“Boho” is commonly used to describe a variety of clothing pieces and decor as well as complete outfits and rooms. It is short for “bohemian,” which typically denotes something artistic or unconventional, but as it relates to style, bohemian has become much more symbolic of specific techniques, patterns, and silhouettes or the combination of all three.
Here, we’ll answer the question “what does boho style mean?” and explore how boho style has evolved into what it is today. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll explain what gives a piece of clothing boho character and how you can incorporate these pieces into your closet to achieve boho fashion for yourself. With Karen Kane pieces, boho style is achievable with ease.
The History of Boho Style
Let’s go back to the very beginning. The word bohemian was first used to categorize gypsies during the mid 19th century who hailed from “Bohemia” and traveled throughout Europe as vagabonds. The clothes these wanderers wore would still be considered a bohemian look today: full skirts, headscarves, and bright colors. Bohemian style was also popular in France during this time among artists who dressed in such a way that was countercultural.
Boho style regained popularity during the hippie movement of the 1960s when free spirits embraced the bohemian flair– flowing frocks, floral prints, and long loose waves. At this time, though, the style became less countercultural and more of a mainstream trend.
Modern Boho Style
What is boho style today? Modern boho style reflects styles that were popular during the late 60s and 70s and iconified by the likes of Cher, Stevie Nicks, and Joni Mitchell. While largely influenced by these decades, boho style also draws inspiration from items that have been worn throughout time. For example, what we call prairie dresses today surely have a boho vibe but were first popular during the 1800s, as women commonly wore them on the prairies and farmlands.
More recent styles that have influenced the evolution of bohemian style, or boho chic style, have been set by stars such as Kate Moss and Mary-Kate Olsen. They incorporated loose silhouettes, fringe, and florals into their wardrobes. Today boho style is still relaxed and free-spirited and can be both neutral and full of bold colors.
15 Characteristics of Boho Style
Boho style is relatively easy to spot, but when you know exactly what you are looking for, you can more easily select boho pieces that will help you create a complete look. Here are some of the elements that define boho style. They are fun, unique, and universally flattering.
1. Floral Prints
Floral prints, both big and small in print, and both bright and muted in color, are the signature of boho style. Whether on a blouse, a pair of shorts, a dress, or even a headband, an all-over floral print captures the natural essence bohemians are drawn to. This cold-shoulder scarf top does so beautifully.
2. Loose Silhouettes
Given that boho style was highly influenced by free-spirited personas who couldn’t be contained in super structured pieces, any true boho piece of clothing has a roomy, loose silhouette that is supremely comfortable and can easily flow in the breeze. Take this side-slit midi dress, for example.
3. Flowy Sleeves
In step with loose silhouettes are flowy sleeves. This, too, is a trend that was first established in the 60s and never went out of style, and rightfully so. The look is flattering and feminine. Show off your own statement sleeves with this angle sleeve crossover top, which will flutter while you work or walk.
4. Maxi Dresses
Maxi dresses date back to the very first bohemians and are still one of our favorite pieces to reach for in the modern age. This patch print maxi dress pairs the lengthy silhouette with a patchwork pattern, breezy fabric, and relaxed neckline that are also signature elements of boho style.
5. Relaxed Necklines
Relaxed necklines are those that fall naturally and loosely around the collar bone and shoulders, creating an easy, no-fuss appearance. Consider the soft scoop neckline of this peasant top or the casual split neck of this shift dress. It is necklines such as these that are most common in boho silhouettes.
6. Western Elements
Western elements including studs, leather, fringe, boots, and denim are always welcome as part of a bohemian outfit, particularly since the revival of boho style in the early 2000s. Boho has, after all, always been a favorite style of the rebel. By simply adding a denim vest or a feathered hat to your look, it can quickly transform into a boho look. Flared jeans, fringe vests, cowboy boots, and leather jackets also make great additions to other, more feminine boho pieces such as maxi dresses and floral blouses.
7. Printed Pants
Embrace the comfort every bohemian strives for with a pair of billowy wide-leg pants which can pair well with plus size blouses or petite blouses. Add even further bohemian flair with a printed pair such as these scarf print pull-on pants. Paired with a loose, flowy tunic and a beaded necklace, no outfit is more well-suited for the vagabond at heart.
Embroidery is another popular boho trend found on styles from dresses to tops to pants. Floral motifs and global-inspired patterns are some of the most common embroidery styles, typically surrounding the neckline and center of a dress or blouse, such as on this embroidered tie top or the side seams of a pair of denim jeans.
Fringe can add a boho touch to any outfit, be it on a bag, at the bottom of a top, or detailing the back of a jacket. It brings movement and uniqueness to any piece. Just take this v-neck fringe dress; without the fringe, it’s a classic little black dress, and with it, it’s a complete boho chic look.
Boho style is all about layering in lightweight, loose pieces with plenty of movement. This is why kimonos are the ideal outerwear for boho women everywhere. This crochet kimono is not only the ideal last layer, but it also reflects the handmade feel that many original boho styles would have had.
The bohemian movement was also a romantic one when it spawned in France, which is why lace fabrics are a natural fit, of which loose, floral print lace is a favorite. This eyelet lace dress combines romantic lace with a breezy silhouette and flowy sleeves for a look that is boho from head to toe.
To give a nod to the boho movement in the 60s, look no further than a tie-dye number. Tie-dye prints are just as popular today as they once were, proving that bohemian fashion is alive and well. This midi tie-dye dress is a comfortable and flattering option that pairs a boho print with an easy modern silhouette. The swingy silhouette of this tie-dye top is on par with boho style in shape as well.
13. Patchwork Prints
In addition to florals, patchwork prints were also extremely popular among the hippies and have remained a large part of boho style today. While these prints may have originated out of necessity, today, they are stylish in their own right and still recognized as a bohemian design. See how the patchwork print on this maxi skirt only enhances its bohemian charm.
14. Beaded Accessories
Jewelry is an essential accessory for the modern bohemian. It should have a handmade appearance and feature beads and other textural or natural elements. Our selection of boho jewelry hits the mark. Each piece is casual enough to wear with a summery maxi dress and colorful enough to embolden a neutral look. Uniquely crafted and globally inspired, it is boho jewelry at its best.
15. Woven Bags
Organic materials and woven patterns are not only elements of boho clothing but boho accessories as well. In recent years, bags with fringe, embroidery, and beaded straps have been popular among boho women, but woven totes, crossbody bags, and clutches have outshined them all. This Raffia Braid beach bag epitomizes bohemian style from its relaxed shape to its natural color.
As you can see, bohemian style is not defined by simply one or two elements, but rather, a plethora of unique characteristics. It is these special details that have drawn women to boho style for decades or rather centuries. To follow in the footsteps of so many stylish women before you, be inspired by these boho outfit ideas as well, and learn how to mix and match pieces to create a variety of boho looks. But don’t stop there. If you love boho style as much as we do, you can also incorporate its unique characteristics into your home. If you’re wondering, “What is boho decor?,” continue reading to learn all about boho home decor and discover some boho decor ideas.