Boho Rhapsody: The Origin of the Posh Pauper Trend

June 13, 2011


Tennessee music festival Bonnaroo came and went this past weekend. Summer music shindigs are about hearing Neil Young and dressing like him, too. But I’m not really a fan of the Buffalo Springfield-at-play look. It’s boho, and it’s not fun to dress that way when you’re actually Bohemian.

My mother’s family is from Prague, the center of historical Bohemia, so, really, I’m half boho. It’s odd to think that my ancestors, from a tiny pocket of Eastern Europe, inspired an entire genre of fashion embraced by models and Olsen twins.

It’s not like other impoverished peoples didn’t sport tattered clothing and scurvy, a look that made them the early precursors of Anthropologie models. Yet you’ll never hear anyone say, “My ‘No Irish Need Apply’ boots are fierce!” Fashion, for whatever reason, settled on 19th-century Czech peasantry as its indigent population of choice.

Despite my boho heritage, I follow the style of my Czech grandmother, whose wardrobe was better suited to high tea than desperately scavenging for food. She aspired to look like she could afford clothes; now Americans aspire to look like they can’t.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/ Getty Images

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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Beth Luberecki · June 13, 2011