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Boho Festival Fashion In Field 4
Boho Festival Fashion In Field 4
Arianna Tucker / Her Campus
Style > Fashion

The Façade of the Bohemian Aesthetic

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi South chapter.

Frills, flowers, eccentric prints, loose fits, tassels, beads and feathers. This is how one commonly perceives boho-chic fashion. A desi boho look includes oxidised jhumka (earring) , nose ring, and necklace in tribal designs. Jutti (footwear) and bindi (a small colored mark worn between the eyebrows) too are common elements of this fashion trend. Herein lies the biggest misconception, boho has no single chest drawer definition. It’s about individual expression-comfortable, liberating and sustainable fashion. 

French Revolution led to the economic exile of palace artisans creating a group of ostracized artisans owning nothing except their art. As a result, they modified their designs into wearable materials and adopted an unconventional lifestyle only to be ridiculed by the hierarchic aristocratic class. They had a mind influenced by the tendencies of social sciences and personified the go with the flow policy. Their style was priceless in the sense that even when paid, no ordinary gentry would wear it.  As the economic situation improved, artists were no longer simply craft persons patronized by the king or a guild but a personality in their own right; eccentric individuals with innovative eyes. This band of artists were labelled Bohemians since their style was similar to gypsies, a nomadic tribe with Indian roots residing in the Bohemia region, present-day Czech Republic.

 The bohemian style resurfaced in American counter-culture movements valuing individualism, world peace, nuclear disarmament and societal emancipation. Beatnik, hippie, hipster were all part of a simultaneous decade-wise wagon attacking capitalism, consumerism and other establishments of stagnation, greed and power. Boho-chic is a label signifying the polygamous union between the ‘aesthetic’ aspects of all of these styles.

The desi boho-chic combines the sensibilities of a myriad of historically marginalized social groups. Tribal groups who lived (and some of them continue to live) in areas of rich metal deposits produced the quintessential metallic oxidized jewelry. The common design of elephant and peacock were inspired by their forest habitat. The bandhani print was traditionally produced in domestic settings by the resourceful use of natural colorants like dal. While the formerly disdained fashion choices are now being appreciated, their celebration isn’t absolute.

Like most vintage aesthetics, the contradiction lies in the dissociation between the wearer’s style, statement and socio-economic reality. French artists, gypsies and hippies chose, in their unique ways, to live differently and challenge the domineering norm. In the Indian context, the style was the outcome of the habitat and resources at disposal. Moreover, the style also had a sustainable, hand-crafted or local element to their ornaments and clothes. Hippies wore tie-dye, denim and frills since these were cheap and produced from conveniently handmade materials. Flower tiaras did not have plastic but real flowers. Headbands were made from stitching together pieces of extra cloth and one-piece loose clothes could be put to different uses.

 In today’s bustling existence, most people do not have the time to self-craft their clothes and external inspiration is often sought. This can be an influencer’s tutorial or buying clothes online using keywords or algorithmic filters but outfits being sold for Prada prices to boho aspirants would make the style’s proponents rise from the dead. Phrases like ‘Boho Wardrobe Essentials’ or ‘Hippie Style Capsule’ represent oxymorons in themselves. The common thread running through all the manifestations of this style is the unabashed individuality of the wearer and the individual comprises of one’s lifestyle too. But the desi boho-chic takes from a customary apparel of living or uprooted groups. In both the cases of inspiration, a genuine appreciation and understanding of what we are wearing would suffice.

Social media trends jackpot the popularity of an aesthetic only to distance it from its symbolic grounding. The digital capitalism of the bohemian lifestyle is the perfect example. Wall tapestry, plastic leaves, trippy wallpapers and woven rugs can make any room the ideal bohemian picture. But in the defense of the trend-savvy, fashion and identity are two separate things. The majority of people are not interested in understanding the symbolism behind what they are wearing, the source from where they are obtaining or dumping their clothes. It’s just about ‘looking good, feeling good or not caring at all. The sentiment is understandable in our fast-paced lives where we want to do many things to understand our being. Or maybe making a statement through one’s aesthetic choices is irrelevant in an age wherein aesthetics can be branded and bought at an amazing speed.

The various constituents of the overarching Bohemian label show that no style rises in a socio-economic-political vacuum. Though our fashion is distant from its ancestral realities, it still remains grounded in a milieu of excessive consumerism and herd mentality- syndromes that the aesthetics’ founders protested or lived against either consciously or unconsciously. Instead of being mindless consumers, we can take small steps at making informed fashion choices. This can include venturing into state emporiums or artisan fairs, perhaps re-purposing an existing cloth in a new way and recognizing that not every occasion dimes a new purchase.

 We often think that the mainstream tastes of music, fashion or other aspects of popular culture change but in reality, it is only the outer layer of the same old exploitative system that changes. All processes of counter-culture meet the same end – capitalism(or domination); only the lifeless ‘object’ prevails. What if clothes transformed one internally? Then there would have been no need for police, doctor or defense training. One just has to wear the respective uniform and Voila! Funnily, this is exactly how the bohemian facade works.

Ananya Rai

Delhi South '23

Ananya is a 2nd year, history honours student from Jesus and Mary College who laughs at the most random things and get's inspired by everything.