In modern usage, the term "Bohemian" is applied to
people who live unconventional, usually artistic, lives. The adherents
of the "Bloomsbury Group", which formed around the Stephen sisters,
Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf in the early 20th century, are among the
best-known examples. The original "Bohemians" were travelers or refugees
from central Europe (hence, the French bohémien, for "gypsy"). In
1848 William Makepeace Thackeray used the word bohemianism in his novel
Vanity Fair. In 1862, the Westminster Review described a Bohemian as
"simply an artist or littérateur who, consciously or unconsciously,
secedes from conventionality in life and in art".
Reflecting on the fashion style of "boho-chic"
in the early years of the 21st century, the Sunday Times thought it
ironic that "fashionable girls wore ruffly floral skirts in the hope of
looking bohemian, nomadic, spirited and non-bourgeois", whereas "gypsy
girls themselves ... are sexy and delightful precisely because they do
not give a hoot for fashion". By contrast, in the late 19th
century and first half of the 20th, aspects of Bohemian fashion
reflected the lifestyle itself. Boho-chic is a style of fashion
drawing on various bohemian and hippie influences, which, at its height
in early 2005, was associated particularly with actress Sienna Miller
and model Kate Moss in England and (as "bobo" chic) actress and
businesswoman Mary-Kate Olsen in the United States. It has been seen
since the early 1990s and, although appearing to wane from time to time,
has repeatedly re-surfaced in varying guises. Many elements of boho-chic
became popular in the late 1960s and some date back much further, being
associated, for example, with pre-Raphaelite women of the mid-to-late
"Boho" is an abbreviation of bohemian.
Vanessa Nicholson (granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, one of the pivotal
figures of the unconventional, but influential "Bloomsbury Group" in the
first half of the 20th century) has described it as a "curious slippery
adjective". Although the original Bohemians were travellers or refugees
from central Europe (the French bohémien translates as "Gypsy or Roma
"Chic" was borrowed from French in the late
19th century and has come to mean stylish or elegant.
Among female Bohemians in the early 20th century,
the "gypsy look" was a recurring theme.
By the mid-1980s, the American singer Madonna had
turned the bra into a positive, even provocative, fashion statement.
Madonna's flamboyant and gritty style (notably seen to bohemian effect
alongside Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 film, Desperately Seeking Susan)
was, in turn, a precursor of so-called "girl power" that was associated
in the 1990s with various prominent young women (such as singers
Courtney Love, who played the 1999 Glastonbury Festival in a
headline-grabbing pink bra, and the more commercially oriented Spice
Girls) and offbeat or quirky American television series (Xena: Warrior
Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Caroline in the City, Sex and the
In the mid-to-late 1980s, variants of the short and
fundamentally un-Bohemian rah-rah skirt (which originated with
cheerleaders) were combined with leather or demin to create a look with
some Bohemian or even gothic features.
In the 1990s the term, "hippie chic", was applied
to Tom Ford’s collections for the Italian house of Gucci.
In the early 21st century, "boho-chic" was
associated initially with supermodel Kate Moss and then, as a highly
popular style in 2004-5, with actress Sienna Miller. In America similar
styles were sometimes referred to as "bobo-" or "ashcan chic", or "luxe
bohemian fashion blog posts here on Apparel Search.
Do you have an opinion or historical reference
regarding bohemian style as it relates to clothing? You are
welcome to share your thoughts with us.