La Vie Boheme: Beyond the Trend

A quick bohemian history lesson and of course, some stuff to shop.

05.14.15

“Bohemian” has to be one of the most overused terms this side of the sartorial Mississippi since “the 1970s”, much like “hippie” and, on the other side of the be-clothed spectrum, “modern.” What the hell does bohemian even mean?

Perhaps it conjures up images of that 1967 summer of love; The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Maybe it makes you think of your parents in college and their so-called free spirits that they remind you of when you call them lame. It’s possible that your current bohemian references stretch no further than that of e-tailer copy and online trend stories: “Boho-chic.” A $60 “floppy, bohemian hat.”

But bohemian comes from Bohemia: a region of the Czech Republic bordered by Germany to the west and northwest, Poland to the northeast, the historical region of Moravia to the east, and Austria to the south. (Shout out to Wikipedia for filling in back there where my geographic cartography fails me.) Much of what we think about when that term “Bohemian” comes up (embroidery, “peasant blouses,” floral patterns, tassels) is birthed from this area’s cultural influences.

Now, because it’s early in the morning I’ll try to spare you a full history lesson — but you’ve heard of the Silk Road, yes? In broad, 11 a.m. terms, it was a trade route between Europe and Asia that linked the two continents through a manner we can all understand: textiles. It’s why traditional folk regalia from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Sweden and Estonia have nuanced similarities to that of Morocco, or India. (Again: embroidery, tassels, garment shapes and fabrics.)

Through their various travels and trips (pun intended), musicians of the 1960s — these bohemians — were inspired by various Silk Road-influenced cultures. (Think of The Beatles and India, Jimi Hendrix and Morocco. Let’s assume someone at Woodstock had previously visited Kiev.)

Which, if you’re still awake, leads us to that word one more time: bohemian. Which is currently trending.

At least now, when you wear your embroidered peasant blouse with your floral skirt and your tassel-necklace, you have some sort of reference. A conversation starter? A bit of history underneath your shirt, even if you bought it at Zara?

Whatever. I’m done. As they say in the old country: that’s all, folks.

Into this style but prefer vintage? Try eBay — and actually score — with Krista’s guide. And speaking for style, have you seen Monica Sordo’s NY Closet?…

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