The word bohemian literally means travellers and was originally associated with gypsies.
In the 16th century the Bohemian culture movement was formed and Bohemians became those who lived alternative lifestyles and existed on the fringes of society. Boho, short for bohemian, lifestyles and fashion shot to mainstream fame largely due to the hippie movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and even the pre-Raphaelite women of the late 19th century. Hippies and bohemians are the same when it comes to both their style of dress and way of living.
Boho style is said to be feminine, comfortable, and beautiful and is.characterized by long flowing or tiered skirts and dresses, peasant blouses, ethnic touches like tunics or wood jewelry, embroidery or embellishment with beading, fringed handbags, and jeweled or embellished flat sandals (or flat ankle boots). The look is often layered and colorful.
The laidback ease and free spirited essence of bohemian fashion was seen as a rejection of the overtly feminine and sexualized women’s wear. Thus, boho style was in vogue in the 60s, and quickly felt like home to the burgeoning bra-burning feminist movement.
For many the resurgence of the bohemian look heralds a welcome departure from the conformity, speed and structure of many trends and lifestyles. A liberating fashion tree-change if you will that with its inherent irreverence and its self-embracing free spirit allows the wearer to just ‘be’. Just like the trend’s origin, its popularity is less about the clothes and more about the spirit you embody when wearing them. That is precisely what makes bohemian fashion so enticing for women all over the world.
Here’s what you need to embrace a Boho chic look
Hair and Makeup
A hippie girl has that au naturel look down pat. Keep your makeup look as natural as possible. All you need for this look is minimum coverage, a touch of blush on your cheeks and lips, and a swipe of mascara; you’re all set. As for a true boho hair look, you’ve got two options. You can either go with tousled waves or a poker straight look. But when it comes to the boho look, braids and flowers are always winners.
These 5 items are what you should keep at the top of your shopping list for that quintessential hippie chic vibe. Mix and match them with classic pieces in your closet to avoid looking like a bad retro flashback.
- Platform Shoes
- Bell Bottoms / Wide Leg Pants
- Aviator/Round Sunnies
- Peasant Tops
- Floppy and Rimmed hats
Other classic Boho items to include on your list: flowing maxi skirts and dresses, patchwork denim, suede mini skirts, fur collars and coats, crochet tops, and jumpsuits.
Prints are a great way to integrate some boho hippie charm into your look. Paisley, tie-dye, and floral prints are popular patterns for this trend.
Women who defined the look
Who better to look to for inspiration than these style icons that made bohemian style what it is today, take a cue from these amazing women and you’ll be on the right track. Whether you fancy a girly type of boho a la Ali McGraw (scarf headbands and flowing dresses), rock n’ roll influenced boho a la Stevie Nicks (bell sleeves and long dresses), out-of-this-world prints like Janis Joplin, or effortlessly chic peasant tops and denim like Jane Birkin; you’ll get endless inspiration from this range of historic bohemian and hippie looks.
- Ali McGraw
- Stevie Nicks
- Janis Joplin
- Jane Birkin
Movies that define the look
Sometimes you need moving images to kick-start you sartorial creativity, these movies ought to give you enough material to work with for your next show stopping boho look. Take your pick from the ultimate hippie chic costume of the ensemble cast of Hair, or from Almost Famous’ Penny Lane’s platform knee-high boots, fur, and embroidered tops, or from the youthful characters on Dazed and Confused.
- Dazed and Confused
- Almost Famous
Modern Bohemian Style Icons
Now that you know the key pieces for the hippie look, and have seen the classic style icons and movies that embody it, it’s time to make the boho trend your own. Let’s look to our modern boho-loving celeb style icons for styling tips and tricks in updating the bohemian style and making it work for you.
Today, boho (and the bobo lifestyle that again became popular in 2000) influences are most often worked into a look with other trends as well, rather than wearing the trend from head-to-toe. The style hit an all-time high in 2005, and was exemplified by the ladies below. Currently, these women are still spotted in slightly boho looks, but in a modern mix with other influences like menswear, Americana and sleek minimalism.
As far as modern boho style icons, it doesn’t get much better than Florence Welch. The lead singer of Florence + The Machine favors wide-leg pants, ethereal gowns and even milkmaid braids—all of which give her a fresh bohemian look all her own. Whether on stage or at an awards show, she showcases her long, wavy red hair and romantic sense of style.
To channel her look, rock a wide brim hat with an embroidered coat, try midi-length dresses with Western-style belts master those effortlessly lovely (but actually rather hard to achieve) beach waves. A bold paisley print coat with a Stevie Nicks inspired wide brim hat makes for a strong boho style statement. Balance that with understated leather accessories for an edgier take on the bohemian trend.
For modern boho inspiration, also look to Vanessa Hudgens. This petite style star knows how to make the boho look work for her. Given her petite frame, she chooses lower hemlines and balances the voluminous sleeves at the top with sleek booties. Also take note of the trendy mirrored sunnies that give a contemporary flair to this hippie chic ensemble. Always mix the old and the new, and never forget to take your body type into account.
One of the original boho style mavens in Hollywood, take a cue from Nicole Richie’s leather wide leg pants and seek out unique materials done in classic boho silhouettes.
The Olsen Twins
A style lesson to learn from the Olsens is this: if you love it, wear it and own it. Despite frequent criticism, the Olsen Twins continue to rock boho frocks that ooze vintage glamour and individual style.
Though the apex of her bohemian style really arrived sometime between the years 2000 and 2006, actress Sienna Miller’s boho-chic sensibilities and style choices still resonate. Since the look has its roots in the 1970s, you can be sure that this trend with circulate in and out of style year after year—and that you can get away with a touch of boho anytime. Embroidered jackets, wide-brim hats and slouchy sundresses always work in the summer and fall, and Sienna is cited as an icon year after year.
The Updated Bohemian Look
While the boho-chic craze has died down significantly since the early 2000s, the advent of highly personal style means that influences of all kinds and multiple trends can all be worn together.
No matter your age, if you gravitate towards loose silhouettes, beading or peasant-style blouses, there’s a way to work them into your current wardrobe. Try a wide brim hat or a faux fur vest over your favorite skinny jeans.
Layer some gold chains over your cashmere sweater. Beaded jackets look especially cool over mini skirts or little white dresses… You get the idea. Take an element that you love from the boho trend and adapt it in your own way.
Now check out all these great looks on our Boho Style Pinterest Board