Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

Alternative Fashion: 200 Years of Tribal Ethnic Style

Fringe, turbans, caftans, long dangly ear rings: it’s “hippie” style and it started in the 60’s, right?

Not exactly. It’s bohemian style and its been around for a while. Here are some archival photos from the late 1800’s:

1800's bohemian style

1800’s bohemian style

Before we called them hippies, there was a creative class of of writers, dancers, musicians and visual artists known as bohemians and their style has been an exotic alternative to mainstream fashion for over 200 years. While hippies were completely of the moment in the late 60’s and early 70’s, they were part of a long lineage of free thinking, non-conforming, alternative people.

Part of the bohemian aesthetic involves wearing non Western  “ethnic” clothes in order to transcend conventions and to  express the idea of more authentic, sensual and spiritual qualities believed be more present in tribal cultures. We’re talking about Indian print skirts, Indonesian batik sarongs, Moroccan djellabas, Chinese jackets, Japanese kimonos, Mexican embroidered dresses, and African dashikis, worn with moccasins, boots or sandals, fringe, feathers, Indian turquoise jewelry, natural bead jewelry, capes, scarves and turbans.

Let’s let Janis Joplin show us how it was done in the 1960’s:

Janis Joplin hippie boho ethnic style

Jimi broke a few sartorial as well as musical conventions:

Jimi hippie boho ethnic style

Over the last two centuries, the hallmarks of bohemian style have been:

  • Loose, flowing clothing made of natural fabrics, worn without restrictive underwear
  • Loose, natural hair
  • Colorful scarves worn at the neck, on the head, or at the waist
  • Peasant styles: tunics, loose trousers, boots, and sandals
  • Antique or vintage  clothing
  • Asian elements: robes, kimonos, and the designs of Persia, India, Turkey, and China
  • Mixing historical elements with ethnic styles
  • Layering
  • Mismatching, mixing prints and color combinations
  • Multi strands of beads, bangle bracelets, and unusual, hand crafted, or unmatched jewelry
  • Large dangle or large hoop earrings
  • Broad brimmed hats
  • Patched clothing
  • Paisley, flowered fabrics, ruffles, lace edged sleeves
  • A casual approach to tidiness and uniformity; contrived dishevelment

And here’s what it looked like in 1968:

woodstock hippie boho ethnic style

The 60’s-70’s boho style ended when the alternative became mainstream.

Sorry, Liz, you were fabulous but the caftan lost a bit of it’s edge when you adopted it as your uniform:

Liz the Queen of Caftans

La Liz the Queen of Caftans

Now that we have a little time and distance, bohemian “ethnic” pieces look fresh again. Right now, they look best worn with more minimal adornment and simple, modern hair:

modern hippie boho ethnic style

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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