Reader Request: Boho Professional

Reader Lena made a request on the AP Facebook page for some Boho professional options. “Harem pants go to work!” she said. Shortly thereafter, Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen did a fabulous post on the very same topic, so I’ve GOTTA point you there, too. (Especially since Allie has a much broader Boho streak than I do.) But I’m happy to weigh in as well!

Certain Bohemian staples just won’t fly in many office environments: Torn or super faded jeans, broomstick skirts, and blousy tunics can work in creative or casual environments, but only the most flexible of business casual offices will accept them on days that aren’t Casual Fridays. But plenty of other Boho faves can be mixed with conservative and structured pieces to create office-friendly looks. Let’s peek at some examples:

Boho at the Office 1

A dress with a fairly Boho print – bold paisley – in a floaty, diaphanous material can work in professional settings if the dress design is trim and neat. Add a structured blazer to the mix to create balance and pick boots or shoes that are more sleek than casual. Then duck back in with accessories like a voluminous scarf and some beaded, dangly earrings to inject a bit more boho into your look. Keeping your palette in warm tones also keeps the vibe going, as cool and super bright colors don’t generally work with this aesthetic.

Boho at the Office 2

Cool tones are not impossible, of course, and using gray as your neutral means you can bring some lovely greens or blues into the mix. A great way to do Boho at the office is to create a fairly conservative backdrop – a flowy cardigan may lend a little Stevie Nicks to your look, but a stately silk shell and classic wide-legged slacks are more subdued – and then layer on some amazing jewelry. An outsized pendant and chunky cuff bracelet can both work in this mix since everything else is so understated. Pick smaller earrings, though, so you don’t hit jewelry overload.

Boho at the Office 3

Maxi dresses just won’t fly at many offices, but if you can get away with them at yours and want to try for a Boho-professional mix, go one of two routes: Pick a maxi with a fairly straight skirt and slim fit (like the one shown here) but in a relatively heavy, non-clingy material like ponte. With this sleek piece as your focal point, you can add a drapey jacket or cardigan, embellished belt, and funky lace-up boots which will just peek out at your hemline. A chunky necklace works in this mix, too. OR if the maxi dress you’ve picked is flowy and/or printed, tone it down with a solid colored jacket, blazer, or cardigan. Pick classic or conservative footwear like flats or pumps and keep jewelry simple to balance out the major shot of Boho that such a dress provides.

Other notes:

  • Use blazers and jackets to add structure to otherwise flowy mixes. They will inject work-friendliness into most outfits.
  • Try to limit yourself to one flowy, diaphanous item per ensemble. Two can sometimes work depending on the mix, but be careful you don’t swamp your figure.
  • As noted above, jewelry and accessories will be key and can make an otherwise plain outfit feel wonderfully arty and Bohemian.
  • Scarves add softness and flow, and are a great addition to outfits of this kind.
  • Boots of just about any kind will enhance a Boho vibe. So long as the rest of the outfit has prints, accessories, or other hints at this aesthetic, lace-ups, knee-highs, booties, grannies, slouches, just about every style of boot will augment the feel. (Cowgirls are questionable in many workplaces, though, so beware.)
  • Use prints sparingly and balance them with solids. This style utilizes so many lovely prints, but print overload may feel too wild for some working environments.

Since I’m not a terribly Boho gal myself, I’ll stop right there. I’d love to hear from those of you who gravitate toward this aesthetic! How do YOU do Boho professional?

  • Brenna Goode

    Interesting – I never would have pegged “boho” as a style I like, but I LOVE all of these outfits, and would love to wear them to work!

  • Shawna McComber

    I love these outfits you’ve created! I would definitely wear them. Great post, Sally!

  • loubeelou

    Oh wow I LOVE that first outfit! Beautiful colors together. I didn’t know I had a “style” but this might be it!

  • Miz Wright

    I want that brown maxi, like whoa.

  • Ginger

    I like the first outfit best.
    The second is nice, but too dressy for my workplace.

  • Ryan Smith

    i wish i had some idea if these would be appropriate for my workplace. i love the first outfit so much that i want to buy it right off the page. my office has no dress code yet everytime i take a “risk” and step outside the normal knee length skirt, pumps and blouse, i get scolded. so yeah.

  • Kim Williams

    I love reading your blog. Love the third outfit but with hip belt (this one suits my shape and personality best, especially boots). I have studied with Imogen Lamport & Clare Maxfield at Academy of Professional Image and am about 2 weeks off launching my own style and personal image business. So excited. Thanks for the way you bring all the elements of style together to create beautiful outfits.