What is Boho Style : A Brief History of Bohemian Fashion

what is boho style the history of bohemian fashion
The fashion world is diverse and ever-evolving, giving birth to a myriad of styles. Among the most enduring is boho fashion, which conjures images of long flowing skirts, oversized blouses, colorful prints, and a general sense of freedom, warmth, and earthiness. However, the boho aesthetic is more than a simple trend—it's a lifestyle choice and a statement of individuality and authenticity. Let's delve into the origins of boho fashion, its distinctive clothing elements, the commonly used materials, and its emphasis on size inclusivity.

 Bohemian Fashion History

Boho fashion finds its roots in the Bohemian movement of the 19th century. The Bohemians were wanderers, artists, and writers who chose to live outside societal norms, valuing artistic expression above all else. Originating in France after the French Revolution, Bohemians were labeled after the Romani people from Bohemia, who were incorrectly thought to be from Bohemia, a region in the modern-day Czech Republic.

The Romani People and the Bohemian Label

The Romani people, also referred to as Roma, are an ethnic group with origins traced back to the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent. They are believed to have migrated to Europe around the 14th century, with significant populations now found across Europe and the Americas.

The term "Bohemian" was initially used in France during the 19th century as a derogatory label for the Romani people, who were wrongly believed to have come from Bohemia in the Czech Republic. The name "Bohemian" gradually shifted from a term identifying a specific ethnic group to a generalized label for people who chose to live an unconventional lifestyle, typically involving artistic pursuits.

Cultural Appropriation

The notion of cultural appropriation is a subject of heated debate in the context of fashion and particularly in the case of boho fashion. Cultural appropriation refers to the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture, especially when a dominant culture borrows from a culture of people who have been marginalized or oppressed.

Boho fashion, with its eclectic mix of various cultural elements, has faced criticism for potentially appropriating elements of Romani culture and other ethnic groups. These include the use of traditional prints, patterns, and clothing styles that have specific cultural significance. The fashion industry's use of these elements, often without acknowledging their origins or respecting their cultural context, has contributed to discussions about cultural appropriation.

Critics argue that this type of borrowing is problematic because it strips these cultural elements of their original meaning and context. It can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to the commodification and commercialization of cultures that have often faced discrimination and marginalization.

While fashion can be a way to appreciate and learn about different cultures, it's essential to be aware of the thin line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Acknowledging the origins of the cultural elements used, understanding their significance, and being sensitive to the history and experiences of the cultures they are borrowed from can contribute to a more inclusive and respectful fashion world.

To combat these issues, it's important for fashion designers and consumers to educate themselves about the cultures they draw inspiration from, giving credit where credit is due, and using their platforms to combat stereotypes and discrimination. By doing so, the world of fashion can be a powerful tool for cultural understanding, mutual respect, and social change.

Types of Clothing in Boho Fashion

Boho fashion is all about comfort and individuality. The clothing is often loose and flowing, with an emphasis on natural materials. Here are some of the most common types of clothing in boho fashion:

 Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses are long, flowing dresses that are perfect for summer. They are often made of lightweight materials like cotton or linen and come in a range of colors and prints. Maxi dresses are a staple of boho fashion and are perfect for a day at the beach or a summer music festival.


Tunics are loose, flowing tops that can be worn with leggings or jeans. They are often made of lightweight materials like cotton or silk and come in a range of colors and prints. Tunics are perfect for layering and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

 Wide-Leg Pants

Wide-leg pants are loose-fitting pants that are perfect for summer. They are often made of lightweight materials like linen or cotton and come in a range of colors and prints. Wide-leg pants are perfect for a day at the beach or a summer music festival.


Fringe is a common feature in boho fashion. It can be found on jackets, bags, and even shoes. Fringe adds a fun and playful element to any outfit and is perfect for a summer music festival.


Crochet is another common feature in boho fashion. It can be found on tops, dresses, and even swimwear. Crochet adds a handmade and vintage feel to any outfit and is perfect for a day at the beach.

Textures and Materials in Boho Fashion

Boho fashion is all about embracing the organic and natural, and this philosophy extends to the materials used in the clothing. Here are some commonly used fabrics:

  1. Cotton: Cotton is widely used due to its comfort, breathability, and versatility. It's ideal for creating light, flowing dresses and blouses.

  2. Linen: Linen is another favored material in boho fashion. It's breathable, lightweight, and has a distinct textured look, adding to the rustic charm of boho clothing.

  3. Leather: Leather finds its place in boho fashion as fringed jackets, boots, belts, and bags. It brings a touch of ruggedness and edge to the look.

  4. Lace: Lace and crochet are popular for their intricate details and feminine appeal. They're often used in dresses, blouses, and even as details on denim or skirts.

  5. Velvet: Velvet, with its soft texture and rich look, is used in dresses, jackets, and accessories. It adds a touch of luxury and depth to boho outfits.

The Embrace of Size Inclusivity

One of the most beautiful aspects of boho fashion is its emphasis on size inclusivity. It’s a celebration of real bodies in all their forms and sizes, defying the rigid norms and sizes of mainstream fashion. The flowing lines and loose-fitting clothes are designed to flatter all body types, not just those that align with traditional standards of beauty.

Moreover, boho fashion encourages personal expression, urging people to embrace their individuality and authenticity. Whether you're petite or plus size, boho fashion ensures there's always something for you. This is a testament to the true essence of boho fashion—a celebration of freedom, individuality, and inclusivity.

Boho fashion, with its rich and eclectic influences, celebrates individuality, freedom, and creativity. It’s a style that encompasses our global heritage, drawing inspiration from diverse cultures across the world. However, the bohemian spirit isn't just about artistic freedom and expression. It also requires a deep respect and understanding for the cultures we draw inspiration from.

Given the long history and diverse cultural influences in boho fashion, it's vital for us to engage with this style mindfully. We must ensure that our embrace of boho fashion does not devolve into cultural appropriation. It's important to understand that the elements we incorporate into our boho style – be it a pattern, a fabric, or a particular garment – can have deep cultural significance. By wearing these elements without understanding their cultural context, we risk stripping them of their original meaning and significance, and thereby inadvertently disrespecting the cultures they originate from.

As consumers, we have the power to change the narrative. We can make conscious choices about the clothes we wear and the fashion brands we support. It's essential to support brands that ethically source their materials and designs and give back to the communities they draw their inspiration from. By doing so, we not only enjoy the beauty of boho fashion, but we also honor the cultures that have enriched it.

We also need to remember that wearing boho fashion doesn't just mean wearing clothes with a particular aesthetic. It also involves embodying the spirit of the Bohemians – a spirit of authenticity, creativity, freedom, and most importantly, respect for the diversity and richness of the human experience. This requires understanding and acknowledging the struggles and experiences of the Romani people and other cultures that have influenced what is boho style.

Let's remember that fashion is a form of expression, and with it comes responsibility. Let's strive to make our fashion choices a tribute to the rich tapestry of cultures that have shaped boho fashion. By doing so, we not only express our unique style but also contribute to a more inclusive, respectful, and ethical fashion world. Boho fashion then truly becomes a celebration of our shared human spirit, paying homage to those who came before us and paving the way for a more inclusive and respectful future.

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