Fashion Tips, Features
By Lauren Bravo on April 11th, 2010
Lauren Bravo writes:
When I was 14, dressing, as it is wont to do at that age, fell into two camps. You were a Townie or a Grunger. That was the choice. Trackie top or a Nirvana hoodie. End of.
My friends decided, as right-on, proactive kind of women, that we deserved more choice. So we invented a third option (I’d like to think Emmeline Pankhurst would have been proud). That option was Boho. We put teeny plaits in our hair, we wore floral-sprigged gypsy tops and corduroy loon pants, we made each other necklaces out of beads. We were the revolutionaries of Davison High School for Girls. Peace.
But the result of our bout of fashion adventurousness is that, like a lot of things you overdo when you’re 14, any mention of boho since has made me shudder. When Sienna Miller did her bit for the cause, with her floaty skirts and Uggs, I looked the other way. When maxi dresses returned with a swishy vengeance in 2007, I bought them and hacked the skirts back to a vampish length.
But when Marni’s models took to the Milan catwalk for S/S 2010 in their floaty dresses with mismatched cardigans, leggings and flat sandals, I felt something. A twinge, deep inside, that seemed to say ‘you’re ready again’.
It should be easier this time round. For starters, there won’t be a bully to follow me round on non-uniform days shouting ‘freak’ until I cry in the hockey cupboard. And this time round, the clothes are so much more enticing. This isn’t the same old boho; this is the new boho.
Part of the problem last time, and the time before, and perhaps every time hippie fashion has emerged since its inception in the ’60s, is that it was so anti-fashion. With its wafty silhouette and high comfort factor, it quite literally lacked edge. There was no oomph, no pow, no whiff of the alpha fashion female. But this time, boho has toughened up its act. It’s about throwing a tailored jacket over the hippie-drippy florals, or teaming a peasant dress with a pair of shoes that say ‘never seen a field in my life.’
Where previous incarnations of the boho babe languished in meadows like a Flake advert, 2010’s is more active. She’s a cowgirl. She cracks a whip, she climbs hills, she milks things. And every once in a while, she tarts herself up and goes to a hoedown. Even better, this time round the look is far more applicable beyond Glastonbury. It can be transferred from the field to a Hoxton bar, to the office, to winter, even.
So what does the new boho look like? There are three key words: Stomp. Swish. And Smoosh. Firstly the stomp has to be there, and most likely in the footwear department. The softly-softly fluff of the Ugg doesn’t cut it anymore – this time the look comes with a newfound utility vibe, which means army boots, Doc Martens, clunky sandals or clogs. Something that could do some damage to a cow trough. See River Island’s Spring/Summer ’10 collection, above left.
Next there’s swish. This means, as with old boho, that there should be a fabric surplus big enough to make a ration book blush. But thankfully it doesn’t need to be in the old standards, smock tops and gypsy skirts, but instead with tiered dresses, long shirts, petticoats and layering. Maxi lengths still have their place for those who can carry them off, but for the rest of us there is a strong case for leg-bearing. The key is contrast. If one element is voluminous, the other should be fitted. Take last season’s body con dress and sit it back with a floaty top or a slouchy denim shirt, then tie a scarf round your head and go feed the chickens (or go to Tesco, whatever).
Lastly, there’s smoosh. Because the reason boho has such enduring appeal, season after season, is that it lets us be messy. And not artfully messy, in that choreographed, laquered-over, catwalk way, but genuinely a bit sluttish. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to boho up an old outfit; ditch the hair straighteners and load up on dry shampoo, pile on some mismatched jewellery, cart your tatty old holdall around instead of an evening clutch. Dress sharp, then smoosh it up a bit.
Forget Sienna, Nicole and the Rachel Zoe zombies – the new boho has icons of its own. Look to Zooey Deschanel and Vanessa Hudgens (right) in Hollywood, and Brit musical madames Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes) and Lucinda Belle. Or even better, forget the celeb worship altogether and take your inspiration from films and TV. Mix up Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy with Katherine Ross in The Graduate, and you’re pretty much there.
And the very best thing about the new boho? This time it comes without a side of pretension. Sienna’s sister Savannah Miller, co-designer of the sisters’ Twenty8Twelve range, once described a ‘true bohemian’ as “someone who has the ability to appreciate beauty on a deep level, is a profound romantic, doesn’t know any limits, whose world is their own creation, rather than living in a box”. I think it’s someone who can wear a tired skirt without looking like a Walton. I’ll let you decide which definition you prefer.