Lots of fifty, sixty and seventy year old women have embraced boho. Here’s why:
- Comfortable to wear
- Perfect for temperature control
- Look feminine whatever your body shape
- A fashion that never really goes out of style
- Easy to liven up a classic outfit with a boho item
- Style boho as cool, vintage, fun or eye-popping
- Nostalgia for our youth
- Often inexpensive
- In line with recycling and sustainable fashion philosophy (usually)
How to wear Boho when you’re over 50
Make the most of the wide-cut, floaty, unstructured style of most boho clothes.
With the 70’s having a revival right now you’ll find lots of boho items have crept back into the stores.
I’ve included a Boho-style peasant embroidered wide sleeved top, a Boho flounced midi dress and a pair of those foot-bed double-buckle sandals (totally comfy believe me) in my Capsule Wardrobe Summer 2021 – take a look and see what you think!
Look out for big sleeves, including bell sleeves and sleeves with drapey cuffs. These look good on square-cut peasant style blouses with either embroidery or lace details. Avoid collars on these tops and go for simple round necks or drawstrings that hang next to a V neck. Younger women may look good with a wide sleeve and a wide skirt but you will look better with jeans.
Flared jeans are everywhere today. But are they right for you? Flares can elongate long legs and give a good shape. But they look much better on flat hips. So if you’re 70 and tall and slender, then flares will look stunning on you.
If you’re a bit rounder or squarer you could look at the return of authentic vintage boyfriend style jeans. These are similar to the Levis 501’s worn in the sixties but usually have added stretch these days. They won’t garotte your middle and come in the paler wash that spells late seventies to me.
Flouncy tiered skirts are a gift from heaven for older thicker legs. Wear them to mid-calf or down to the ankle. They’ll make you look feminine and mask that tummy at the same time. Layer tops over them for a gypsy vibe or stick with a fitted tee and a cardigan or longer jacket for a smarter look.
Remember how Laura Ashley started? She introduced small prints on floaty dresses back in the late sixties. Well, they’re back again today. This romantic feminine style looks great on all women. Go for a dress that’s tiered from neck to hem if you have lots to cover up. Or opt for a more fitted bodice and a waist to look country fresh.
Boho small floral prints
So easy to wear. You’ll find them everywhere. Mix prints on layered tops or tops and bottoms for that peasant look where women wear all their clothes at the same time. Or put them up against a white or black item for a more urban style.
Boho traditional and ethnic patterns
No need to stick to tiny floral prints. There are tribal chevrons and all sorts of other colorful ethnic prints and weaves available. Perfect on a jacket over jeans or to draw the eye down a long robe-like dress.
Boho decorative details
Think lace, ruffles and embroidery. All these are good at disguising any imperfections we may have now that we’re older. Just make sure these details are positioned on your outfit to attract the eye away from the less beautiful bits of you.
Lined decolletage or double chin? Details should be on cuffs or at waist level or below. Big waist? Go for detailing around the neck or the hem (not both). Wide hips? Look for dresses with a central panel of embroidery.
Yes, even patchwork is back. It works well for us over 50’s when it’s on a jacket or a bag. It can be in any fabric including velvet. A good highlight for a plainer outfit. Just shows you’re in touch without making you look like you’re still wearing that kit you wore to the Donovan concert.
Boho earth colors
If you want a less busy look then pick out tunics and cover-ups in toning layers. Choose natural fabrics and keep everything loose. This will give you the ultimate ‘you’ll never guess how much weight I put on during lockdown’ style. Wear with flat shoes or sandals.
Boho kimono tops and dusters
The kimono was not, as far as I recall, a seventies item but none the less it looks fabulous. The huge wide sleeves work into the seventies silhouette. The instant way to upstyle a tee and jeans to boho chic with either the shorter jacket type or the long flimsier duster coat. Look for ethnic, tribal and big floral designs. Or stay super smart by wearing a Japanese-look pattern.
Flats, thick soled and strapped sandals, boots and clogs. Peasants and gypsies didn’t wear heels, surprise, surprise. At our age we know why! So even if you’re styling boho for a more city look you can, and should, wear flat ‘work-style’ footwear. Birkenstocks are famous for their comfort and you can get them on Amazon. Any type of flat boot will work well, from Doc Martens to Uggs and beyond.
Layer this on and on and on. A good way to cover a sun-dried neck and chest area.
But, unless your ankles are slim, don’t fool yourself you can wear those slave anklet chains.
Keep jewelry high up or attach it to your waist or a bag so eyes are drawn to you lovely face. Semi-precious stones and polished pebbles won’t break the bank. Or add some Mexican silver items or gypsy gold chains to complete your boho look.
What style of boho is right for you?
This is basically the sixties and seventies’ hippie style revisited. Think maxi dresses, small prints, woven straw bags, patchwork, layers and printed velvets. Anything Indian goes into the mix too such as long floaty shirts in thin cotton. Add to this flared denim pale-wash jeans. And don’t let’s forget tie-dye.
If you liked seventies fashions, vintage boho could be right for you.
All types of seventies fashion is creeping back into even mainstream retailers such as Marks and Spencer’s. Bell sleeves came along last year and flared jeans – though now with added stretch for a sexier cling around your rear – have been big news for a couple of seasons.
So you’ll be very fashion-forward with hippie styles.
The danger is that as you are now er…old…vintage styles are likely to make you look as if you’ve been wearing the same kit all your adult life.
Vintage looks best on someone young. There’s a sort of fashion conversation going on between the mismatch of age and style. So you need to dress vintage with care.
Think gypsy styles, smocking, embroidery, small floral prints, lace, ruffles and any sort of ‘peasant’ decoration. Soft fabric tote bags to sling over your shoulder. And on your feet – clogs.
Clogs are going to be big this year. Well, clogs tend to be pretty big anyway but right now shoe retailers are keen for you to invest in this mill workers’ staple.
This romantic Laura Ashley style of dressing is great for the spring and summer. It tends to be inexpensive too. This year all mainstream fashion shops are showing a flowing, especially tiered, long print dress that is perfect to get the look.
West Coast boho
This is a good summer look. Think earthy and sunshine tones with layer upon layer of natural fabrics. Add in some American ethnic details such as Navajo-influenced chevron patterned jackets and big cardigans for cooler days. Keep your hairstyle loose and informal. This style emphasises sunny good health too.
This look has come to be associated with women of any age who value the natural as a source of food, health, beauty and design. It suggests a certain degree of wealth. There’s a touch of New Age to it too.
The great thing about this fashion trend for older women is how easy it is to wear. The rather shapeless tunics, shirts, dresses and skirts can be layered to disguise a big tummy or a large rear. Nothing clings. Fabrics with stretch have no place in this style.
It’s a simple, comfortable, feel-good fashion that has never really been off-trend since 1975.
This style is good for you if you are a self-confident woman with little interest in city streets and long for the simple life. Gather items one by one and make mixing and matching fun. Avoid harsh or modern bright dyes. Go for undyed linen tunics, tie-dye tees, stone and sand-colored simple cotton shift dresses as well as easy-cut pale wash vintage-style jeans.
Go bare foot indoors and whenever else you can. Otherwise wear simple thong or leather strap sandals. No tight-fitting footwear. If it’s cold then pull on some wide-cut boots or up your look with cowboy styles.
This is a modern take on boho styling.
It is urban and has fashionista appeal.
It puts together items of any of the boho styles with modern clothing pieces. Think floaty floral cover-ups with skinny jeans. Or a romantic tiered dress with heels and a squashy large clutch bag. Even just adding fringing to a jacket worn with your favorite outfit can give you the boho chic look.
If the earth-mother vibe of West Coast boho is too laid back for you then boho chic could be ideal.
Although worn by the young and slender, you can adapt the look to suit your more mature figure. The long beautiful duster coat style cover-up should be on your to-buy list this year. You’ll see them everywhere. They’re perfect for the beach of course but wear them at home over anything casual when having friends round (if that ever happens again) or over a more fitted tee and pants ensemble to look on trend around town.
Personally I prefer the shorter kimono style jacket that is popular now. I’m easily drowned by anything longer than just below knee length. These jackets come in traditional quilted styles or as simple unlined layering items.
Choose a striking Japanese floral design or an intense indigo dye. These will turn your West Coast boho shift or tunic into a more stylish outfit. And they will upstyle your jeans and tie-dye tee to chic.
Where boho meets glam.
A few years back a young man, Ari Seth Cohen, started photographing elderly women in New York. They wore an eye-popping array of colors and prints layered over each other. They often added a hat or unusual sunglasses. They were covered head to foot and the glasses obscured quite a bit of their faces too.
The result was a style I call Bonkers Boho. The photography was collected into a best selling book ‘Advanced Style’. With a follow-up, Advanced Style Older and Wiser’, coming out a few years later.
You will either love or hate Advanced Style.
We all know that uncanny feeling of starting to simply disappear after the age of 50. And at over 70 I can assure you nobody on the street looks twice at you, nobody your age reads the news or gabbles the weather forecast and nobody models clothes for retailers – though there are a growing bunch of us who show our outfits on social media and in blogs like this one.
Advanced style showed women in visually startling outfits where toning neutrals were a joke. The outrageous boho vibe was unmistakeable. These boho women demanded you notice them – whatever their age.
I admit I couldn’t wear bonkers boho. While I am very much in favor of having more images of older women in the media and being taken more notice of in life and work, I have enjoyed the sense of privacy and safety that ‘disappearing’ has given me. I can walk, lunch or go to the cinema alone these days without taking care to avert my eyes from men.
But if you love to be noticed – and why not! – then take a look at Cohen’s bonkers boho pics and think about going for it.
Mish mash lots of color and pattern together and keep your cool as heads turn. It’s a unique, usually vintage, style (far, far from classic style) where your adventurous flair for color and shape is highlighted.
If you ever go bonkers boho we’d all love to see a selfie. Leave a comment in the section below and I’ll email you to get the pic!
Best places to buy boho clothes and accessories
Most large department stores in UK and North America will have at least some boho items. Favorites right now tend to be small floral print or ethnic print summer dresses – tunics, midi and maxi are all popular.
Marksandspencer.com have a few excellent blouses and dresses in boho style. They are inexpensive.
Bloomingdales.com also lists several items which you could wear as a single boho item or layer to make a more retro look.
Both of these stores have flared jeans in a pale wash too.
Anthropologie.com with bricks-and-mortar stores in North America, France and the UK are a great store for sourcing delightfully romantic peasant-influenced dresses, skirts and jewelry.
Etsy.com has a whole area dedicated to boho so is a must-look if you want an inexpensive hand-made or vintage item.
You should also check out some of the cheaper online fashion retailers such as New Chic. Because boho is easy to wear, ideal for spring and summer, and adapts well to layering these retailers can sell thousands of a single item at rock bottom prices. I’m not saying the quality will be as good as a store you know well but if the item is just for a fun addition to an outfit I’d give them a try.
Where does boho style come from?
If you are interested in such things here’s a quick ‘history’ of boho.
Boho had its heyday in the late sixties and the seventies. Images of hippie women at Woodstock and other festivals inspired us all with hopes that an anti-establishment new age was dawning. And we wanted the floaty ethnic clothes that marked us out as part of that movement.
I wore long printed skirts, maxi dresses with tiers and ruffles, second-hand velvet jackets and smelly real fur embroidered jackets from 1968 through my college days until the mid seventies.
Then one day my boss at a part-time teaching gig in Paris told me my clothing was inappropriate for a cadre (white-collar employee) and overnight I ditched the whole trend and became a classic casual.
What does boho mean?
Boho comes from the word bohemian which characterized beatnicks and other non-mainstream style movements after the end of the Second World war.
Originally applying to gypsies who were living in central Europe (Bohemia is an old name for what is now the Czech Republic and surroundings) bohemian came to mean someone who was anti-establishment or on the edge of society.
The birth of hippie fashion
Actually hippies thought of the word ‘bohemian’ as very 50’s and didn’t use it about themselves. But today’s boho clothing is very much based on hippie style.
Women demanded freedom – mainly sexual and physical freedom. Wide skirts were perfect for both!
In the Swinging Sixties of London, mini skirts were mainstream fashion. The hippies, coming from sunny West Coast America, offered urban young people everywhere an alternative less up-tight look.
The folk revival
Musicians and artists regularly revive ‘traditional’ arts, crafts and songs.
The folk music boom led by recording artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary fused with other influences to make stars of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Look at those record sleeves and see boho clothing everywhere.
Freedom to travel
By the time the Beatles visited the Maharishi everyone under the age of 30 wanted to roam the world and learn about different philosophies and beliefs. Suburbia was stifling.
Indian printed cotton skirts and hairy afghan embroidered coats were as far as most of us got in those days but they brought the spirit of freedom to coffee bars across Britain and North America. (Interestingly mainland European kids weren’t so interested in these styles back then.)
Romantic country style
Starting with Laura Ashley’s flouncy peasant-inspired dresses in West Wales – she used to carefully copy early fabric prints from the V&A – women took to a romantic country look and this also merged into boho.
Urban chic update
Finally, 25 years after this post-war style revolution, It girls and starlets started to wear the same items with contrasting styles to produce a city mash-up.
Freedom to make money and become a social media personality might have become the new philosophy for these young women but so had the interest in vintage everything. They found pure styles boring – the world had become multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-style. Eclectic mixes stormed through fashion, home décor and music recordings.
Back to the seventies
Fashion is a wheel that never stops turning. Which means every few decades we return to a place we’ve been before.
Right now that’s the seventies with it’s big silhouette.
Of course designers have changed the vibe a little. Health is now so important that trainers are standard footwear with the new boho. Hair is shinier and better cut. Models in general look relaxed and toned, not just very thin. And sustainable cotton and water-only linen is featured everywhere.
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