Boho chic is one of our all-time favorite style vibes, but it can be tricky to pull off. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a simple, easy cheat sheet to help you nail bohemian style in a flash?
Thanks to the popularity of our previous Street Style Essentials and Classic and Timeless Essentials lists, we decided to expand the series further and cover a few more popular style aesthetics — so, we made a list for all you boho gals!
Even if you just consider yourself a “boho lite” or just slightly whimsical dresser, this list provides the must-haves for a boho chic look, AKA the essential pieces you need to maximize your wardrobe’s versatility. It’s just a starting point and, of course, your wardrobe will differ depending on your own personal style.
When you finish reading, be sure to leave a comment and let us know what items you have, which ones we may have forgotten, and your favorite ways to style these pieces!
Let’s jump right in to the boho chic style essentials:
1. A Simple Maxi Skirt
A great maxi skirt will be a piece that you turn to over and over again when crafting cool bohemian outfits. The best ones are simple, solid-colored, and not too poofy as they are the easiest to build outfits from.
- Wear a simple maxi skirt with a graphic t-shirt and a (#12) versatile vest. Finish with (#5) gladiator sandals and a top knot.
- For a quick and comfortable outdoor ensemble, wear a maxi skirt with a solid-colored v-neck and a (#7) floppy sun hat.
- Try wearing one with a button-down flannel or chambray top. Complete the look with canvas sneakers and bright lipstick.
2. Neutral-Colored Ankle Boots
Slouchy, distressed booties seem to be boho girls Mary-Kate Olsen and Vanessa Hudgens’ staples. I prefer styles that are loose around the ankles, so they’re perfect for wearing with both shorter skirts and tucking into skinny jeans. It’s up to you whether you want a heel or not, but make sure the heel isn’t too high or skinny so your boots will stay comfortable while watching concerts or walking to class.
Here are some of my favorite ways to wear ankle boots:
- Wear ankle boots with skinny jeans, a (#6) loose knit sweater, and a (#3) hippie headpiece for a look that’s ideal for class or a casual date.
- Ankle boots look awesome with dresses and skirts! Go for more fitted shoes when wearing maxi skirts, but the shorter the skirt, the clunkier you can make your shoes!
- I’m crazy about the fringed suede style ankle boots I’ve been seeing so much of. Those would look fab with a hi-lo skirt and a bold (#10) statement necklace.
3. Chic Headwraps and Hairbands
Hippie babe Nicole Richie might not have invented the headwrap, but she certainly helped boost its popularity! I started out wearing thin hippie headbands, but have now graduated to bolder cloth styles. Bonus points for those of you bold enough to try a flower crown. You can find tons of cheap pieces at Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters!
Here are a few fun ways to wear them:
- Thinnish, elastic hippie headbands look great across your forehead, but I prefer to wear them back an inch or two past my hairline, almost like a halo. This is also a good way to wear a headwrap if the elastic in it is too tight to comfortably wear across your forehead. Cloth styles look great like this too!
- Hairbands are a great way to add glamour and fashion to a bad-hair-day ponytail.
- Turbands are one of my favorite trends right now. Strangely though, I’ve found that they look best with curly, wavy, or textured hair rather than my natural pin-straight state. Try spritzing with salt spray and scrunching, or curling large sections before wearing.
4. A Printed Maxi Dress
We all owe a huge “thank you” to Rachel Zoe for making printed maxi dresses such a hot item. Look for geometric or nature-inspired prints for extra bonus points!
- Wear a printed maxi with (#10) chunky jewelry and wedge sandals for a perfect date night look.
- Try a (#12) denim vest with a printed maxi to make it a bit more casual.
- Add a (#6) distressed sweater to turn the dress into a skirt. Finish with (#2) ankle boots.
5. Gladiator Sandals
Gladiator sandals are truly a godsend. They’re the perfect answer to the flip flop dilemma — they’re summery and light, yet they still look polished and fashionable.
- I prefer my gladiators to stop right before the ankle (probably because I’m pretty short), but knee-high gladiators are a bold and fabulous look perfect for an outdoor concert or festival.
- Look for styles that are easy to slip on and off for maximum versatility. There’s nothing more annoying than a pair of shoes that take five minutes to get on and off!
- High heel gladiators look badass with dresses, skirts, or even skinny jeans.
6. Knit Cardigans and Sweaters
Cardigans and sweaters are a staple for any aesthetic, but for a bohemian flair, opt for lacy-knit, somewhat see-through versions. They make great layering pieces, and are light enough to wear during the fall, winter, and spring. The other awesome thing about this item is that you can find a great version at almost any one of your favorite retailers.
Here’s a few ways I like to wear open-knit sweaters and cardigans:
- For a fast and easy outfit that would make Marianne Faithfull jealous, try wearing a tank top underneath an oversized crocheted sweater, along with a pair of (#13) bell bottoms and a high-heeled pair of clogs. Wear with a (#3) hippie headband and a (#11) cross-body bag.
- Try wearing a cardigan or sweater over a chambray button down for a chic, layered look. Pair with corduroys or skinny cargo pants, and cute (#2) ankle boots.
- Wear a lacy-knit cardigan over a short floral dress and belt the whole thing around your waist to pull the outfit together. Finish with a (#15) oversized scarf, knee-high boots, opaque tights, and legwarmers or knee-high socks for extra oomph!
7. A Floppy Brimmed Hat
Don’t splurge on a floppy straw sun hat — I’ve found that expensive versions don’t hold their shape much better than the inexpensive ones you can find at Forever 21. This way, you can afford to buy a new one every season.
P.S.: felt versions are awesome for cold weather seasons!
- A simple straw sun hat paired with a sundress, (#5) sandals, and (#14) big sunglasses is the perfect summer outfit for fairs, outdoor concerts, picnics, and more.
- A floppy brimmed felt hat add the perfect gypsy flair to any fall or winter outfit. Take a tip from Vanessa Hudgens and pair one with high-waisted skinny jeans, wedges, a cropped top, and an open button-down shirt.
- Throw one on with a pair of boyfriend jeans, a fitted v-neck, a (#15) huge scarf, and ballet flats and call it a day.
8. Tunic T-Shirts and Blouses
Tunic tops are perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of bohemian style. Peasant tops aren’t at the peak of their popularity anymore, but are still regarded a staple for girls with earthy styles. Embroidered tops are great for this also! Try checking at any vintage or retro stores in your area for whimsical originals.
- If wrinkled cotton or embroidery is too loud for your taste, go for a basic t-shirt type tunic. Add a vest and skinny jeans and you’re ready to go!
- A tunic top will forever look awesome with a pair of (#13) flared jeans, platform sandals, and (#10) earthy jewelry.
- Wear a tunic with leggings, a (#15) scarf, and a pair of knee high boots.
9. Geometric, Eye-Catching Prints
To help add a free-spirited, worldly edge to your wardrobe, nothing can replace the rich look of a bold, geometric printed item. They come in all items and price points, so think carefully about what piece you’ll wear most and how much you’re willing to spend before taking the plunge!
- One of my favorite items in my closet is a BB Dakota thick wool coat covered with geometric patterns. It looks so warm and cozy paired with skinny jeans, (#2) ankle boots, and a hat.
- Multicolored fitted mini skirts are back with a vengeance, and I loves ones with chevrons and parallelograms on them. Tuck a chambray shirt into one, and wear with (#5) gladiator sandals.
- Take a tip from Nicole Richie and wear a full and flowy printed maxi dress. It will look fantastic with platform sandals and (#10) chunky wood bangles.
10. Chunky, Earthy Jewelry
When it comes to bohemian jewelry, the more unique, the better. Look for original finds at the flea market, incense stores, Etsy, or even make some of your own! The key is to find pieces made from natural elements like wood, coral, turquoise, feathers, or suede.
- Boho babe Lisa Bonet is a big fan of dangly earrings. My favorites styles are oversized hoops and long hanging feathers.
- A statement necklace is another great layering piece that easily adds style to an otherwise bland outfit. Look for intricately beaded styles or ones made from pounded metal and epoxy.
- Wood and metal bangles always look fabulous and will always be in style. Also, look for cool cuffs that rest on your forearm, or even your bicep.
11. A Hippie-Chic Purse
Whether your prefer distressed leather or cloth, fringe or suede, a tiny cross-body or an oversized hobo bag, having a reliable and fantastic bohemian purse is key to tying your outfit all together.
- Cross-body bags are awesome because they keep your hands free. This is especially useful at concerts or festivals! A cute, fringy, small- to medium-sized bag would be perfect for this.
- Another huge trend with the boho crowd is the oversized, floppy purse. Look for a style with handles and a shoulder strap for maximum versatility.
- The good ol’ canvas messenger bag is and always will be a staple for earthy girls. They also make the perfect book bags on campus for light study sessions.
12. A Versatile Vest
Vests are awesome because they add pizzazz to so many different pieces in your closet. Try them with floral minidresses, simple maxi dresses, or even a plain t-shirt. The combinations are endless!
- Denim vests look fantastic with pretty much everything in your closet. Try one with a plain v-neck t-shirt, a maxi skirt, and sandals. Finish with a (#3) hippie headpiece.
- I also love the boho chic vibe of a crocheted vest. Try wearing one with a floral dress, or a pair of (#13) flared jeans and a t-shirt.
- Fringe vests, although very hippie-chic, can also come across as costume-y when paired with too many other boho items. To keep from looking over-the-top, wear a fringe vest with a little black dress, or skinny jeans and a tee.
13. Flared Jeans
Remember your favorite jeans circa 2004? Mine are way past the point of ever fitting me again, but a few years ago, I couldn’t help but lust after the long, lean legs and perky butt that flared jeans seemed to give me! You can find high-waisted hippie versions online at at places like Urban Outfitters, but American Eagle‘s Artist style jeans are easy to find, inexpensive, and super comfortable.
- Flared denim has a way of making certain pairs of shoes look fantastic. My favorite thing to wear with bell bottoms is a pair of high-heeled clogs. Bell bottoms also look fab with platform sandals, (#5) gladiators, or pumps.
- Pair flared jeans with a (#6) crocheted sweater and a big, colorful (#15) scarf. Finish with a top knot and a (#14) huge pair of sunnies.
- Maybe this is in bad taste, but I’ll go ahead and admit it — I sometimeslove the look of wearing dresses with jeans! The key to making it look cool and not frumpy is to wear very short tunic-length dresses that aren’t too poofy at the hem. Finish the outfit with platform sandals and a (#11) boho cross-body bag.
14. Big Sunglasses
Oversized sunglasses transcended boho girls and became a huge fashion trend just a few years ago. Although they aren’t as popular in the mainstream anymore, they’re still a bohemian staple. I tend to break, scratch, and lose sunglasses, so I typically just get inexpensive pairs from Charlotte Russe or Forever 21.
- Is there anything more chic than a messy bun, bright lipstick, and a pair of huge sunglasses? I love how model-off-duty cool this look seems to be.
- If big round styles aren’t up your alley, go for cat-eye sunglasses, aviators, or wayfarer styles. The point is that they’re oversized, so the shape is negotiable.
- For a very hippie look, try John Lennon-esque round wire sunglasses. They’re bold and will definitely make a statement.
15. Oversized, Patterned Scarves
This is one of the most important items on this list. A big, oversized, patterned scarf is essential to taking any outfit and giving it an extra laid-back, earthy, chill boost. I buy mine at Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 because I like to have several inexpensive ones to choose from, but designer scarves also make fantastic investment pieces.
- For a cool Stevie Nicks sort of vibe, wrap a pashmina around your shoulders, along with a (#1) maxi skirt and a (#6) loose knit sweater. Finish with (#2) ankle boots and a (#3) headwrap.
- A plain white t-shirt, skinnies, and pair of casual canvas sneakerswill look instantly cool with an oversized scarf. Finish with (#10) earthy statement jewelry and a (#11) hobo bag.
- There’s tons of ways that you can fold, tie, or pin large scarves to make other pieces. Tie one into a halter and pair with (#13) flared jeans. Wrap one around your waist as a belt. Tie one to the handle of your (#11) hippie purse. The options are endless.
Even More Style Guides:
Boho chic not your thing? Check out our other style guides to find the must-have pieces for YOUR aesthetic.
- Wardrobe Essentials for a Preppy, Girly, and Sophisticated Style
- Wardrobe Essentials for a Street Chic Style
- Wardrobe Essentials for a Classic and Timeless Style
- Wardrobe Essentials for an Edgy, Rocker-Chic Style
- Wardrobe Essentials for an Electro-Urban Style
- Wardrobe Essentials for a Casual, Androgynous-Chic Style
What Do You Think?
Do you have boho style? What pieces out of these do you own? Are there any essentials that we forgot? What do you think of bohemian fashion? What other must-have list styles would you like to see CF cover? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2013; it was completely revamped in 2017 (by Lisa) with updated items and tips.