If you want proof that boho is back in a big way, then allow me to direct you to Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson's wedding this weekend. For the smaller-than-planned big day, the bride wore a bell-sleeved dress by designer Christos Costarellos (reportedly rented from MyWardrobeHQ, kudos for that savvy and sustainable move) and a flower crown. She posed barefoot; there were hay bales in the No 10 garden. As for the groom? He was on predictably dishevelled form in a crumpled shirt. Perhaps this could have been spun as a nod to the free-spirited look the couple were clearly going for, were it not for the fact that he has never been spotted in an ironed one. Still, thank the heavens that he didn't go full Johnny Depp - we've been through enough in the past year.
No doubt by now you have already seen the 'When your dad drops you off at Coachella' memes. It feels icky to criticise any bride's look (and, FYI, this writer has had many age gap relationships - so no judgement there) but the problem is there was a whiff of the mined-directly-from-Pinterest about it. It felt contrived, whereas the boho spirit should be about eclectic, instinctive dressing. The flower crown was too literal. But, nevertheless, you can consider the Symonds/Johnson nuptials proof that boho is back, just in time for that 'summer of love' we've all been promised.
Indeed, boho hasn't been this big since the early Noughties. In 2005, I received the highest compliment I could be given when someone mistook me for Sienna Miller (from the back, but I’ll take it). Beachy blonde hair aside, it wasn’t so much of a physical resemblance as a shared sartorial sensibility. I can remember exactly what I had on: a peasant skirt hitched up and worn as a dress, a heavy belt studded with what looked like loose change, a bangle on my upper arm and gladiator sandals that laced all the way up to the knee. Oof.
In hindsight, it was the kind of lunatic get-up that probably only Sienna could get away with. Still, that didn’t stop me, and every other girl I clapped eyes on, trying. She was the girl we all wanted to dress like – a style icon for the paparazzi era.
Sienna’s haute hodge-podge style was soon neatly packaged as ‘boho chic’, the tenets of which were, essentially: print, colour, texture (all at once) and, if in doubt, put a fringe on it (anything, everything). This was hippy-lite dressing for people who missed the ’70s the first time around. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the high street to catch on, filtering the impulsive, thrift-shop aesthetic through a Coachella-fied, mass-market filter. I’ll happily go on the record to testify that a floppy hat or crochet waistcoat feel a lot less free-spirited and a lot more clichéd when everyone else is also wearing one. What had once felt effortless suddenly felt try-hard.
And so, inevitably, the pendulum swung. Fashion moved on, Sienna moved on, we all moved on. I finally waved goodbye to the last dregs of boho around the same time my first boss firmly suggested I might want to consider brushing my hair once in a while. Ahem. Instead, our wardrobes were painted with the broad strokes of minimalism, punctuated by different iterations of sportswear; kaftan dresses swapped for pared-back tailoring, moccasins ditched for souped-up sneakers. Boho was a no-go.
But now the tide is turning back again. ‘Minimalism can sometimes be a bit too stark or harsh. And streetwear can come across as sloppy, as if you just rolled out of bed,’ says the designer JJ Martin, who’s a perennial champion of the power of the exuberantly printed dress. ‘Boho puts a bounce in a woman’s step and makes her tap into her inner minx. It’s a style that’s floaty, flirty and feminine. And most of all easy. Women probably feel in their truest nature like this. At least I do.’
If you’ve been wearing tie-dye for the duration of the pandemic, then you’ve already got the memo. With its trinkets that look like they’ve been picked up on a beach and all those gauzy dresses, summer is boho’s natural habitat. Its wanderlust spirit is particularly covetable in a year when many of us won't be going anywhere (at least you can look like you have!). Crochet is having a moment, as is patchwork (Emma Corrin's favourite brand, Bode, is the place to go). Some collections to check out now: Loewe's latest Paula's Ibiza collection is stuffed full of fringing, raffia and macramé while John Lewis has joined forces with another Balearic boutique, La Galeria Elefante - head there for the kind of wafty dresses that demand to be worn with a little too much jangly jewellery. And then there's the hippyish blouses in H&M's new Brock Collection collaboration and the printed kaftan's in Mango's new Chufy partnership (Blake Liveley is a fan).
Still, if you can’t shake the hangover of the naff early noughties boho, be galvanised by the fact that this time it has a less twee sensibility. If the previous iteration was all about Morocco via Portobello, this time think Ibiza via California. With her mish-mash downtown style (that’s a compliment), Zoë Kravitz is the poster girl for the new bohemian movement (her mum, Lisa Bonet, will always be a boho icon), and Kate Moss has elegantly evolved her own rock-meets-hippy style into a palette of black and neutrals (not too scary, huh?). And if you want some luxe-inspo, do a quick Google search of some of the Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen's best Met Gala moments.
If you’re still not sure, a palette cleanser piece is your best friend. Paring back the prettiness with minimal, modern pieces, should steer you away from Laurel Canyon cosplay territory. To keep it firmly located in 2021, mix boho silhouettes with modern accessories.
There is one piece of non-negotiable advice I’d impart, however – and it’s not regarding the pitfalls of wearing a skirt as a dress (although: don’t). Rather, if you’re going all in, pepper your look with some vintage pieces. The charm of boho is supposed to lie in its expression of personal style; nothing undoes that like wearing what everyone else is. Even better, indulge in a little closet karma and shop your own wardrobe. If you’re anything like me, no doubt you still have some moccasin boots and waistcoats lying around somewhere. Oh, and perhaps leave the flower crown at home.