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Bohemian Wrapsody

Well before Queen, the Bohemian clothing and lifestyle were already very popular. The bohemian style also emphasizes finding the clothing that makes you feel in harmony with yourself and with nature. The style usually consists of layers, oversize or flowing dresses / skirts, and made of natural fabrics. There are usually a lot of colors, patterns and wear. When people think of hippies, they imagine someone with a bandanna to hold down their long hair, sunglasses, weed and a bohemian attire. Maybe its the natural materials or the refusal to just blend in with the mass. You can recognize someone who partakes in Bohemianism by their long flowing hair and rich, though threadbare fabrics. Bohemians stand out in a crowd, representing a colorful counterculture based on creativity, poverty, and an indifference to social structures and traditions.

The term has become associated with various artistic or academic communities and is used as a generalized adjective describing such people, environs, or situations. Boho (informal) is defined in The American College Dictionary as “a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.” The use of the word bohemian made it’s first appearance in the English language around the 19th century. “Bohemian” was used to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities.

Bohemianism is an actual practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. This practice involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. Bohemians were usually associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and at times fasting. The Bohemians appeared in France, as a counterculture, after the French Revolution. Artists were plunged into poverty when they were d deprived of the former system of patronage, where wealthy clients supported the arts,  Many took up a nomadic life style, lived cheaply, and wore worn out and unfashionable or used clothing. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème. I wonder why?

An artist was seen as a skilled and talented crafts person, but during the 18th century, the Romantic Movement rejected the confines of bourgeois life and the former importance placed on reason, to embrace the imagination. A new sect of personality emerged with the artist as hero and individual style expressed in the way one dressed. An artist became a special type of person, not simply a crafts person, but a kind of eccentric genius whose creativity was displayed in the way they lived and looked. The artist had now become a piece of art himself (herself).

Many people compared the new artistic types to wandering Gypsies. They believed that Gypsies originated in an area of Eastern Europe and the Balkans called Bohemia. They eventually began referring to artists and intellectuals as Bohemians. The word bohemian suggested a sense of arcane enlightenment, sexual freedom, and poor personal hygiene. Bohemian life rejects materialism, private property, and centers on creativity and communal living. Often associated with the use of drugs and alcohol, bohemians ignore social convention, centering their lives on art. Bohemians are, and were, often mistake for Gypsies. The Gypsy was a European term for the Romani people, an ethnic group with Indian origins who had migrated north. The word Gypsy is actually derived from the word Egyptian, which many thought the actual home of the nomadic people who were often social outcasts that lived outside the mainstream. Today, the use of the word “Gypsy” is seen as derisive and offensive to the Romani people.

By the 1830’s, the French Bohemian art lovers and the romantics embraced some of the medieval and oriental clothing styles. This influenced their colorful fabrics, long flowing hair, and wide brimmed hats. The artistic culture no longer resembled the classic view of the Romani people. They had devised whole new melting pot of fashion.

The novelist Henri Murger wrote tales about the people that he called Bohemians, centering on a group of artists and intellectuals in threadbare coats, old shoes, and a general look of dishevelment. The stories inspired Puccinni’s famous opera, La Boheme. Bohemian style evolved into a cult of the individual, a person whose very appearance became a work of art with carefully planned outfits and accessories. The word bohemian suggested a sense of arcane enlightenment, sexual freedom, and poor personal hygiene. Murger is often considered the first Bohemian because he passed up a stable lifestyle and job to pursue his dreams in the arts. His most famous work was called “Scenes de la Boheme “, Murger wrote tales about the people that he called Bohemians. This particular novel centered on a group of artists and intellectuals in threadbare coats, old shoes, and a general look of dishevelment. These such stories inspired Puccini’s famous  and much adored opera, La Boheme.

Bohemian style evolved into a part of the individual. The person’s very appearance became a work of art with carefully planned outfits and accessories. Bohemian style has, for over 200 years, been an exotic alternative to the accepted fashions of a given period. Generally associated with artists, writers, and intellectuals, bohemian culture incorporates various ethic clothing styles, as well as historical costume. Bohemian style consists of loose, colorful clothing and has been known as boho chic, hippie style, and Aesthetic dress. With their long flowing hair and rich, though threadbare fabrics, bohemians stand out in a crowd representing a colorful counterculture based on creativity, poverty, and an indifference to social structures and traditions.

Origin of the Bohemians

The Bohemians, as a counterculture, appeared in France after the French Revolution. Deprived of the former system of patronage, where wealthy clients supported the arts, artists were plunged into poverty. Many took up a nomadic life style, lived cheaply, and wore worn out and unfashionable or used clothing. Formerly, an artist was seen as a skilled and talented crafts person. But the Romantic Movement of the late 18th century rejected the confines of bourgeois life and the former importance placed on reason, to embrace the imagination.

A new cult of personality emerged with the artist as hero and individual style expressed in the way one dressed. An artist became a special type of person, not merely a crafts person, but a kind of eccentric genius whose creativity was displayed in the way they lived and looked. The artist himself (or herself) was a piece of art. People compared the new artistic types to wandering Gypsies and believed that Gypsies originated in Bohemia, an area of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. So, they came to refer to artists and intellectuals as Bohemians. Gypsy was a European term for the Romani people, an ethnic group with Indian origins who had migrated north. The word Gypsy, derived from the word Egyptian, which many thought the actual home of the nomadic people who were often social outcasts that lived outside the mainstream. Today, the word “Gypsy” is seen as derisive and offensive to the Romani people.

By the 1830’s, the French Bohemian art crowd and the Romantics embraced medieval and oriental clothing styles. With their colorful fabrics, long flowing hair, and wide brimmed hats, the artistic culture did come to resemble the classic view of the Romani people.

The Aesthetic Movement In the 19th century, the Aesthetic Movement became a type of bohemian life style. The Aesthetics rebelled against the rigid social constraints of the Victorian era and embraced a style based on the clothing of the past, particularly medieval dress and oriental designs. Believing that the mass production of the Industrial Revolution was dehumanizing, the Aesthetics strove to encourage the old techniques of the Middle Ages with individually crafted goods. Clothing was loose and soft, using fabrics colored with organic dyes and decorated with hand embroidery. The Pre-Raphaelite artists of the day rejected corsets, crinolines, and the stiff bodices and restrictive clothing of Victorian fashion.

What Defines Bohemian Style?

Bohemian style, also referred to as boho chic, has come down through history, reappearing as beatnik style and in the hippie culture of the 1960s. For the last 200 years, bohemian style has consisted of several fashion elements. Here is a list of how to dress Boho Chic:

  • Layering
  • Matching of garments in a nontraditional manner, such as mixing prints, or unusual color combinations
  • Multi strands of beads, several bangle bracelets, and the wearing of unusual, hand crafted, or unmatched jewelry
  • Large dangle or large hoop earrings
  • Broad brimmed hats
  • Patched clothing
  • Paisley, flowered fabrics, ruffles, lace edged sleeves
  • Loose, flowing clothing made of natural fabrics
  • Less restrictive garments worn without corsets, bras or other restrictive elements
  • Loose, flowing hair
  • Colorful scarves worn at the neck, on the head, or instead of a belt
  • Peasant style clothing including tunics, loose trousers, boots, and sandals
  • Used or worn clothing
  • Oriental elements including robes, kimonos, and the ethnic designs of Persia, India, Turkey, and China
  • Mixing historical elements of medieval clothing with ethnic styles
  • A general disregard for tidiness and uniformity of dress
  • A look of contrived dishevelment

Overall, the Bohemian style has remained the same for over many many years. Boho chic has come to be associated with young people hoping to distance themselves from the materialistic culture of past generations. Bohemian style gave birth to new and more modern counter culture styles. Beatniks, with their black turtle necks and striped shirts have taken on a more austere tone of dress. Hippie style introduced a note of childhood into the mix by incorporating cowboy and Indian styles. However, as mass media embraced bohemianism, one wonders if the term is still viable. When a counter culture goes mainstream, the style can no longer be viewed as alternative. Once the thrift stores are selling peasant skirts while fashion magazines are offering expensive (designer made) bohemian style garments; the nature of the bohemian life has become culturally acceptable, and is no longer unique and specific to a particular group. Although fashion often embraces the Bohemian style, the life itself remains a powerful alternative to mainstream culture. Many of the modern youth are still yearning for individual freedom, the rejection of modern materialistic concepts, the dream of Utopian ideals, and production of hand crafted goods.

In this day and age, it is very difficult for one to maintain the lifestyle. If you are deep into creative arts and rejecting materialism, you have a great start.  Let me make this clear, rejecting materialism doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your car, fancy phones or laptops. You just have to remember that you life is worth more than what you have, Your time, your thoughts, your stresses; your heart and mind must not focus on material things. The fashion is easy to figure out and most of you can probably ask our parents or family members for clothes they haven’t worn since around the 60’s.  Many Bohemian are philosophical and question rules, laws and popular opinions; however, the most important part of the Bohemian lifestyle is living life to the fullest while completely embracing who YOU are. If you, the reader, are to take anything away from all of this than let it be this:

“All night, after the exhausting games of canasta, we would look over the immense sea, full of white-flecked and green reflections, the two of us leaning side by side on the railing, each of us far away, flying in his own aircraft to the stratospheric regions of his own dreams. There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. Always curious, looking into everything that came before our eyes, sniffing out each corner but only ever faintly–not setting down roots in any land or staying long enough to see the substratum of things the outer limits would suffice.” ~Ernesto Guevara

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