What happened to Bohemia?
Bohemian style has been reinvented again and again; over the years it has been donned festival-ready, boho-chic, hippie-look, and most recently seventies rejuvenation. Always with a different spin, key features tend to come in the form of floral print, free-flowing fabrics and some kind of headwear.
The meaning of bohemian is a romantic concept of a person or group who are entirely free within themselves. The kind of people who do not tie themselves to places, but leave memories scattered all over and are passionate about their creativity. Their views are urban, liberal and they prioritize freedom above all. Today celebrities Nicole Richie and Vanessa Hudgens have become faces of bohemianism, but do they reflect what bohemia was originally intended to be?
The word “bohemian” was first used in the early 1800s in Paris to describe a group of students, artists, writers and refugees who gathered The Latin Quarter and refused to conform to general society. These characters flaunted their relaxed rebellion in their dress and behaviours and were likened to travelling people. The French word bohémien translates to “gypsy”. The women were known for wearing full, brightly coloured skirts and androgynous dressing was common; cropped hair was popular for the girls.
Another moment in time when the bohemian lifestyle took heed, and became incredibly popular, was the late sixties and seventies during the hippie era or “the summer of love”. Hippies were young Americans who were embracing new alternate ideals like free love and gender equality. They were often suspicious of the government and wanted to rebel against the type of lives their parents chose to live.
They were very much against commercialism and often chose to make their own clothes, using methods like tie-dye, batik, crochet and beading. They embraced nature by using natural fabrics and dyes with wooden beads and feathers as embellishments, all seen as hippie qualities today. Due to the sudden possibility of jet set travel, people could find out more about exciting places that had previously seemed so mysterious. Hippies took inspiration from Middle Eastern countries, which inspired new silhouettes and styles, like the kimono and the poncho. Again, androgyny was popular.
Today’s take on bohemian style shows a more polished, mature side than previous years, with off-the-shoulder blouses, soft suede skirts, leather fringing and flared denim jeans. Whereas prior modern bohemian styles were confined to festivals, these looks can be worn every day. But do we think about the past influences on our clothing choices at all? Maybe we do, maybe we are seeking a sense of freedom from our own lives. Or maybe they just don’t mean anything anymore, and for now the dust has settled on bohemia.