Posted on 07 September 2018

Of late we have been hearing terms like ‘Boho-style’, ‘Boho-Fashion’ and ‘Boho-Chic’ being used to describe various different styles of fashion. However what exactly does boho mean and what types of looks does it describe?

The meaning of Boho

Boho is the shorter way to say Bohemian. The name is acquired from an unconventional group of French artists who used it to differentiate between themselves and the middle class in the 1930s.

This group of French artists did not support the values of the French middle class and therefore they found a way to distinguish themselves. This group of French artists thought that the middle class was narrow-minded and ignorant without any interest in art and they, therefore, come up with their own unique liking of the bourjois.

From the above brief history, it is safe to say that the Bohemian look was created from the need to be different from the rest. It is more than just fashion, it can even be said to be a state of mind or attitude.

The Bohemians had certain characteristics that distinguished them from the rest. Some of these characteristics include:

  • They engaged in work that allowed them to express themselves and not for making money. The idea of working for money was considered to be slavery.
  • Their avenues for self-expression and creativity were ideally also their means of earning an income.
  • Bohemianism encouraged individualism in that is allowed one to be free to forge their own path in terms of lifestyle, politics and community.
  • Bohemians also strived to be different from the bourjois in all aspects including relationships, mode of dressing as well as home life.
  • Everything which was considered to be an indication of success by the society was not considered to be of much value by the Bohemians.

Now that we have a better understanding of who the bohemians were and what they stood for, in a nutshell, it is easier to see where the boho-fashion and lifestyle came from. Below is a brief overview of what boho-fashion and lifestyle is.

Boho-fashion and lifestyle

Bohemian fashion, much as everything else completely went against the norms of the day whereas the middle-class fashion was typified by tightly fitting, often stiff and restricting wear of mainly neutral colours, bohemian fashion featured long, free-flowing soft garments of bright colours.

The bohemian movement birthed in France has not been the only influencing factor in the bohemian culture. Bohemian fashion was also largely influenced by the bohemians who were from the city of Bohemia, Czech Republic. The infusion of these two origins resulted in the bohemian fashion filled with a mix of colours, fabrics and designs that we see today.  

The coming together of the French bohemians and the Czech Republic bohemians resulted in a unique style that is known for being ethical, open minded and receiving to influences from other cultures while at the same time being individually unique.

The rise in popularity of bohemian fashion

The obsession with bohemian fashion began in the ‘50s and ‘60s, with hippie travellers adorning clothing with a wide variety of influences, adopting a mode of dress influenced by the regions they had travelled to. The ‘50s and ‘60s type of bohemian fashion was inspired by the free-spirited and laid-back nature of the time, and it has made a comeback.

Bohemian fashion has taken over and is dominating most fashion and runway shows, red carpets and bridal shows with most featuring fashion pieces inspired by various cultures including Egyptian Moroccan and Indian, printed long free-flowing dresses and pompom embellished garments.  

Bohemian fashion is broad and can be created with a variety of pieces to create a variety of looks. Below we take a closer look at the bohemian style of dressing and how you can incorporate it into your wardrobe.

Bohemian Style of Dressing

Below is a list of some of the fashion staples for a bohemian style dressing and how you can infuse them into your wardrobe. Note, however, that this list is not final when it comes to bohemian fashion, but it does cover the most basic elements of bohemian fashion that will allow you to build on.


Long Skirts

Long skirts are great items for creating a boho chic look. Seasoned bohemian fashionistas agree that the long skirt is a boho fashion staple that even the boho lite will find comfortable and buildable as a boho fashion piece.

Try wearing your long skirt with a vest or tank top, statement headband or wide-brimmed hat and a pair of ankle boots or sandals, the outfit will look awesome with whichever option you are more comfortable with. You can add a plaid shirt to the ensemble by tying it around your waist.

Maxi Skirts

Maxi skirts, whether printed or just plain, are awesome choices when looking to build up a boho chic wardrobe. You can get some that have cool tribal or floral prints on them or plain ones. Plain maxi skirts tend to be more versatile and wearable in a multiple of ways however this falls on personal preference. The distinction is in how you decide to pair them, here are a few suggestions

  • Pair up a simple solid coloured maxi skirt with a cool graphic t-shirt. Complement the look with a floppy hat or a headband a pair of gladiator sandals. You can also throw on a versatile vest to complete the ensemble.
  • For a comfortable no-fuss look on a warm day, wear a maxi skirt paired with a simple vest or v-neck t-shirt and top the look up with a wide-brimmed sun hat.
  • For a cool combined style, pair up your maxi skirt with a clean pair of fashion sneakers, a flannel shirt and a statement lip colour.

Maxi Dresses

If with nothing else, maxi dresses alone are a great way of incorporating the bohemian style dressing into your wardrobe without any fuss. Maxi dresses are comfortable and a complete look all by themselves, paired up with a pair of boots or gladiator sandals and a hat already creates an effortless boho chic look. Additional styling ideas include:

  • Pairing up a printed maxi dress with statement jewellery and wedges or boots
  • Add a denim vest on top of a maxi dress for a more casual relaxed look
  • You can also wear a maxi dress as a skirt by adding on a flannel or plaid shirt on top and a cool pair of ankle boots.


Gladiator Sandals

Gladiator sandals are without a doubt one of the most popular bohemian fashion pieces that have been widely embraced. As a fashion piece, they not only look good but are also light and airy, perfect for a warm weather. They allow your feet to be out while at the same time managing to look put together and polished.

Gladiator sandals mainly come in two varieties of different styles and that is the knee-high gladiators and the ankle gladiators. Knee high gladiators make a bold fashion statement and instantly boost any outfit, while ankle length gladiators are more reserved but not any less fashionable.

When choosing gladiator sandals, opt for ones which are easy to put on and take off, busy gladiator sandals with laces or buckles that take forever to do and undo can be quite annoying.

Knit Cardigans

Knit cardigans and sweaters are great pieces for layering and are not only staples for creating a boho chic aesthetic but also for any type of look you may be going for and can be easily found among the items you already have, and in the event that you don’t or are looking to invest in another one, you can probably easily find one in any store near you.  

When going for that bohemian flair, opt for cardigans and sweaters that are airier and somehow see through. Below are a few ways you can style sweaters and cardigans for a boho chic look

  • Pair an oversized knit sweater or cardigan with a vest, wide legged pants, wedge sandals and a crossbody bag for an easy outfit for the girl on the go.
  • Pair up a knit sweater or cardigan with a button down to create a no effort stylish and comfortable layered look. Top it up with a pair of tightly fitting jeans or cargo pants and comfy ankle boots.
  • You can also wear a lightweight knit cardigan or sweater belted on top of a short dress to accentuate your waist. Throw on an oversized scarf and add ankle boots in warmer weather or thick tights and knee-length boots in cold or cooler weather.

Brimmed hats

When it comes to floppy brimmed hats, there are many varieties available made from different materials, it all depends with the look you are going for. Straw hats tend to go well with almost any boho inspired get up. Note that there isn’t much difference between expensive and inexpensive straw hats when it comes to holding shape. It is just better to hold off on splurging on one and opting to get a new one each season.

Some of the ways you can incorporate brimmed hats into your boho-chic dressing include:

  • Pairing a maxi dress or sundress with a wide floppy brimmed straw hat, gladiator sandals and statement sunglasses
  • Brimmed hats can add a boho vibe to any number of ensembles, for example, you can turn a simple casual look such as skinny jeans paired with a crop top underneath a button-down shirt left open and turn it instantly boho chic by adding a floppy felt hat
  • Another laid back casual boho chic ensemble is a loose fitting pair of boyfriend jeans paired up with a fitted t-shirt a scarf and cute ballet shoes/flats

Geometric prints

Nothing says boho style dressing more than a bold geometric printed fashion piece. Geometric prints add a rich, free-spirited worldly vibe to any outfit. Geometric print items come in all variety of fashion pieces with different prices and it is therefore important that you carefully consider which items you want to invest in and how much you are willing to part with for the said item.

Some of the ways of incorporating geometric print boho chic items into your wardrobe include;

  • Pairing a geometric patterned wool coat with a nice pair of skinny jeans, brimmed felt hat, and boots.
  • One of the hottest geometric print items at the moment is geometric print miniskirts with pom-poms at the hem. They pair well with denim shirts tucked in. finish the look off by wearing high heeled gladiator sandals.
  • You can also wear one piece of geometric printed item and complement the look with statement pieces e.g a loose geometric print maxi dress paired with chunky costume accessories and sandals.

Chunky jewellery

The more singular and unique jewellery piece is, the more bohemian it looks. Bohemian jewellery, much like its origins, takes pride in being different and standing out from the others.

Seek out unique boho jewellery pieces at flea markets, Incense stores and other less explored places. You can even consider creating your own unique jewellery pieces. When looking to make your own jewellery, mainly use natural items such as wood, suede, feathers, steel etc.

Incorporate boho chic jewellery into your wardrobe by:

  • Most boho chic earrings tend to be dangly. Adding statement earrings such as hanging feathers and tassels instantly upgrades an outfit
  • A statement necklace is another boho-chic accessory that can rescue an outfit from the depths of blandness and turn it instantly stylish. There are very many types of necklaces available from layered necklaces to single strands, beaded ones and those with pendants made from wood and other natural materials
  • Boho chic bangles have remained fashionable and will probably remain fashionable for years to come. Bangles made of chunky wood and intricate metal designs are particularly popular and can be worn with various other outfits apart from boho inspired ensembles

Oversized sunglasses

Oversized sunglasses surpassed bohemians and became a hot fashion trend in the mainstream in the recent past. Although the popularity of the trend has waned in the mainstream, it remains a boho chic fashion staple. With sunglasses being easily destroyed, from scratches to breaking to being easily lost, it is probably not a good idea to splurge on a pair. You can get inexpensive sunglasses that are just as stylish and won’t give you a mini heart attack when they get ruined.

You can pull off the bohemian oversized sunglasses look by;

  • Adorning a pair of big sunglasses and pairing the look with statement lip colour and a messy updo.
  • Big sunglasses come in all varieties and styles, from aviators to cat eye and even wayfarer, you are therefore guaranteed of finding a style that is flattering to you
  • For a more authentic boho chic style, try oversized round wire sunglasses a la John Lennon. Their boldness will definitely have you standing out from the crowd


One of the best ways of infusing a boho-chic vibe into any outfit is by the addition of layers. Layers instantly give an outfit a laid-back look and feel.

Scarves are a great item for adding layers to an outfit and giving it a boost. You can choose to invest in designer scarves but there are also very good, high-quality scarves you can get that are not too expensive however it generally boils down to personal preference.

You can incorporate scarves into your boho chic look by; 

  • Pairing a long free-flowing maxi skirt with a loose fitting knit sweater or cardigan, and ankle boots
  • Instantly boost your outfit by adding an oversized infinity scarf with a plain white t-shirt, skinny jeans, and casual shoes like sneakers. Finish the look with a backpack or cross body bag and statement jewellery.
  • There are a bunch of tutorials on the internet on how to use a scarf to create other fashion pieces. You can use your scarf as a tie, belt, dress, casual top and so forth, styled with some of the above-mentioned boho chic fashion staples for the ultimate bohemian dressing

Boho chic bags

A bag can instantly make or break an outfit, any outfit for that matter. A boho chic bag is a perfect accessory for bringing a boho-inspired look together.

Boho-inspired bags come in a variety of styles and are made with a variety of materials including suede, leather, denim, and cloth. Most boho chic bags and purses feature fringes and an overall distressed look and come as a crossbody, floppy purse, messenger bag etc.

  • Boho chic cross body bags are ideal especially if you are an on the go person that does not need a lot of stuff while on the go. These bags tend to be a bit on the smaller side of bad sizes and are especially handy when you have your hands full with other things
  • The floppy purse is another favourite of the boho crowd. It is not only stylish but also roomy, perfect for carrying most of your stuff on the go. Considering that it is made to carry more things, it is advisable to get one that can be carried multiple ways i.e. has handles and shoulder straps
  • Boho chic messenger bags are also available, perfect for studentsB

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