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Bohemian style: A fashion and lifestyle choice that embraces freedom and self-expression

CEO Tinh Phung
Young Bohémienne: Natalie Clifford Barney (1875-1972) at the age of 10 (painting by Carolus-Duran) The Bohemian style, also known as Boho chic, is much more than just a fashion trend. It is a way of...

Natalie Clifford Barney Young Bohémienne: Natalie Clifford Barney (1875-1972) at the age of 10 (painting by Carolus-Duran)

The Bohemian style, also known as Boho chic, is much more than just a fashion trend. It is a way of life that celebrates individualism and freedom of expression. Although its exact origins are debated, it is believed to have been influenced by the nomadic lifestyle of the Romani people in the late 19th to early 20th century. The term "Bohemian" itself comes from the French word "Bohémien," originally associated with the Roma community due to a historical misconception that they originated from Bohemia, a region in the Czech Republic.

Throughout history, Bohemian fashion has evolved, reflecting the cultural shifts and influences of each era. Today, contemporary Bohemian style embraces flowing fabrics, vibrant colors, and natural, woven materials. This style draws inspiration from counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s, reminiscent of the attire worn by attendees of the inaugural Woodstock music festival.

The Bohemian style has gained global popularity, attracting individuals seeking a unique and individualistic approach to fashion and lifestyle. It encourages a sense of freedom and self-expression, often appealing to those who prefer to live unconventionally, sometimes in a nomadic manner. These individuals may reside in colonies or communes, fostering a strong sense of community.

Carrying on the legacy of Bohemian fashion are today's artists, musicians, and free spirits. They continue to embrace the unconventional and challenge societal norms. The Bohemian style remains a symbol of creativity, nonconformity, and a celebration of the human spirit.

Early 19th century and the role of women

The Bohemian subculture has often been associated with predominantly male artists and intellectuals. However, the female counterparts, known as the Grisettes, played a significant role in this vibrant movement. The Grisettes were young women who worked part-time as seamstresses or milliner's assistants and frequented Bohemian artistic and cultural venues in Paris during the early 19th century.

These women not only worked as artist models but also had a significant influence on 19th-century French art. They were often romantically involved with the artists and provided both inspiration and support. In literature, the Grisettes were frequently depicted as flirtatious and intellectually ambitious, signifying both their charming allure and their desire for personal and artistic growth.

One enduring figure associated with the Bohemian lifestyle is Mimi in Henri Murger's novel, Scènes de la vie de Bohème, which served as the source material for Puccini's famous opera, La bohème. Mimi's character embodies the essence of the Bohemian spirit, evoking a sense of passion, freedom, and rebellion against societal conventions.

Pre-Raphaelites

The Pre-Raphaelite movement, which emerged in the mid-19th century, also played a significant role in shaping the Bohemian style. The Pre-Raphaelites sought to express a rejection of industrialization and a return to the simplicity and beauty of nature. They drew inspiration from medieval art and literature, creating works that celebrated romanticism and spirituality.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other artists, embraced a bohemian lifestyle characterized by unconventional dressing and a rejection of societal norms. Their female models, such as Jane Morris, epitomized a flowing and unconventional style of dress that defied the norms of the Victorian era. These women, including Georgiana Burne-Jones, eschewed the corsets and restrictive garments of the time, instead opting for loose, flowing garments that emphasized comfort and individuality.

Their unconventional style not only influenced the fashion of the time but also had a lasting impact on future generations. Over the years, the bohemian spirit embodied by the Pre-Raphaelites has continued to inspire artists, designers, and individuals seeking a more liberated and authentic expression of the self.

Post-Liberation Paris

After the Second World War, Paris became a hub of bohemian creativity, attracting artists, writers, and musicians from all over the world. The city's vibrant cultural scene gave rise to the concept of "Swinging London" in the 1960s, a time of artistic and cultural revolution.

Fashion became an integral part of this movement, with designers such as Mary Quant and Anna Sui reinterpreting Bohemian aesthetics for a new generation. The Bohemian style became synonymous with a sense of freedom, individuality, and a rejection of traditional fashion conventions.

As the years went by, the Bohemian style continued to evolve, adapting to new influences and trends. Today, it remains a symbol of self-expression and creativity, appealing to those who value nonconformity and a carefree spirit.

Zooey Deschanel performing with M. Ward as She & Him, Newport Folk Festival, 2008 Zooey Deschanel performing with M. Ward as She & Him, Newport Folk Festival, 2008

The Bohemian style remains timeless, a testament to the enduring allure of free-spiritedness and individuality. From its humble origins with the Romani people to its influence on counterculture movements and contemporary fashion, Boho chic continues to inspire and captivate. Whether it's in the flowing fabrics, vibrant colors, or natural materials, the essence of the bohemian spirit lives on, encouraging us to embrace our unique selves and celebrate our freedom of expression.

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