British fashionistas and trendsetters Kate Moss and Sienna Miller may have pioneered “boho chic,” a casual, arty style drawing on bohemian and hippie influences. However, scores of American women, including celebs Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Nicole Richie, have embraced it. Since this look emerged in 2004, it hasn’t gone out of style and is now gaining steam in the world of wedding fashion.
According to Wanda Wen, creator of A Soolip Wedding, an annual Southern California bridal event, “Bohemian chic is eclectic, with roots in a hippie lifestyle where there is a connection to earth and spirit.” Picture a nature goddess, with long flowing hair and dripping jewels, wearing a flower headband or velvet choker. Summing it up, she said, “Think ’60s hippie with a 7th Avenue sophistication.”
Wen should know. She is such a fan of the style that she made the theme of this year’s event “Bohemian Rhapsody.” She believes the trend is a reaction to the highly digitalized world we live in. “It’s our natural tendency to want things around us that are tactile and that appeal to our senses,” she said. “Bohemian is a connection to all that, and to our earth.”
Subconsciously, perhaps. But most brides choose the style because it suits them.
When Gemma Bullough and Steve Brown, both 27, of Encinitas, were planning their wedding at the historical landmark Leo Carillo Ranch in Carlsbad on Aug. 6, 2011, Bullough became concerned about the formal wedding styles she was seeing on design blogs. “I freaked out,” she said in a phone interview, noting that having grown up on the beach, she and her fiancé were both very casual and arty. “We wanted our day to be as relaxed and grounded as possible,” she said. “Isn’t that how bohemian style came about?”
In fact, before they started exploring wedding styles, Bullough had never even seen her fiancé in a suit. “When I saw him in a suit, I knew that the formal style just didn’t fit,” she said. In the end, Brown wore gray pants and vest from Jos A. Bank, a gold Ralph Lauren tie and “cowboy boot-esque shoes,” while Bullough wore a silk chiffon J Crew gown, gold chunky heels, a jeweled headband created by her friend Jennifer Housman, and a Victorian agate seal necklace that had belonged to her grandmother. “Wearing my hair down was important to me,” she said, “as it reflected a natural, Bohemian look.”
Nearly everything at the couple’s outdoor wedding was handmade — from the flower arrangements to the desserts. Brown made hundreds of pots with miniature succulent gardens for the tables, which doubled as party favors, and even wrote and performed a song during the ceremony for his bride. “When we realized that our wedding could be whatever we wanted it to be, we had a blast,” Bullough said.
According to Los Angeles designer Claire Pettibone, known for her quintessential Bohemian chic signature gowns, “a wedding gown is the most emotional piece of clothing a woman will ever wear, so it must capture who she is.” She noted that in the past, it was about pleasing the mother of the bride, but that “today’s bride is more independent and wants a dress that reflects that.”
Pettibone, who began her career designing lingerie and lounge wear, was not a fan of the typical poofy ballroom wedding gowns and decided to create less formal designs that she felt captured a woman’s essence and beauty. “Rather than traditional satins, I tend to use more delicate fabrics such as chiffon, tulle and cotton, along with a really drapy, languid double-faced silk charmeuse,” she said. Lace and embroidery are ever present in her collection. “I’ve always loved vintage things,” she said, noting, that elements from the 1800s, the ‘20s, all the way up to the ‘70s have all been design inspirations. “Like every woman, each dress has its own personality.”
The beauty is in the details when it comes to bohemian style, according to Wen, who noted that though antique elements such as lace definitely come into play, there is a difference between vintage and bohemian style. “Bohemian is more artful and eccentric, while vintage is rooted in tradition,” she said.
Color is key in Bohemian style, and when it comes to flowers, the brighter and more eclectic the better, Wen said. Bullough’s bridal bouquet, made by her mother, was a vibrant Frida Kahlo-inspired bouquet of ranunculus, freesia and asclepias, along with ethereal ivory anemones, the stems cuffed with natural burlap and twine. Claire Pettibone’s recent gown collection includes color, too, with intricate details in rose, blue, silver or gold.
Eclectic, vintage, relaxed, arty. Bohemian chic isn’t so much about fashion, but about personal style. “We didn’t go into it thinking, ‘Hey, let’s have a Bohemian-style wedding,’” Bullough said. “It was just the truest representation of who we are.”
—Jennifer Evans Gardner
Brand Publishing Writer