The Evolution of the Bohemian Culture and the Personality Behind It

Estelle Puleston

Posted on March 16 2018

'Boho chic' may be a hot fashion trend today, but it actually started out as quite the opposite. Shortly after the French Revolution in the late 1700s, artists, who had previously been supported by the rich and wealthy, suddenly found themselves plunged into poverty - and only able to afford old, worn-out and decidedly out-of-fashion clothing. The notion of the 'starving artist' was born, and along with it, the bohemian look.

With no money to pay the rent, many artists took up a nomadic or communal lifestyle - they were the couch-surfers of the 18th century! It wasn't long until society began to compare them to the wandering Romani people who had originated from Bohemia, and hence the name bohemians was coined.

Despite being down on their luck, the bohemian crowd refused to feel sorry for themselves and instead chose to embrace their new way of life. By the 1830s, the French art scene was awash with people who no longer dressed 'uncool' because it was all they could afford, but because they actually wanted to. People took painstaking effort to create outfits that stood out from the crowd, and bohemianism became associated with freedom from the strict social and fashion rules of the Victorian era. Think of bohemians as the original punk movement, only without all the safety pins.

romani gypsy jewellery

At around this time, the industrial revolution was underway and mass-manufactured clothing was soon flooding the high-streets of Europe. Walking into a store and seeing rails of identical dresses though was the opposite of everything bohemians stood for, so they doubled-down on their efforts to look unique. They prized skilled crafts like hand-embroidery, piled on artisanal jewellery, and experimented with mixing colours and prints in original ways.

In around 1910, bobbed hair on women was briefly seen as bohemian, since the main trend at the time was for long and luscious locks, before this shorter style went mainstream thanks to the flapper girls of the 1920s. Even Christian Dior's famously feminine 'new look', with a cinched waist and extra-flared skirt, was considered bohemian when it was first revealed in 1947 because it was so unlike the no-nonsense, boyish fashions at the time.

In the 1960s, the hippie movement marked a return to a bohemian look that was closer to the original, 'peasant' style of when bohemianism first began. The hippies' laid-back, carefree attitude to life was matched with unrestrictive clothing and equally-flowing hairstyles. Many people even chose to go barefoot, adorning their toes and ankles with jewellery instead of a pair of shoes.

hippie fashion style

Anything handmade or one-of-a-kind was popular during this period, hence the hippie trend for tie-dyeing just about everything. And with an ethos focused around peace, love and appreciating the environment, girls embraced natural beauty by painting flowers on their face and wearing real ones in their hair.

Although bohemian culture and style has change over the years, it has never really gone away. Today, boho chic has evolved once again, with foiled tattoos and crochet crop tops taking the place of painted-on flowers and tie-dye t-shirts. Many elements though are still the same - take barefoot sandals, flower crowns and a love for anything embroidered for example.

What's also unchanged is the underlying message. 'Boho' isn't just a fashion trend, it's a lifestyle. It represents wanderlust, independence, a carefree attitude, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure. At its heart, bohemianism is all about being unconventional and individual. Being confident in who you are. Basically, just you doing you.

modern boho chic style 

So whether you're at the beach, at a festival, or just lounging in your own front room, forget what the magazines tell you you should be seen in this season, and wear what you like - especially if it's something cute, comfortable and customised in some way!

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