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The History Behind Boho Style

August 10, 2018

The History Behind Boho Style-Freya Branwyn

Loose colourful clothing, long flowing hair and rich in culture, the bohemian style has long been associated with artists, writers, intellectuals and those who wish to incorporate ethical clothing to represent their individuality. But just where did this freedom of the mainstream begin?

It is estimated that the laid back, easy going style of boho is over 200 years old, although as such a subjective way of living, there are no certainties about where it originated or who instigated the now fashionable trend.

If you adore a ruffle, raw fabric and have an unbridled appetite for gemstones and tassels, we’ve uncovered a few of the significant moments that helped to establish ‘bohemian style’ and make it into a lifestyle choice that represents the unconventional.

European Roots

There is much debate amongst historians regarding where the boho style was born. Many feel that is was established in France in the 1800’s as a counterculture during the French revolution.

Where once wealthy clients would support French artists, many were driven into poverty by the revolution and took up a nomadic lifestyle, living cheaply, and wearing worn out or used clothing. Something which even in that day, was simply unheard of.

However, some argue that the original bohemians were in fact from an area in the Czech Republic called ‘bohemia’. The term was then picked up in France, where the French began to use it as a slanderous term for gypsies.

Some of the earliest recordings of the evolution of the style can be found in artists work and novels. For example, in 1848 British writer and novelist William Thackeray used the word ‘bohemianism’ in his novel Vanity Fair. And then in 1862, the Westminster Review described a Bohemian as “simply an artist or writer, who consciously or unconsciously secedes from conventionality in life and in art”.

Despite the seed of its beginnings not specifically known, it is clear that the boho style began in the 1800’s in Europe, bringing about a new cult of individuality that many had never seen or experienced before.

When society demanded rule-abiding citizens to conform to both moral standards and a dress code based on social standing of upper and lower class, this fashion trend broke the boundaries.

Not only were women and men dressing in clothing from other cultures, but they would not be embarrassed about wearing old, worn shoes and threadbare items.

Always Evolving

As with any style that has carried on through the centuries, boho style has continuously evolved through the ages. And while many of the core elements remain, as new cultures have been discovered and new art forms created, so too has the way in which boho style has adapted.

When Europeans began to travel, bohemian style started to become influenced by other cultures. For example the beads of India, the silks of Persia and the embroidery of China.

Even now in modern times, many items are often recycled from other centuries or eras in history to give that carefree style that we have all come to know and love. Just look at the adoption of military style jackets with their golden lapels.

In fact, you could say that boho style is an amalgamation of human history, with many layers all representing another time or another culture.

Modern  Adaptation

Despite being a lifestyle steeped in a rich history, boho continues to be a form of individual expression in modern times. In fact, in the recent 21st century the Sunday Times thought it ironic to point out that some of today’s society celebrities such as Sienna Miller and Poppy Delivgne were wearing “ruffly skirts in the hope of looking bohemian, nomadic, spirited and non-bourgeois”, when the beginning of the trend started as a poor woman's lifestyle.

However, that is the fundamental beauty of this historical style. It surpasses time, class and fashion to provide people with the freedom to dress in a way that suits them. You simply take elements that you appreciate and bring them together to create a unique, individual style.


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