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I’m a bit of a free spirit at times. This tends to carry over into my work attire. I’m not ashamed to proclaim my love for bohemian style from the rooftops. I was boho way before the Olsen twins launched their infamous boho-inspired line. Shoot, I was boho before they were born.
Boho as a style aesthetic has existed in some form or another for decades. It was the garb of hippies, gypsies, counterculturalists and rebels. The style signified a departure from the establishment.
Now it’s on sale at every large retailer and boutique. Boho is hot. It’s a strange — and uncomfortable — departure from the original Webster’s definition of “a person who has informal and unconventional social habits.” Nothing says unconventional like racks of mass-produced BOGO boho clothes.
Bohemian style has levels — boho casual, boho glam, boho chic. But boho career? I don’t think it’s a category. I think I might create it.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. What is boho style? Clothing in this category often, but not always, has the following detailing:
- floral prints
- flowy, often loose-fitting cuts
- asymmetrical cuts and hemlines
- sheer fabric
- light knits
I’m sure I’m forgetting something. This list is not exhaustive. Not everything I listed makes a piece bohemian. Usually it’s a combination of elements.
Full-fledged boho is not appropriate for most work settings. I can’t imagine arriving to work in a tasseled crop top. If done correctly, the end result is a mixture of chic and unkempt.
This style tutorial is targeted for individuals who want to capitalize on the trend or, like me, love boho and want to incorporate it into their work wardrobe, preferably without facing the human resources department or the unemployment line.
Here’s a little background for my readers before I trudge forward. I’m a teacher. More specifically, I work in higher education. Colleges and universities attract the counterculture set. That said, the environment is still fairly conservative. Even in the most casual departments, employees wear suits to public events and interviews. But yes, the tweed-and-Birkenstock-wearing professor does exist.
I understand you may work in a more conservative environment that shuns patterns and pops of color. I’ll note alternatives where necessary.
Minimal Boho Detailing
Let’s start with an easy transitional look. Here’s what I wore to the office as a business casual look:
I ran into Emily in the hallway. I said hi. Next thing I know, a photo shoot ensued, as it does.
What? That doesn’t happen during your lunch break? You should try it some time.
In this look, I’m combining trendy with boho. The boho is minimal.
The top and the jewelry add the boho elements. The top is a tad sheer. It’s also a lightweight material with a slight flowy cut. I don’t know if it’s evident in the picture, but it has an embroidered abstract floral pattern.
Here is a closeup. I’m wearing a beaded tassel necklace and filigree earrings.It’s easy to add boho styling through jewelry. It’s the most non-intrusive element to a wardrobe.
The makeup look is minimal. I used my contouring palette as eyeshadow. I applied it as I would an eyeshadow trio — highlighter near the brow bone, light bronzer on the lid, and darker bronzer in the crease. I wore liquid eye liner, mascara, a light blush and opaque nude lip gloss. Boho makeup is either minimal or extreme. We’re defying conventions here, remember.
Mary Beth swears that cardigans are THE fashion must-have. Any fashion faux pas can be concealed with a cardigan (like my sheer top). I opted for a 3/4 length sleeve boxy cardigan.
The pants and shoes are on trend. I should mention that the heels gave of themselves fully for this shoot. One is missing a pad. It’s a sad day.
Alternatives: An embroidered pattern is less noticeable than a full pattern. Feel free to swap out the patterned pants and shoes for conservative neutral solids. You can swap the cardigan for a blazer. If the neckline or sheer material is too much, offset both with a cami.
Here’s a picture of me hanging onto something for good measure. It’s becoming my signature pose:
Want a little more boho without going over the edge?
This is another business casual look. This dress doesn’t require leggings. I’m not sure why I wore leggings in the first place. The sides are ruched like yoga-style leggings.
I paired the dress with an asymmetrical flyaway cardigan, thus proving Mary Beth’s theory.
Here is my flyaway cardigan trying to fly away:
At least in this shot, you can see the woven belt and necklace.
Now for the shoes — these are my $5 floral canvas shoes from Target. I love these things. I wasn’t in the classroom, so I opted for a comfy shoe.
Alternatives: Obviously, if a canvas sneaker is out of the question, wear a floral flat or heel. You can ditch the leggings if need be. Don’t write on your arm with a Sharpie either.
Mary Beth wants me to share another picture with you. She’s ecstatic that I’m using her photos in my blog.
Full Out Boho Chic
For the more adventurous, here’s how to look like Mary-Kate Olsen at the office. Well, somewhat like Mary-Kate. She’s far more glamorous than you and I.
I’m wearing a sheer knit dress with a duel-patterned asymmetrical hemline.
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in….
I had to wear a cami and leggings for obvious reasons. I purchased this dress at Been There Unique Boutique. The sales person convinced me that this dress was made for me. We had a discussion about how to make this look work-appropriate. I’m not opposed to buying casual clothing. I like clothes that serve multiple purposes.
Frugal fashion tip: Buying clothes you can wear for more than one occasion stretches your closet and your budget. This tip does not work for weddings. Nothing you wear for a wedding is reusable. You’re pretty much screwed if you’re bridesmaid.
My challenge was to take a casual see-through dress and make it work-appropriate. What says work better than a blazer! Take boho dress. Add blazer. Viola! You look like Mary-Kate Olsen circa 2005. Consider it vintage.
Speaking of vintage, check out the butterfly brooch. My mother-in-law gifted it. It’s from the 1960s. I have a whole collection of butterfly brooches.
This photo is a closeup of the necklace and dress. The necklace has a blue moonstone and a large Asian-style bead.
The purple heels add an element of chic to the outfit. Button the jacket for a conservative feel (and a skinny silhouette).
Alternatives: There really isn’t an alternative. I mean, you could swap the heels for flats, I suppose. Go big or go home, right. If the boss sends you home, you might want to stick with suits.
Or avoid the purple lipstick at least. I promise I didn’t know it was a 12-hour lipstick until after I swatched it. I had to channel my inner Coco Rocha for class.
I should mention that my students were completely unphased by the lipstick.
Which outfit did you like best? Comment below. For future outfit-of-the-day posts and style tips, follow me on Instagram @the_frugal_fashionista.