The Enduring Appeal of the Bohemian

Fri, 20 November 2015
bohemian fashion 2015

Fashion’s love affair with the bohemian reignited this year. Exotic embellishments sparkled, jeans flared and burnt oranges and browns constituted the season’s colour palette. A flirtation in early 2014 involved saturated hues, dalliances with suede and teases of slouchy trouser shapes at Milan Fashion Week; by the end of the year a full-on romance had bloomed. Floaty sleeves, silk chiffon and whimsical calf-length dresses wandered down the runways at Anna Sui and Emilio Pucci. Chloé unveiled gauzy peasant blouses, while Dries Van Noten exhibited beautiful prints and sensual, fluid silhouettes. From Tom Ford to Balmain, Jonathan Saunders to Lanvin, just about everyone fell for the carefree bohemian charm.

This is not a first for the fashion world. Free-spirited entanglements have taken place since the early 19th century when the term bohemian first came to light. The word was originally given to Romani people in the 1800s; the French wrongly believed that they had originated in Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic. Soon after, the phrase was used to describe impoverished intellectuals who led similarly nomadic lifestyles. They pursued literary and artistic interests and rejected social conventions, choosing to wear worn-out and second-hand clothing. Wide-brimmed hats, colourful fabrics and loose styles were favoured. The artists came to resemble the Romanis and embraced the romantic notion of unrooted wandering. Henri Murger’s 1851 novel La Vie de Bohéme romanticised the lifestyle, and once it was made into a popular opera by Giacomo Puccini, the ideals began to spread and the foretold beginnings of our infatuation began.

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The movement has resurfaced across cultures ever since; the 19th century Aesthetic Movement; the early 20th century Bloomsbury group; the Beat Generation. Until then bohemianism had been toying with fashion, teasing its material values and opposing its orders. Then the swinging 60s took place. Fashion designers became attracted to the free-spirit and in the early 70s the aesthetic we associate with today was conceived. Thea Porter and Zandra Rhodes produced eastern-influenced textiles, DVF devised her signature wrap-dress and a young(er) Karl Lagerfeld manifested flower child vibes at Chloé. Fashion icons Anita Pallenberg, Jane Birkin and Marianne Faithfull embodied bohemia; their hedonistic and uninhibited lifestyles were reflected in their attitudes towards dressing and they still serve as muses today.

It was the last time aspects of the style reflected a bohemian lifestyle. Ironically, the fashion was adopted by the wealthy – once Kate Moss and Sienna Miller joined in, it was adopted by the masses. The early 2000s tryst was a particularly messy affair, an amalgamation of low-slung oversized belts, white gypsy skirts and waist jackets that left us more than willing to leave our boho days behind. Yet each year elements are still echoed across the uniforms of festival-goers, and designers are once again presenting us with an updated version.

So how can you indulge in your own bohemian fantasy this winter? For a wearable look, stock up on tasseled ponchos, suede patchwork boots and folksy printed dresses – they’ll be hanging in your wardrobe for years to come. After all, it’s a style that we can expect to see again. Bohemia is timeless because it’s rooted in ideals that will never go out of style: freedom, romanticism and decadence.

Words by Kayla Joleen

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