho chic style is defined as an upgraded, elevated bohemian style. As its name suggests, it is a merger of styles: bohemian and chic –a fusion of fashion that takes the classic bohemian look to a more sophisticated level. There are some similarities between boho-chic and the classic bohemian look, such as the use of various prints, relaxed fittings, ethnic and tribal inspiration, and featured embellishments.
However, some distinctive characteristics separate the two. Boho chic clothing is generally more streamlined and structured, with a more polished, clean look overall – this is due to the combination of classic elements with traditional bohemian style. In general, there is often less volume, layers, and eccentricity, with a combination of hard and soft pieces (for example, a long, flowing dress with a structured leather jacket).
Boho style doesn’t just stick to pre-defined shapes and silhouettes – instead, there’s a wide range available, as well as multiple materials, patterns, and textures that fit the typical characteristics. Generally, natural materials are used in natural shades – in other words, no obviously artificial materials and neon colors. Examples of typical boho materials include lace, crochet, denim, suede, leather, rattan, and wood.
Designs are inspired by art and culture, often featuring floral, ethnic, tribal, and folk patterns from around the world – from Morocco to Persia to the Pacific islands. Neutral colors, as well as deep blues, reds, yellows, and greens, are most common – the idea is to use colors that can be found in nature, rather than artificial colors such as neon pink.
Boho style is not just defined by the materials and patterns that are used to create an overall look – the techniques used to make the clothing are also important. One typical example is tie-dying, which is also commonly associated with the 1960s hippie culture and style. Clothes are also often distressed – meaning they are made to look older and worn, giving a ‘vintage’ look.
Patchwork is another technique that’s usually used with textiles or leather – normally to create bags – or incorporated into general clothing designs or as an applique. Lastly, macramé – a type of knotting technique – is often used to produce bags and clothing such as vests and beach cover-ups, as well as interior design items.
Bohemian style is well-known for the use of embellishments to add character and detail to outfits, as well as a way for the wearer to express themselves. Embroidery is perhaps the most common and is used to add additional patterns and art to both clothing and accessories. This is also true of appliques such as sequins, beads, lace, flowers, and crystals, which are used for decoration purposes.
Other types of embellishment that are typically associated with boho style include fringes, which are usually crafted from rope, leather, or yarn; studs, which are mainly added to accessories, footwear, and jackets; and tassels, which are generally used as trims in clothing but also as part of jewelry design. Pom-poms, usually seen on bags, accessories, and swimwear, are a newer addition to bohemian style.
Despite the plethora of bohemian-style clothing available these days, both in shops and online, no boho look is fully complete without jewelry and accessories such as bags and headbands. Luckily, these are relatively easy to identify – basically, anything that is simple, plain, and basic is not bohemian. Therefore, you’re going to be looking for intricate designs and items featuring semi-precious stones, natural materials, embellishments, and prints.
Bohemian jewelry is the opposite of minimalistic – it’s not for the faint-hearted or those who like classic, timeless pieces. Bohemian jewelry comes in multiple forms; whether an intricate, statement, beaded, or studded, among others – and again, it’s made from natural materials such as metal, leather, semi-precious stones, or rope. That is to say, anything that’s glossy, plastic, or artificial-looking should be overlooked when aiming for a bohemian style.
When adopting a bohemian style, one of the most important aspects is the color palette that’s used. There are three main tips to bear in mind when choosing what colors to wear, the first of which is to include both warm and cool tones – between roughly 6 and 12. The idea is to choose fewer colors for a minimalistic style, but more for a traditional, vibrant boho look.
Secondly, the chosen colors should be ‘sister’ and ‘cousin’ shades – for example, three shades of blue (such as navy, baby blue, and turquoise). Isolated, block colors, on the other hand, should be firmly avoided. Lastly, the colors can be neutral hues, pastels, and rich tones, but artificial, neon colors should be excluded from the palette at all costs.
You can get the perfect bohemian outfit, but what use is that without finishing off the look with hair and makeup to match? About the hair, the perfectly effortless bohemian look relies heavily on loose waves and flowing locks, as well as braids and messy up-dos. There’s a lot to choose from, but as long as it’s not too tight, structured, and neat, you’re good to go.
Besides, you can even use color to achieve the bohemian look for your hair. Adding layered lowlights and highlights to give a multi-dimensional feel to your hair is a common trend among bohemians, as well as ombre and balayage effects. Avoid coloring your hair in obviously artificial colors, such as bright red, deep purple, white blonde, and blue-black.
Makeup can completely transform a look – or complete it. You could have the best bohemian outfit and hairstyle, but a clashing makeup style will spoil the entire look. Consequently, it has to comply with the bohemian trend. We’re not talking about vibrant colors and bold patterns to match a lot of the bohemian clothes out there – in fact, it’s pretty much the opposite.
Concerning the skin, the bohemian style places great importance on maintaining a natural look for the skin. It should be hydrated and fresh-looking – natural is preferred over flawless. As a result, heavy, full-coverage foundations and powders are rarely used – in contrast; a typical bohemian makeup look accentuates natural coloring and features such as freckles rather than masking them.
As explained, most bohemian-style makeup applies a light touch, focusing mainly on the skin and accentuating natural features rather than intensely defined eyes and lips. Natural soft, smoky styles are among the most popular choices, with earthy browns, peaches, and pinks being the preferred color choices as opposed to harsh colors such as orange, bright blue, and hot pink.
Matte finishes for both eyes and lips take preference over glittery, shiny, or wet-look products, with layers and depth being key rather than a definition. Remember the mantra ‘natural is best,’ and you won’t go far wrong – don’t be scared to let go and embrace your natural features rather than trying to alter their appearance.
It’s one thing to hear hints and tips for putting together the perfect bohemian outfit, but it’s another thing to do it – and if you’re only just starting to embrace this style of fashion, it can be quite daunting. Don’t worry – we’re here to help. While there’s certainly not a strict set of styling rules that accompany bohemian fashion, there are a few tried-and-tested formulas that never fail.
If you’re on your way to becoming a bohemian style icon but just don’t know how to start combining the different pieces of clothing and accessories that you have, our outfit combinations are the perfect go-to options for a range of occasions, including everyday ensembles as well as formal wear. From country boho to boho-chic, you’re sure to find something that suits your style.
Mixing denim, leather, and lace works for anyone – it’s a typical bohemian look that’s perfect for a casual to semi-formal summer occasion. It gives off relaxed, carefree vibes and looks like it’s been put together effortlessly. All you need is shorts, jeans, or a skirt in distressed denim, a loose, white lace top, and a leather jacket – plus the necessary accessories.
These include leather sandals, a leather bag, and layered jewelry (such as multiple dainty necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings). The color palette used for clothing, accessories, and makeup should consist of whites/creams, shades of browns, and golds – in other words, neutral tones with no bold, bright colors. As always, hair should be in loose, natural waves or a messy up-do.
This kind of outfit really is the epitome of boho style. Mixing rattan with ethnic prints and fringing produces a look that is fairly feminine but bold at the same time – and there’s a huge range of clothing items and accessories that you can use to create it, so you can pick something that really expresses your personal style and preferences.
The main staples of this particular look include a maxi skirt with bold ethnic prints, an off-the-shoulder, loose crop top, and a distressed – or acid wash, depending on your preference – denim jacket. The accessories should include a rustic rattan bag, fringe or tassel earrings, and fringe ankle boots, and the color palette should consist of white or cream, blush, burgundy, blue, and shades of brown.
Paying homage to the 1970s boho style, this kind of outfit embraces the past while being perfect for a chic, city vibe. As such, it’s fantastic for a night out on the town – you can dance the night away in the classic disco-era flared pants and chunky heels. As always, though, the colors used should be fairly neutral – blues, white or cream, browns, black work best.
The first item of clothing that you need to create this outfit is a great pair of dark-wash flared jeans – if they look like they’re straight out of the 1970s, they’re perfect. Match them with an embroidered top, chunky heels, and extravagant beaded necklaces, and you’re good to go – and if you need a jacket, suede in a neutral tone is your best bet.
This is an outfit that will appeal to those who favor a subtle grungy vibe – as mentioned earlier, the ‘edgy bohemian.’ It’s a perfect example of a great city boho look that an increasing number of people are choosing to adopt in recent years, and a great outfit for both a night out and lunch with the girls.
To recreate this look, first pair leather trousers with a lace top and a kimono with rich prints and embroidery, then add a macramé bag and feather earrings – the result is eclectic but perfectly bohemian and sure to turn heads. You probably know this by now, but the colors used should be neutrals, mustard, copper, maroon, rich blue, and black.
This is a colorful and vibrant interpretation of the bohemian style that certainly makes a statement. It’s not just about color and vibrancy. However, it’s also about movement – and we’re talking about the clothes. There’s no need for layering when trying to recreate this look – it’s all about teaming a flouncy, flowing maxi dress with prints to reflect different cultures and ethnicities.
Once you’ve selected the printed maxi dress, it’s time to choose an ethnic bag – and you can even go one step further by incorporating tassels or fringing here. That goes for the earrings, too – in this case, the bigger, the better. Suede ankle boots will complete the look – and yes, you guess it, keep to neutral colors, blues, burnt oranges, and sunset reds.
There’s no denying it – most people, when you mention bohemian fashion or style, immediately think of women’s fashion – and so far, this article has focused on just that. However, the bohemian style transcends gender borders – and these days, an increasing number of men enjoy the effortless, natural, chic look. Perfect examples are Johnny Depp and Lenny Kravitz – both of whom are hailed as sex symbols by women around the world.
Some would argue that women, despite being held back in many other aspects of life in comparison with men, branch out more in terms of clothing, fashion, and style, but bohemian men are certainly making up for lost time, and the social norms for them are beginning to change as well. The way things are looking at the moment, that’s set to continue in the future.
We’ve got fantastic news for lazy men who don’t really want to spend much of their time worrying about – or even considering – fashion. Bohemian style goes hand in hand with laziness, as minimal effort is required to achieve the look successfully. Grooming to perfection defies the point – the idea is to look like you haven’t tried too hard, so it’s probably best not to.
Shopping time is cut down, as clothes will be used time and time again – in fact, the more worn and distressed they look, the better! Ironing to perfection is not necessary, as shirts that are slightly creased, loose, and undone at the top are preferable over crisp, structured shirts. Plus, it’s perfectly acceptable to roll up your sleeves, no matter where you are or who you’re with – effortlessly cool is the aim of the game.
For men that want to embrace the bohemian look, a few non-conformist, unique shirts are great wardrobe staples. Get rid of the boring solid block-color shirts and discreet ‘masculine’ patterns and opt instead for paisley prints, swirly patterns, and bold florals – anything that breaks the mold of what a man ‘should’ wear. Relaxed fits take preference over form-fitted attire, but the two can be mixed together.
As for outerwear, distressed, worn clothing made from leather, suede, or denim will do the trick – or, for more formal occasions, a retro blazer in an oversized style. The shoes should be made from materials such as leather or suede – loosely laced boots, loafers, or sandals are all good choices. And as for the pants, a good pair of denim jeans will work perfectly – or, in hotter weather, a pair of patterned shorts.
It’s all very well saying to find a ‘printed’ item of clothing, but some people really struggle here – and with good reason. If you’re not naturally inclined to find the most bohemian prints on offer, it’s difficult to know which ones to pick – and even more difficult to know how to mix and match them. After all, there’s a fine line between an outfit being eclectic in terms of prints or patterns, and parts of an outfit clashing.
However, as difficult as it may be, it’s a sure-fire way of elevating a bohemian outfit to the next level. The result of successfully wearing one or multiple prints is a creative, arty look that will be the envy of many. As a parting gift, we’ll run you through all the possible issues that may arise when you attempt to choose and mix prints – read to the end, and you’ll be a pro in no time at all.
It might sound obvious, but half the problem of picking prints is solved when you ensure that the item of clothing is distinctly boho in design and style. For example, if it’s a long, flowing, loose-fitting maxi dress, or a suede bag with a drawstring tassel, the chances are the print will be bohemian. If it’s a tight-fitting bodycon dress, the print is unlikely to be distinctly bohemian.
When it comes to mixing prints, if you have two prints that are clearly bohemian in nature, they’ll usually go together, even if the mix doesn’t necessarily follow normal fashion conventions or styles. For example, an ethnic print maxi skirt paired with a retro-style polka dot jacket won’t look remotely bohemian – rather, it will be eclectic and different from the look you’re trying to create.
One of the most important things to remember – and, arguably, one of the best pieces of news about selecting and combining prints – is that pretty much everything goes with everything. After all, the bohemian style is centered around the unconventional aspect of clothing and breaking away from fashion normalities, so you really need to let go and try not to worry too much here.
The fact is, any bohemian print is likely to be a good investment, as the whole point is that it doesn’t match perfectly to the rest of the outfit. There are no rules here. Therefore, it’s best to master the art of thinking and acting like a free spirit when choosing prints – and the result will be that you look like one as well.
For people who are just starting out and consider themselves to be a novice when it comes to mixing prints, here’s one great tip: just choose one item of clothing instead of multiple. There’s a huge range of bohemian clothes that feature more than one print, including maxi dresses, skirts, tunics, and blouses – you’re bound to find something great.
Therefore, if you simply choose single-item clothes that feature multiple prints, you’ve saved yourself the job of mixing and matching. Plus, you can almost guarantee that, if the mixed-print clothing item is being sold to the public, it looks good – so wear it with confidence and embrace that mixed print boho style without any worries!
As we’ve already mentioned in this article, the main rule for creating a successful boho look is to stick to a palette of related colors, with nothing too bright or artificial, such as neon yellow or hot pink. Therefore, one easy way to pick prints that can be worn together is to curate a color scheme before you go shopping.
For example, if you decide you want to stick to blues, cream, and white, you could choose a dress that matches that tonal range and match it with a print bag that also features the same colors. Alternatively, you could choose one monotone print item of clothing and mix it with an item featuring a multicolor pattern or print.
While sticking to the color scheme rules previously explained, you can make your bohemian mixed print look successful by wearing a delicate pattern and a bolder pattern in the same look. They can be as different from each other as you like, but as a general rule, first, start with the bolder of the prints you wish to mix and choose one color from its pattern.
Next, for your second print, opt for a more delicate design that utilizes just that one shade. This minimizes the chances of the two prints clashing and ties the whole outfit together nicely. Paired with neutral-colored shoes and accessories – again, coinciding with the overall color palette – this is an excellent, typically bohemian outfit.
If you’re still not yet convinced that you can pick and match bohemian-style prints, then there’s another option. Instead of picking two bold prints to wear together, you could try opting for one patterned item of clothing, such as a blouse, and match it with a jacket in a solid color with a patterned trim – or, alternatively, bohemian embroidery.
It’s a slightly more structured, conventional, and chic mixed-print bohemian look, but it’s still edgy and quirky – and perhaps it will fill you with confidence and encourage you to branch out a little more next time. Therefore, it’s ideal for those who are relatively new to picking boho prints and aren’t quite ready to be completely eclectic.
Our final tip for wearing multiple bohemian prints in one outfit is, arguably, the easiest – and one that many people use as their ‘safe’ option: mixing small floral prints with large floral prints. It’s a simple rule to remember, really – you just can’t have too many flowers, and the similarity in design means they won’t clash, even if they feature different patterns and colors.
For that reason, it’s one of the most commonly used prints for boho clothing – so what better print to use when embracing bohemian fashion? If you choose to go down this floral path, just ensure that you choose ornamental designs rather than stylized, abstract patterns, as the latter are much more likely to clash and often don’t appear as typically bohemian as the former.