In modern usage, the term "Bohemian" is applied to people who live unconventional, usually artistic, lives. The adherents of the "Bloomsbury Group", which formed around the Stephen sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf in the early 20th century, are among the best-known examples. The original "Bohemians" were travellers or refugees from central Europe (hence, the French bohémien, for "gypsy").
Reflecting on the fashion style of "boho-chic" in the early years of the 21st century, the Sunday Times thought it ironic that "fashionable girls wore ruffly floral skirts in the hope of looking bohemian, nomadic, spirited and non-bourgeois", whereas "gypsy girls themselves ... are sexy and delightful precisely because they do not give a hoot for fashion". By contrast, in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th, aspects of Bohemian fashion reflected the lifestyle itself.
- 1 Pre-Raphaelites
- 2 Early 20th century and inter-war years
- 3 Post-Liberation Paris
- 4 America: the beat generation and flower power
- 5 London in the 1950s
- 6 Hamburg and Beatlemania
- 7 Swinging London
- 8 Women in the late 1960s and early 1970s
- 9 Since the 1960s: hippie/boho-chic
- 10 Notes
In 1848 William Makepeace Thackeray used the word bohemianism in his novel Vanity Fair. In 1862, the Westminster Review described a Bohemian as "simply an artist or littérateur who, consciously or unconsciously, secedes from conventionality in life and in art". During the 1860s the term was associated in particular with the pre-Raphaelite movement, the group of artists and aesthetes of which Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the most prominent:
As the 1860s progressed, Rossetti would become the grand prince of bohemianism as his deviations from normal standards became more audacious. And as he became this epitome of the unconventional, his egocentric demands necessarily required his close friends to remodel their own lives around him. His bohemianism was like a web in which others became trapped – none more so than William and Jane Morris.
Jane Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and pre-Raphaelite traits
Jane Morris, who was to become Rossetti's muse, epitomised, probably more than any of the women associated with the pre-Raphaelites, an unrestricted, flowing style of dress that, while unconventional at the time, would be highly influential at certain periods during the 20th century. She and others, including the much less outlandish Georgiana Burne-Jones (wife of Edward Burne-Jones, one of the later pre-Raphaelites), eschewed the corsets and crinolines of the mid-to-late Victorian era, a feature that impressed the American writer Henry James when he wrote to his sister in 1869 of the bohemian atmosphere of the Morrises’ house in the Bloomsbury district of London and, in particular, the "dark silent medieval" presence of its chateleine:
It’s hard to say whether she’s a grand synthesis of all the pre-Raphaelite pictures ever made … whether she’s an original or a copy. In either case she’s a wonder. Imagine a tall lean woman in a long dress of some dead purple stuff, guiltless of hoops (or of anything else I should say) with a mass of crisp black hair heaped into great wavy projections on each of her temples … a long neck, without any collar, and in lieu thereof some dozen strings of outlandish beads.
In his play Pygmalion (1912) Bernard Shaw unmistakably based the part of Mrs. Higgins on the then elderly Jane Morris. Describing Mrs. Higgins' drawing room, he referred to a portrait of her "when she defied the fashion of her youth in one of the beautiful Rossettian costumes which, when caricatured by people who did not understand, led to the absurdities of popular estheticism [sic] in the eighteen-seventies".
A biographer of Edward Burne-Jones, writing a century after Shaw (Fiona MacCarthy, 2011), has noted that, in 1964, when the influential Biba store was opened in London by Barbara Hulanicki, the "long drooping structureless clothes", though sexier than the dresses portrayed in such Burne-Jones paintings as The Golden Stairs or The Sirens, nevertheless resembled them. The interior of Biba has been described by the biographer of British 20th century designer Laura Ashley as having an atmosphere that "reeked of sex ... [It] was designed to look like a bordello with its scarlet, black and gold plush fitments, but, interestingly, it implied an old-fashioned, Edwardian style of forbidden sex with its feather boas, potted palms, bentwood coat racks and dark lighting" MacCarthy observed also that "the androgynous appearance of Burne-Jones's male figures reflected the sexually ambivalent feeling" of the late 1960s.
Early flower power: Effie Millais
Effie Gray, whose marriage to John Ruskin was annulled in 1854 prior to her marrying the pre-Raphaelite painter John Millais, is known to have used flowers as an adornment and probably also as an assertive "statement". While in Scotland with Ruskin (still her husband) and Millais, she gathered foxgloves to place in her hair. She wore them at breakfast despite being asked by her husband not to do so, a gesture of defiance, at a time of growing crisis in their relationship, that came to the critical notice of Florence Nightingale (who tended to regard others of her sex with "scarcely concealed scorn" and was generally unsympathetic to "women's rights"). A few weeks earlier, on Midsummer Day, Effie (possibly inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream) was said by her hostess, Pauline Trevelyan, to have "looked lovely" with stephanotis in her hair at an evening party in Northumberland, while, the previous year, a male friend had brought glass flowers for her hair from Venice. Ruskin's father was evidently shocked to learn that, when Effie herself was in Venice, she had removed her bonnet in public, ostensibly because of the heat.
In 1853 Millais painted Effie with Foxgloves in her Hair which depicts her wearing the flowers while doing needlework. Other paintings of the mid-to-late 19th century, such as Frederick Sandys' Love's Shadow (1867) of a girl with a rose in her hair, sucking a sprig of blossom, which was described in 1970 as "a first rate PR job for the Flower People", and Burne-Jones' The Heart of the Rose (1889), have been cited as foreshadowing the "flower power" of the mid-to-late 1960s.
Early 20th century and inter-war years
The pre-Raphaelite look was still considered "advanced" in the late years of the 19th century, by when movements, such as the Rational Dress Society (1881), with which the Morrises and Georgiana Burne-Jones were involved, were beginning to exercise some influence on women's dress. Queen Victoria's precocious daughter Princess Louise, an accomplished painter and artist who mixed in bohemian circles, was sympathetic to rational dress and to the developing women's movement generally (although her rumoured pregnancy at the age of 18 was said to have been disguised by tight corsetry). However, it was not really until the First World War that "many working women ... embarked on a revolution in fashion that greatly reduced the weight and restrictions imposed on them by their clothing". Some women working in factories wore trousers and the brassiere (invented in 1889 by the feminist Herminie Cadolle and patented in America by Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914) began gradually to supersede the corset. In shipyards "trouser suits" (the term, "pantsuit" was adopted in America in the 1920s) were virtually essential to enable women to shin up and down ladders. Music hall artists also helped to push the boundaries of fashion; these included Vesta Tilley, whose daring adoption on stage of well tailored male dress not only had an influence on men's attire, but also foreshadowed to an extent styles adopted by some women in the inter-war period. It was widely understood that Tilley sought additional authenticity by wearing male underclothing, although off stage she was much more conventional in both her dress and general outlook.
By the early 1920s, what had been a wartime expedient – the need to economise on material – had become a statement of freedom by young women, manifested by shorter hemlines (just above the knee by 1925–6) and boyish hairstyles, accompanied by what Robert Graves and Alan Hodge described as "the new fantastic development of Jazz music". At the Antwerp Olympic Games in 1920 the French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen attracted attention with a knee length skirt that revealed her suspender belt whenever she leapt to smash a ball. From then on, sportwear for women, as with day to day clothes, became freer, although, after the Second World War, when the American player Gussie Moran appeared at the Wimbledon championships of 1949 in a short skirt that revealed lace-trimmed panties, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club accused her of bringing "vulgarity and sin into tennis" and shunned the outfit's designer Teddy Tinling for many years.
The impact of lingerie in the 1920s and 30s
The Penguin Social History of Britain noted that "by the 1920s newspapers were filled with advertisements for 'lingerie' and 'undies' which would have been classed as indecent a generation earlier". Thus, in Ben Travers' comic novel Rookery Nook (1923), a young woman evicted from home in her nightwear and requiring day clothes remarked, "Combies. That's all right. But in the summer you know, we don't ...", while in Agatha Christie's thriller, The Seven Dials Mystery (1929), the aristocratic heroine, Lady "Bundle" Brent, wore only "a negligible trifle" under her dress; like many real life "it girls" of her class, she had been freed from the "genteel expectations" of earlier generations. In Hollywood the actress Carole Lombard, who, in the 1930s, combined feistiness with sexual allure, never wore a brassière and "avoided panties". However, she famously declared that though "I live by a man's code designed to fit a man's world ... at the same time I never forget that that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick" Coincidentally, sales of men's undershirts fell dramatically in the United States when Lombard's future husband, Clark Gable, was revealed not to be wearing one in a famous motel bedroom scene with Claudette Colbert in the film It Happened One Night (1934). According to Gable, "the idea was looking half-naked and scaring the brat into her own bed on the other side of the blanket [hanging from a clothesline to separate twin beds]". However, he "gave the impression that going without was a vital sign of a man's virility" More generally, the adoption by the American movie industry of the Hays Production Code in the early 1930s had a significant effect on how moral, and especially sexual, issues were depicted on film. This included a more conservative approach to matters of dress. Whereas the sort of scanty lingerie on show in some earlier productions (for example, Joan Blondell and Barbara Stanwyck in Night Nurse, 1931) had tended to reflect trends that, in the 1920s, defied convention and were regarded many young women as liberating, by the early years of the Depression such displays came to be regarded quite widely as undesirable. Developments in the late 1960s and 70s, when the strictures of the code were abandoned, followed a similar pattern, although, by then, it was often women themselves who were in the vanguard of resistance to sexualised imagery.
Looking back at this period, Graves and Hodge noted the protracted course that "daring female fashions had always taken ... from brothel to stage, then on to Bohemia, to Society, to Society's maids, to the mill-girl and lastly to the suburban woman".
The "Dorelia" look
Among female Bohemians in the early 20th century, the "gypsy look" was a recurring theme, popularised by, among others, Dorothy "Dorelia" McNeill (1881–1969), muse, lover and second wife of the painter Augustus John (1878–1961), whose full skirts and bright colours gave rise to the so-called "Dorelia look". Katherine Everett, née Olive, a former student of the Slade School of Art in London, has described McNeil's "tight fitting, hand-sewn, canary coloured bodice above a dark gathered flowing skirt, and her hair very black and gleaming, emphasiz[ing] the long silver earrings which were her only adornment".
Everett recalled also the Johns' woods "with wild cherry trees in blossom, and ... a model with flying red hair, clad in white, being chased in and out of the trees by nude children". With similar lack of inhibition, as early as 1907 the American heiress Natalie Barney (1875–1972) was leading like-minded women in sapphic dances in her Parisian garden, photographs of which look little different from scenes at Woodstock in 1969 and other "pop" festivals of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Bobbed hair and cross-gender styles
By contrast, short bobbed hair was often a Bohemian trait, having originated in Paris c.1909 and been adopted by students at the Slade several years before American film actresses such as Colleen Moore and Louise Brooks ("the girl in the black helmet") became associated with it in the mid-1920s. This style was plainly discernible on a woodblock self-portrait of 1916 by Dora Carrington, who had entered the Slade in 1910, and, indeeed, the journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings has referred to "poling punts occupied by reclining girls with bobbed hair" as an enduring, if misleading, popular image of the "idyll before the storm" of the First World War.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1920), a young woman who wishes to become a "society vamp" regards the adoption of a bob as a necessary prelude, while Louise Brooks' sexually charged performance as Lulu in G. W. Pabst's film, Pandora's Box (1929), left an enduring image of the style, which has been replicated on screen over the years, most vividly by Cyd Charisse in Singin' in the Rain (1952), Isabelle de Funès as Valentina in Baba Yaga (1973) and Melanie Griffith in Something Wild (1986). It was associated also with many popular singers and actresses in the 1960s and has frequently been evoked by writers and directors, as well as fashion designers, seeking to recapture the hedonsitic or free spirit of the 1920s. For example, Kerry Greenwood's Cocaine Blues (1989) and succeeding novels about Phryne Fisher, a glamorous, but unconventional aristocratic investigator in late twenties Melbourne, Australia, conveyed an image – "five feet two [157.5 centimetres] with eyes of green and black hair cut into a cap" – that was later cultivated stylishly on television by Essie Davis in ABC's Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012).
Around 1926 an even shorter style, known as the "Eton crop", became popular: on her arrival in Tilling (Rye) in E F Benson's comic novel Mapp and Lucia (1931), Lucia described "Quaint" Irene as "a girl with no hat and an Eton crop. She was dressed in a fisherman's jersey and knickerbockers". (In the same book, Miss Mapp frequently – and topically – addressed Lucia, to her irritation, as "Lulu".) For many years trite assumptions were often made about the sexuality of women with cropped hairstyles; an historian of the 1980s wrote of the Greenham Common "peace camp" in England that it "brought public awareness to feminist separation and even to lesbianism, hitherto seen in the mass media – when acknowledged at all – either in terms of Eton-cropped androgyny or of pornographic fantasy". Even so, others have drawn a stark contrast between the bohemian demeanour of the Greenham women and the "bold make-up and power-dressing" that tended to define women's fashion more generally in the 1980s (the so-called "designer decade").
One social historian has observed that "the innocuous woollen jersey, now known [in Britain] as the jumper or the pullover, was the first item of clothing to become interchangeable between men and women and, as such, was seen as a dangerous symptom of gender confusion". Trousers for women, sometimes worn mannishly as an expression of sexuality (as by Marlene Dietrich as a cabaret singer in the 1930 film, Morocco, in which she dressed in a white tie suit and kissed a girl in the audience) also became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, as did aspects of what many years later would sometimes be referred to as "shabby chic". Winston Churchill's niece Clarissa was among those who wore a tailored suit in the late 1930s.
The "New Look"
After the Second World War Christian Dior's "New Look", launched in Paris in 1947, though drawing on styles that had begun to emerge in 1938-9, set the pattern for women's fashion generally until the 1960s. Harking back in some ways to the Belle Epoque of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – and thus not a "new" look as such (by early 1948, it was simply known as "The Look" in America) – it was criticised by some as excessively feminine and, with its accompanying corsets and rustle of frilled petticoats, as setting back the "work of emancipation won through participation in two world wars". It also, for a while, bucked the trend towards boyish fashion that, as after the First World War, tended to follow major conflicts.
American influences had been discouraged during the Nazi occupation of France, but, notably in the form of be-bop and other types of jazz, were strong among intellectual café society in the mid-to-late 1940s. In 1947, Samedi-Soir lifted the lid on what it called the "troglodytes of Saint-Germain", namely bohemians of the Parisian Left Bank (Rive Gauche) district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, who appeared to cluster around existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. These included Roger Vadim (who married and launched the career of actress Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s), novelist Boris Vian (since described as "the epitome of Left Bank bohemia, standing at the center of its postwar rehabilitation") and singer Juliette Gréco.
At the liberation of Paris in 1944, the American journalist Ernie Pyle observed that the women were all "brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colourful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings." while Lady Diana Cooper, whose husband, Duff Cooper, became British Ambassador to Paris that year, wrote that, during the occupation, Parisienne women had worn "grotesquely large hats hung with flowers and fruits and feathers and ribbons" as well as high carved wooden shoes. However, in contrast to such striking bohemian adornments and subsequently the "New Look" (which itself scandalised some Parisennes), the clothes of the post-war bohemians were predominantly black: when Gréco first performed outside Saint-Germain she affronted some of her audience by wearing "black trousers, her bare feet slipped into golden sandals". In old age she claimed that this style of dress arose from poverty:
When I was a teenager in Paris ... I only had one dress and one pair of shoes, so the boys in the house started dressing me in their old black coats and trousers. A fashion was shaped out of misery. When people copied me I found it a little ridiculous, but I didn't mind. It made me smile.
Performing in London over fifty years later, Gréco was described as "still ooz[ing] bohemian style".
Saint-Germain in retrospect
Capturing the spirit of the time, David Profumo has written of how his mother, the actress Valerie Hobson, was entranced by Roger Vadim's flatmate, the director Marc Allégret, while she was filming Blanche Fury in 1947:
Allégret's apparently bohemian lifestyle appealed sharply to her romantic side ... and she revelled in the Left Bank milieu to which he introduced her during script discussions in Paris. There were meals with André Gide, Jean Cocteau and the long-legged Zizi Jeanmaire. For an attractive British woman who felt deprived of attention ... this was an ideal situation for some sort of reawakening.
The previous year a perfume created for Hobson had been marketed as "Great Expectations" to coincide with her role as Estella Havisham in David Lean's film of that name, based on Charles Dickens' 1861 novel. In England, this attracted the custom of then-Oxford University undergraduate Margaret Roberts, later British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, a little daringly for the time, also shopped for "push-up" pink brassieres. In 1953, when Hobson starred in the musical The King and I in London, it was apparent that she had retained a Parisienne mix of chic and Boheminism. A Daily Mirror journalist described her "pale, ladylike looks, her well-bred clothes ... she likes embroidery and painting", while a young Etonian who visited her dressing room recalled that "it had been freshly painted pink and white for her, and was like entering a risqué French apartment". Ten years later, when Hobson's husband, the politician John Profumo, was involved in a sex scandal that threatened to destabilise the British government, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote that "his [Profumo's] wife is very nice and sensible. Of course, these people live in a raffish, theatrical, bohemian society where no one really knows anyone and everyone is "darling"".
Post-war Paris was recalled fondly in 2007 when France introduced a ban on smoking in public places. The aroma of Gauloises and Gitanes was, for many years, thought to be an inseparable feature of Parisian café society, but the owner of Les Deux Magots, once frequented by Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and other writers, observed that "things have changed. The writers of today are not so addicted to cigarettes". A British journalist who interviewed Juliette Gréco in 2010 described Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore as "now overpriced tourist hotspots" and noted that "chain stores and expensive restaurants have replaced the bookshops, cafés and revolutionary ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir's Rive Gauche".
The bohemian traits of post-war Paris spread to other urban parts of the French-speaking world, notably to Algiers, where an underground culture of "jazz clubs, girls and drugs" grew up - in the words of punk rock producer Marc Zermati, who was in the city at the height of the Algerian war in the late 1950s, "all very French". However, that war marked a turning point which, in the view of some, was so traumatic that "ordinary French people" looked instead to America as "a new model for pleasure and happiness". This, in turn, led to the ye-ye music of the early to mid 1960s (named after the British band, the Beatles' use of "yeah, yeah" in some their early songs) and the rise of such singers as Johnny Halliday and Francoise Hardy. The French also adopted a number of British singers (Petula Clark, Gillian Hills, Jane Birkin) who performed successfully in French, Birkin forming a long-term relationship with singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, who was a seminal figure in French popular music in the 1960s and 70s.
America: the beat generation and flower power
In the United States adherents of the "beat" counter-culture (probably best defined by Jack Kerouac's novel, On the Road, set in the late 1940s, written in 1952 and published in 1957) were associated with black polo-neck (or turtle neck) sweaters, blue denim jeans and sandals. The influence of this movement could be seen in the persona and songs of Bob Dylan in the early to mid-1960s, "road" films like Easy Rider (1969) and the punk-oriented "New Wave" of the mid-1970s, which, among other things, produced a boho style icon in Deborah Harry of the New York band Blondie, whom photographer David LaChapelle has described as "the definition of cool". (However, as with some American musicians of the mid-1960s, such as Sonny and Cher, Blondie came to international prominence only after a tour of Britain in 1978.)
Greenwich Village and West Coast
New York's Greenwich Village was a particular magnet for bohemians in the early 1960s. Bob Dylan's girl-friend Suze Rotolo, who appeared with him on the cover of his second album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963), recalled that the Village was "where people like me went – people who didn't belong where they came from .. where the writers I was reading and the artists I was looking at had lived or passed through". These "beatniks" (as they came to be known by the late 1950s) were, in many ways, the antecedents of the hippie movement that formed on the West Coast of the USA in the mid-1960s and came to the fore as the first post-war baby-boomers reached the age of majority in the "Summer of Love" of 1967. The Monterey Pop Festival was a major landmark of that year, which was associated with "flowerpower", psychedelia, opposition to the Vietnam war and the inventive music and flowing, colourful fashions of, among others, Jimi Hendrix, the Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane and the British group, The Beatles, whose album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, is said to have caused the guru of psychedelia, Timothy Leary, to remark that "my work is finished".
Hippiedom and the Pre-Raphaelites
For men's fashion, the wearing of neckties, which, in the mid-1960s had often drawn on 19th century paisley patterns, declined as muttonchop whiskers and teashades (sunglasses) came in: by the time of the Chicago 7 trial (late 1969), hair over the collars had become so commonplace that it was beginning to transcend Bohemian style, taking on mass popularity in the 1970s. The London art dealer Jeremy Maas reflected in the mid-1980s that
there [was] no question that the Hippy [sic] movement and its repercussive influence in England owed much of its imagery, its manner, dress and personal appearance to the Pre-Raphaelite ideal ... It was observed by all of us who were involved with these exhibitions [of pre-Raphaelite paintings] that visitors included increasing numbers of the younger generation, who had begun to resemble the figures in the pictures they had come to see.
Jimmy Page of the British band Led Zeppelin, who collected Pre-Raphaelite paintings, observed of Edward Burne-Jones that "the romance of the Arthurian legends [captured in his paintings] and the bohemian life of the artists who were reworking these stories seemed very attuned to our time", while the author David Waller noted in 2011 that Burne-Jones' subjects "have much in common with the sixties rock chicks and their pop-star paladins".
London in the 1950s
Although the annual Saturday Book recorded in 1956 a view that "London's now nothing but flash coffee bars, with teddies and little bits of girls in jeans", the "Edwardian" ("teddy boy") look of the times did not coincide with Bohemian tastes. For women, the legacy of the "New Look" was still apparent, although hemlines had generally risen as, as one journalist put it in 1963, "photographs of those first bold bearers of the New Look make them seem strangely lost and bewildered, as though they had mistaken their cue and come on stage fifty years late". The Bohemian foci during this period were the jazz clubs and espresso bars of Soho and Fitzrovia. Their habitués usually wore polo necks; in the words of one social historian, “thousands of pale, duffel-coat-clad students were hunched in coffee bars over their copies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jack Kerouac”. Various public houses and clubs also catered for Bohemian tastes, notably the Colony Room Club in Soho, opened in 1948 by Muriel Belcher, a lesbian from Birmingham. As with the literary phenomenon of the so-called "Angry Young Men" from 1956 onwards, the image was more a male, than a female, one. However, when the singer Alma Cogan wished to mark her success by buying mink coats for her mother and sister, the actress Sandra Caron, the latter asked for a duffel-coat instead because she wanted to be regarded as a serious actress and "a sort of a beatnik". In 1960 the future author Jacqueline Wilson, who, as a teenager, lived in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, captured this look after spotting two acquaintances in a record shop "in turquoise duffle coats, extremely tight jeans and cha-cha shoes being cuddled by a group of horrible spotty teddy boys".
In Iris Murdoch's novel, The Bell (1958), an art student named Dora Greenfield bought "big multi-coloured skirts and jazz records and sandals". However, as Britain emerged from post-war austerity, some Bohemian women found influences from continental Europe, adopting, for example, the "gamine look", with its black jerseys and short, almost boyish hairstyles associated with film actresses Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina, 1954, and as a "Gréco beatnik" in Funny Face, 1957) and Jean Seberg (Bonjour Tristesse, 1957 and A bout de souffle, 1960), as well as the French novelist Françoise Sagan, who, as one critic put it, "was celebrated for the variety of her partners and for driving fast sports cars in bare feet as an example of the free life". In 1961 Fenella Fielding played "a mascara-clad Gréco-alike" in The Rebel with comedian Tony Hancock, while, more recently, Talulah Riley replicated the look for scenes in ITV's 2006 adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Moving Finger, set in 1951.
Others favoured the lower-cut, tighter styles of continental stars such as Bardot or Gina Lollobrigida. Valerie Hobson was among those whose wardrobe drew on Italian couture; in addition to a large collection of stiletto heeled shoes, she possessed a skirt made from python skin. More generally, European tastes – including the Lambretta motor scooter and Italian and French cuisine, which the widely travelled cookery writer Elizabeth David, herself a bit of a Bohemian, did much to promote – not only began to pervade Bohemian circles, but offered a contrast, from 1955 onwards, with the brasher Americanism of rock 'n' roll, with its predominantly teenage associations.
Hamburg and Beatlemania
In 1960, when the Beatles (then an obscure Liverpudlian combo with five, as opposed to their eventual "fab" four, members) were working in Hamburg, West Germany, they were influenced by a Bohemian "art school" set known as Exis (for "existentialists"). The Exis were roughly equivalent to what in France became known as les beats and included photographer Astrid Kirchherr (for whom the "fifth Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe left the group) and artist and musician Klaus Voormann (who designed the cover for the Beatles' album Revolver in 1966).
John Lennon's wife Cynthia recalled that Kirchherr was fascinated by the Beatles' "teddy-boy style", but that they, in turn, were "bowled over by her hip black clothes, her avant garde way of life, her photography and her sense of style". As a result the group acquired black leather jackets, as well as fringed hairstyles that were the prototype of the "mop-top" cuts associated with "Beatlemania" in 1963-4. The latter coincided with the revival of the bobbed style for women, promoted in London by hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, initially for actress Nancy Kwan, and adopted by, among others, singers Cilla Black, Billie Davis and, in America, Bev Bivens of We Five and Tammi Terrell, fashion designers Mary Quant and Jean Muir, American actress Barbara Feldon in the TV series Get Smart, and, in the form of a longer bob, Cathy McGowan, who presented the influential British TV pop music show, Ready Steady Go! (1963-6). However, when longer blonde hair (associated with, among many others, Julie Christie, Samantha Juste, Judy Geeson and a fashion model named Lorna McDonald, who, at the end of each edition of the BBC's Dee Time, jumped into Simon Dee's open E-type Jaguar) came to typify the "sixties" look, advertisers turned to the Bohemian world for inspiration: through its use of herbs, Sunsilk shampoo was said to have "stolen something from the gypsies".
Beatlemania did not of itself create the apparent iconoclasm of the 1960s; however, as one writer put it, "just as Noël Coward and Cole Porter reflected the louche, carefree attitude of the [Nineteen] Twenties, so did the Beatles' music capture the rhythm of breaking free experienced by an entire generation of people growing up in the Sixties". By the middle of the decade, British pop music had stimulated the fashion boom of what Time called “swinging London”. Associated initially with such "mod" designs as Quant's mini-skirt, this soon embraced a range of essentially Bohemian styles. These included the military and Victorian fashions popularised by stars who frequented boutiques such as Granny Takes a Trip, the "fusion of fashion, art and lifestyle" opened by Nigel Waymouth in the King's Road, Chelsea in January 1966, and, by 1967, the hippie look largely imported from America (although, as noted, London stores such as Biba had, for some time, displayed dresses that drew on Pre-Raphaelite imagery). The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, whose early girl friend, Linda Keith, had, in her late teens, been a bohemian force in West Hampstead, noted on the Stones' return from an American tour in 1967 how quickly hippiedom had transformed the London scene.
This fusion of influences was discernible in two black-and-white productions for BBC television in 1966: the series Adam Adamant Lives!, starring Gerald Harper as an Edwardian adventurer who had been cryopreserved in time and Juliet Harmer as Georgina Jones, a stylish "mod" who befriended him, and Jonathan Miller's dreamy, rather Gothic production of Lewis Carroll's mid-Victorian children's fantasy Alice in Wonderland (1865). (Confirming the aspiration, Sydney Newman, the BBC's Head of Television Drama in the 1960s, reflected of Adam Adamant that "[they] could never quite get [the] Victorian mentality to contrast with the '60s".)
On the face of it, Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) had been a rather conventional and repressed Oxford University don, but he was a keen and artistic photographer in the early days of that medium (taking, among other things, rather bohemian looking pictures of Alice Liddell and other young girls) and he developed an empathy and friendship with several of the Pre-Raphaelites; the sculptor Thomas Woolner and possibly even Rossetti dissuaded him from illustrating Alice himself, a task that was undertaken instead by John Tenniel. The imagery of Alice, both textually and graphically, lent itself well to the psychedelia of the late 1960s. In America, this was apparent in, among other ways, the "Alice happening" in Central Park, New York (1968) when naked participants covered themselves in polka dots and the lyrics to Grace Slick's song "White Rabbit" (1966) – "One pill makes you larger/And one pill makes you small" – that she performed with both the Great Society and Jefferson Airplane, including with the latter at Woodstock in 1969.
Women in the late 1960s and early 1970s
By the late 1960s shops such as Laura Ashley (whose first London outlet opened in 1968) were routinely promoting the "peasant look" and selling a range of "uniquely eccentric clothes ... The magic was being able to step into a 'Laura Ashley' dress and imagine you had found something out of a dressing-up box". At around the same time too, and into the 1970s, the brassière (or bra), which, as noted, had been seen as a liberating innovation in the early part of the century, came to be regarded by some women, such as the Australian academic Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch, 1969), as an unduly restrictive symbol of traditional womanhood. However, the much-publicised incidence of "bra burning" in the 1970s tended to be overstated and came to be satirised: for example, in the 1973 film, Carry On Girls, and a poster by Young & Rubicam, one of a mildly subversive series for Smirnoff vodka: "I never thought of burning my bra until I discovered Smirnoff". It was also seen by many, including Greer herself, as a distraction from the cause of women's "liberation". A Vermont lawyer later observed wryly that "like every good feminist-in-training in the sixties, I burned my bra", but that "now it's the nineties ... I realize Playtex [underwear manufacturer] had supported me better than any man I know." Claire Perry, who became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 2010, reflected that, as a "women's officer" at Oxford University in the early 1980s, she was "a bra-burning feminist with a hideous new-romantic haircut", but that her feminism had, in her view, matured.
By the mid-1980s, the American singer Madonna had turned the bra into a positive, even provocative, fashion statement. Madonna's flamboyant and gritty style (notably seen to bohemian effect alongside Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 film, Desperately Seeking Susan) was, in turn, a precursor of so-called "girl power" that was associated in the 1990s with various prominent young women (such as singers Courtney Love, who played the 1999 Glastonbury Festival in a headline-grabbing pink bra, and the more commercially oriented Spice Girls) and offbeat or quirky American television series (Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Caroline in the City, Sex and the City).
Since the 1960s: hippie/boho-chic
Journalist Bob Stanley remarked that "the late 1960s are never entirely out of fashion, they just need a fresh angle to make them de jour". Thus, the features of hippie fashion re-emerged at various stages during the ensuing forty years.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, variants of the short and fundamentally un-Bohemian rah-rah skirt (which originated with cheerleaders) were combined with leather or demin to create a look with some Bohemian or even gothic features (for example, by the singing duo Strawberry Switchblade who took inspiration from 1970s punk fashion). In the 1990s the term, "hippie chic", was applied to Tom Ford’s collections for the Italian house of Gucci. These drew on, among other influences, the style, popular in retrospect, of Talitha Getty (died 1971), actress wife of John Paul Getty and step-granddaughter of Dorelia McNeil, who was represented most famously in a photograph of her and her husband taken by Patrick Lichfield in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1969. Recalling the influx of hippies into Marrakesh in 1968, Richard Neville, then editor of Oz, wrote that "the dapper drifters in embroidered skirts and cowboy boots were so delighted by the bright satin '50s underwear favoured by the matrons of Marrakesh that they wore them outside their denims à la Madonna [the singer] twenty-five years later".
In the early 21st century, "boho-chic" was associated initially with supermodel Kate Moss and then, as a highly popular style in 2004-5, with actress Sienna Miller. In America similar styles were sometimes referred to as "bobo-" or "ashcan chic", or "luxe grunge", their leading proponents including actresses Mary-Kate Olsen and Zooey Deschanel. Established in 1993, the UK clothing label 'OVERIDER' described as 'the brand of a free spirit' and favoured for its understated, effortless, bohemian style exemplifies the 2014 Boho-chic trend. As if to illustrate the cyclical nature of fashion, by the end of the noughties strong pre-Raphaelite traits were notable in, among others, singer Florence Welch and model Karen Elson.
- Sunday Times Style, 19 June 2005
- The original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had been formed in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, Rossetti and John Everett Millais, who aspired to a style of painting that they felt had been lost since the time of Raphael (1483–1520).
- Franny Moyle (2009) Desperate Romantics
- See, for example, Virginia Nicholson (2002) Among The Bohemians
- Though more conventional in many ways than Jane Morris, Georgie Burne-Jones was becoming "a bit of a bohemian" even in the early days of her marriage; for example, she would ask her maid to model for sketches in mid-morning, whereas a typical bourgeois wife would have given priority to the housework: Fiona MacCarthy (2011) The Last Pre-Raphaelite.
- Judith Flanders (2001) A Circle of Sisters
- Henry James, letter to Alice James, 10 March 1869
- Pygmalion, introduction to Act III
- Fiona MacCarthy (2011) The Last Pre-Raphaelite
- Anne Sebba (1990) Laura Ashley: a Life By Design
- MacCarthy, op. cit.
- Suzanne Fagence Cooper (2010) The Model Wife: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, Ruskin and Millais. Florence Nightingale's observations regarding the foxgloves are noted in correspondence of her friend, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, whose acquaintance with Effie Ruskin dated back to their schooldays. However, it is unclear when Nightingale herself met Effie: Cooper, op.cit, footnote 85. (Gaskell was especially well connected. In 1861, for example, she was part of a house party at Fryston Hall, Yorkshire given by Richard Monckton Milnes – a persistent suitor of Florence Nightingale – that included also the MP William Forster, Austen Layard, who excavated the biblical city of Ninevah, and the American (Union) Minister in London, Charles Francis Adams. Gaskell was among a group visiting nearby Pomfret Castle when Adam received news of the Trent incident that, in the early stages of the American Civil War almost brought Britain and the Union to war: see Amanda Foreman (2010) A World on Fire.)
- David Cannadine (1998) History in Our Time
- Diary of Pauline, Lady Trevelyan, 24 June 1853, quoted in Robert Brownwell (2013) Marriage of Inconvenience
- Brownwell, op.cit.
- Robert Melville in New Statesman, 20 November 1970
- See MacCarthy, op.cit.;
- Virginia Nicholson (2002) Among The Bohemians
- John Sutherland in The Times, 21 December 2013, reviewing Lucinda Hawksley, Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter
- Martin Pugh (2008) We Danced All Night
- The Times Luxx, 26 November 2011
- Andrew Marr (2009) The Making of Modern Britain.
- Henrietta Heald, 'For England's Sake', History Today, October 2014, page 33
- Kate Adie (2013) Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One. Tilley was actively involved in recruitment for war service and was happily married to her songwriter, Walter de Frece, who was later knighted and became a Member of Parliament.
- Pugh, op. cit.
- Robert Graves & Alan Hodge (1940) The Long Weekend: A Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939
- Edward Fawcett in Royal Academy of Arts Magazine, June 2012
- Times obituary of Gussie Moran, 19 January 2013
- John Stevenson (1984) British Society 1914–45
- Rhoda Marley to Clive FitzWatters and Harold Twine in Travers, Rookery Nook, chapter XII. Offering to assist her, Clive had suggested to Twine that "it will be more or less guess-work on my part – in the bag put one pair of thin com – er – lady's summer underwear". Rhoda asked if Twine "could just manage a pair of cami-knickers and a Princess petticoat". As early as 1920, in Travers' début novel The Dippers, Pauline Dipper's "black silk petticoat [did not] extend unduly, and it was possible to esteem the shapely outline of calf and instep, compressed in stockings of the same material" (chapter III). Also in The Dippers, a young woman tried to start a conversation about "hygienic underclothing for ladies" with a man she mistakenly believed to have written articles on the subject: "I wanted to speak to you about something delicate ... this is not a subject one can discuss in public. People have such conventional ideas" (Helen Monk to Henry Talboyes, chapter VIII).
- Glamour's Golden Age, BBC4, 26 October 2009
- Jane Ellen Wayne (1993) Clark Gable: Portrait of a Misfit
- Quoted in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion (10th ed. 1993) edited by John Walker. Almost 70 years after Lombard's death, the Sunday Times described red lipstick as the "ne plus ultra [not further beyond] of make up ... We respect red lipstick as a badge of loveliness and youth (Georgia May), bold style (Florence Welch), sexual confidence (Scarlett Johansson) and old-school glamour (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) – and, above all, we appreciate that it doesn't work for everyone": Shane Watson in Style, 4 December 2011.
- Wayne, op.cit.
- Tim Stanley, 'Speaking in Code', History Today, October 2014
- Graves & Hodge, op.cit.
- Virginia Nicholson (2002) Among the Bohemians
- Katherine Everett (1949) Bricks and Flowers. See also Juliet Nicholson (2006) The Perfect Summer
- Katherine Everett (1949) Bricks and Flowers
- See Diana Souhami (2004) Wild Girls
- Gilbert Cannan (1916) Mendel
- Gretchen Gerzine (1989) Carrington
- Max Hastings (2013) Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914. Hastings himself rejected the notion that the years immediately before the war represented some sort of golden age.
- See Ellie Pithers in Telegraph Magazine, 26 January 2013. The term, "vamp" (after "vampire"), was associated in particular with the silent film actress Theda Bara (1885–1955).
- Valentina was originally a comic book creation by Italian artist Guido Crepax, inspired by Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box: see Roland Jaccard (ed. 1986) Louise Brooks: Portrait of an Anti-Star.
- Greenwood (2012) Unnatural Habits
- Tasmanian-born Davis was in her early 40s when she played Phryne Fisher, though the heroine of the books was only as old as the century (28 in 1928). Other recent examples of the 1920s style bob have included Gemma Arterton in St. Trinian's (2007) and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in the 5th series of ITV's Downton Abbey (2014), the latter set in 1924.
- Martin Pugh, op. cit.
- Alwyn W. Turner (2010) Rejoice! Rejoice!: Britain in the 1980s
- Graham Stewart (2013) Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s
- Tim Stanley, 'Speaking in Code' in History Today, October 2014 at page 21. Dietrich made clear her personal preference for such clothes: "I do not wear them to be sensational. I think I am much more alluring ..." (quoted, ibid.).
- Clarissa Eden (2007) A Memoir: From Churchill to Eden
- Pearson Phillips in Age of Austerity 1945–1951 (ed. Michael Sissons & Philip French, 1963)
- Norah Alexander in Daily Mail, 13 March 1948. In a cartoon of 1949 David Langdon had a vendeuse saying to a customer, "By 'New Look' I take it you mean what we now consider 'Old Look', but not the 'Old Look' which preceded the 'New Look': Punch, 30 March 1949.
- Phillips, loc.cit.
- With reference to the colourless "utility" garments that became commonplace in Britain during the war, Phillips (loc.cit.) quotes an expert of the time at London's Victoria and Albert Museum as asserting that "men will feel oppressed and frightened by excessive femininity when they return from war".
- See Dan Halpern in The New Yorker, 25 December 2006
- Samedi-Soir, 3 May 1947
- Dan Halpern, The New Yorker, 25 December 2006
- Quoted in Nicholas Rankin (2011) Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII
- Letter, 23 September 1944: Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to her Son John Julius Norwich 1939-1952 (ed John Julius Norwich, 2013)
- Antony Beevor & Artemis Cooper (1994) Paris After the Liberation
- Interview with Will Hodgkinson, Times Saturday Review, 6 November 2010
- The Times, 27 June 2000
- David Profumo (2006) Bringing the House Down. In contrast to Vadim, who had not turned twenty, Allégret (1900–73) was in middle age when he directed Hobson. He had been married to the daughter of the editor of French Vogue, who left him after the war for a theatrical agent, André Bernham, taking their daughter with her (ibid). Jeanmaire is probably best remembered through the second line – "And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire" – of Peter Sarstedt's song "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?" (1969) which captured the spirit of Parisian high life in the late 1960s.
- Charles Moore (2013) Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography – Volume One: Not for Turning
- Eve Champman and Hugo Williams quoted in David Kynaston (2009) Family Britain 1951–57
- Harold Macmillan, diary, 22 March 1963, quoted in Alistair Horne (1989) Harold Macmillan 1957–1986; Charles Williams (2009) Harold Macmillan
- BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Bidding goodbye to the Gauloises
- Will Hodgkinson, Times Saturday Review, 6 November 2010. Simone de Beauvoir was an existentialist companion of Sartre.
- Andrew Hussey, History Today, March 2015 at page 64 (reviewing Barnett Singer, The Americanization of France).
- Hussey, loc.cit.
- Notably She Loves You (John Lennon/Paul McCartney, 1963)
- Quoted by Lina Das in You magazine, Mail on Sunday, 3 July 2011
- When the British band the Rolling Stones arrived in Los Angeles in 1964 they were met by Sonny Bono, who was then doing promotional work for producer Phil Spector. A year later, he and Cher were "feted" at the Dorchester Hotel in London and "presented to the world" by Ahmet Ertegun: see Keith Richards (2010) Life.
- Suze Rotolo (2009) A Freewheelin' Time
- Suze Rotolo observed that "the Beats had already cracked the façade [of constricted and rigid morality] and we, the next generation, broke through it": A Freewheelin' Time, op.cit.
- See The New Yorker, 26 June 2006
- Quoted in Laurence Des Cars (2000) The Pre-Raphaelites: Romance and Realism. See also Fiona MacCarthy (2011), op.cit.
- Quoted in History Today, October 2011
- History Today, loc.cit.
- Saturday Book, vol 16, 1956
- Pearson Phillips in Age of Austerity, op.cit.
- Dominic Sandbrook (2005) Never Had It So Good
- Sophie Parkin (2012) Colony Room Club 1948–2008: A History of Bohemian Soho
- Carol Dyhouse in History Today, November 2011
- Diary, 13 February 1960, quoted in David Kynaston (2014) Modernity Britain: A Shake of the Dice, 1959-62
- Times Saturday Review, 6 November 2010
- Peter Lewis (1978) The 50s
- Part of the Marple series, with Riley as Megan Symington.
- Richard Davenport-Hines (2013) An English Affair
- For example, A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950)
- Cynthia Lennon (2005) John
- See, for example, Sandbrook, op.cit.
- Bob Hope in Telegraph Magazine, loc.cit.
- And replicated by Sheridan Smith in the ITV biopic, Cilla (2014)
- A similar style to McGowan's was adopted in the early 2010s by British Labour Party politician Rachel Reeves.
- Richard Wiseman (2006) Whatever Happened to Simon Dee?
- TV advertisement of 1966: Washes Whiter (BBC2, 1990)
- Time, 15 April 1966
- See Times Magazine, 24 June 2006; David Moss in Antiques Trade Gazette, 27 August 2011 (number 2004)
- Fiona MacCathy (2011) The Last Pre-Raphaelite
- Keith Richards (2010) Life
- Miller's production starred 13-year old Anne-Marie Mallik in her only known acting role.
- Andrew Pixley (2006) DVD viewing notes for Adam Adamant Lives!
- Simon Winchester (2011) The Alice Behind Wonderland. Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was the daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, where Dodgson was a Fellow.
- Stephanie Lovett Stoffel (1997) Lewis Carroll and Alice
- Roger Lancelyn Green (1960) in Aspects of Alice (ed. Robert Phliips, 1971)
- Thomas Fensch (1968) "Alice – the First Acidhead" in Aspects of Alice, op,cit.
- Waldemar Januszczak in Sunday Times Culture, 27 November 2011
- The first American branch of Laura Ashley opened in San Francisco in 1974, but had closed by the time a shop opened in New York in 1981 (Laura Ashley products having been sold in Bloomingdales and Macy's department stores for some years): Anne Sebba (1990) Laura Ashley: a Life By Design
- Sebba, op.cit.
- Nick Souter & Auart Newman (1987) The Postter Handbook
- In 2013 The Oldie published a cartoon depicting women suffragettes of the early 20th century with the caption "... but I'm not sure about this proposal to burn our whalebone corsets" (Oldie, February 2013). A pragmatic 21st-century view was that "feminism is not about burning your bra in the street. It is about [among other things] women getting up in the morning and leaving the house to go to a job that pays them an actual wage ..." (Laura Smith, letter in Metro, 30 October 2012).
- Susan Sweetser, quoted in Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (5th edition, ed Gyles Brandreth, 2013) 119:13
- Interview with Rachel Sylvester & Alice Thomson, The Times, 2 March 2013.
- The Times, 26 July 1999
- The Times Knowledge, 24 June 2006
- Photographs for album, Since Yesterday (1984)
- Lichfield (1981) The Most Beautiful Women. See http://www.blackbookmag.com/article/guccis-cruise-wear-for-earth-mamas/3399
- Richard Neville (1995) Hippie Hippie Shake