Ask Allie: Boho Chic with a Bust

I would love to add a more boho vibe to my closet but I'm feeling so stumped where to shop- especially given that I'm carrying some additional weight & am big busted naturally. I admire Free People but I'm at serious risk of dislocating joints trying to get in and out of their sizes and I've got lingerie more modest than some of their stuff. 😉 Do you have some suggestions on where to shop and/or other bloggers to follow?

how to achieve boho chic with a bust and curves

Oh how I can relate! Especially once the weather warms, my inner Steve Nicks wants to come out and play in floaty layers and vintage-inspired prints. Thing is, many of the popular brands that carry on-trend boho-inspired fashion don’t carry larger sizes and often are not modest enough for everyday wear (let alone cover a supportive bra).

Continue your Admiration and Use it as Inspiration

I too love Free People, and occasionally I do find pieces that fit, but mainly I use the brand as inspiration. I see how they combine prints, note the length of the skirt, the length of the vest, how they’re showing a cold shoulder or a certain type of fabric and look elsewhere to get that same effect. The key to successful boho is to keep it current. Free People really gets this right, knowing to combine a full peasant skirt with a top that is lean, to have sexiness from a bit of back or shoulder instead of full-on cleavage, to have everything a bit slouchy versus baggy or droopy, to always have some modern touch that lets you know this isn’t from the Salvation Army and it is not 1969.

I’m not the biggest Pinterest fan because it can quickly become a timesuck of no-bake cookie recipes and how to make things you don’t need from pallets or popsicle sticks but it is really good for its original purpose – to create inspiration boards. By seeing everything in one place it’s easier to see the details that make boho successful and those details you can bring into your own wardrobe.

One note when pinning – before you pin, ask WHY the picture resonates with you. Is it the beautiful lighting through the model’s hair, or is it the drape of her dress? We can often get caught up in the beauty of a picture and when you’re pinning to build your own wardrobe, such photos may not help in the long run. Such pictures evoke a feeling and create a mood, but in the long run, especially if you don’t look like that model or live a life like the picture, those pictures may make you feel such style is even further from your grasp. I often make my inspiration boards private so they can be less “pretty” but more functional for my life and my wardrobe.

Go for Accent Pieces

boho accessories

Band of Gypsies Kimono, Kendra Scott Necklace, Steve Madden Bag, Capelli of New York Kimono

The boho vibe is all about the details. A simple black dress can go from preppy to punk, classic to crunchy with a quick change of accessories. A fringed kimono, chunky turquoise rings, leather gladiator sandals, wrist of silver bangles, a suede fringed bag… pieces like this can take simpler garments and make them boho chic in an instant.

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Accent garments can often be purchased from retailers who may not normally fit your figure or your budget and give the right vibe to your existing wardrobe. Last summer I had a fringed kimono jacket from MINKPINK and wore it often with denim cutoff shorts, Birkenstocks, a white ribbed tank and a bunch of bracelets. The shorts were from Target, the tank J. Jill, but the kimono made the whole thing looks boho and pulled together.

Shop Spring and Summer

Right now is festival season, and every retailer jumps on the bandwagon offering their most hippified pieces, usually styled with a fringe bag and some beaded bracelets. Seriously, your favorite retailer for corporate suits or formalwear come May will be showing crocheted vests, turquoise rings, and peasant skirts. Take advantage of the trend and stock up on boho chic while it’s hot.

Go Outside your Retail Comfort Zone

soft surroundings

Soft Surroundings Country Weekend Sweater, La Paz Dress, Boho Beach Dress, Terrific Tencel Duster

I’m going to tell you a little secret about where I find my boho clothes – Soft Surroundings. Their target market may be older than you and seem to all have lanais to relax on but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some really beautiful (and well made) boho pieces. Use your inspiration as a guide and look past the caftans and shark bite tunics and see what may be just as lovely as Free People. I have a few skirts from Soft Surroundings that I’ll pair with a cut-up band tee or fitted ribbed tank to give them a modern boho vibe. See the pieces as separates instead of ensembles and use your inspiration for styling tips.

eileen fisher

Eileen Fisher Short Sleeve V-neck Maxi, Silk Jumpsuit, Chain Print Sleeveless Jumpsuit, Ikat Square Neck Crop Shell

Eileen Fisher is another brand you may not connect to boho, but pieces on their own can be quite chic and fun. Be sure to check out their collection The Fisher Project, which has some really unique silhouettes and modern ideas.  Again, take all preconceived notions out of your head and shop not seeing the model or the styling of the photo but the actual garment.

modcloth

Modcloth Rooftop Balcony Jumpsuit, Ink Positively Dress, My Antique Fair Lady Dress, Raise the Barbados Dress

Modcloth is known for adorkable cutesy frocks, but they also have a pretty big boho selection. Much is cheap and not everything comes in a decent range of sizes, but if you’re a careful shopper and willing to scroll, you can find some fab pieces at fab prices.

ASOS

ASOS Gypsy Midi Dress, Fringe Dress, Halterneck Crochet Maxi, First & I Paisley Dress

ASOS is one of my favorite summer fashion destinations. While they have their in-house line, they also carry other brands for a real variety of styles, prices, and sizes. They do trends well, and there’s plenty of boho styles to choose from, many in plus, petite, and tall sizes.

boho style with a bust

Sun & Shadow Handkerchief Hem Dress, City Chic ‘Festival Border' Dress, NIC + ZOE Fringe Cardigan, Hinge Lace Trim Maxi Dress

Department stores are a surprisingly great place for boho chic. While a brand may not be known for boho, they may have a piece or two that give the vibe you desire. I’ve found Tart, Karen Kane, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Topshop, and Sanctuary all have great boho pieces within their collections that come in a broader range of sizes and can accommodate a larger bust and a bra.

Boho Bloggers with Curves

As for blogs, I’d love to hear from you readers. I know many of you love the boho trend, and I bet you know many bloggers who rock this trend.  Who is your favorite?

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20 Comments

  1. Marcia Brinkley
    May 22, 2015 / 1:58 pm

    Thanks for this post. I love boho but since I’m short, busty and in my 60’s, I have to tone it down quite a bit so I don’t look like a trick-or-treater. I recently fell in love with sari ribbon and have since ordered a sari silk wrap skirt from the same company (http://www.darngoodyarn.com/surprise-me-sari-silk-wrap-skirts-plus-regular-short-little-girl-and-maternity/) It is gorgeous! It comes in regular, plus and maternity sizes and can be tied in different ways to make it a dress or shawl as well as a skirt. I’m thinking of wearing it with one of the surplice blouses from Soft Surroundings that I have in 4 different colors. If anyone reading this decides to order a skirt, know that you don’t get to choose the colors but you can include a message saying which colors you like best and which you don’t like. The skirt I got has a mixture of patterns in the layers – rose, blue, gold and others. Beautiful!

    • Rachel Crockett
      May 21, 2015 / 7:58 pm

      Oh, and also Pyramid Collection… a little on the costume side, but maybe you can rock it and they go up to 3X too. http://www.pyramidcollection.com

  2. crtfly
    May 21, 2015 / 2:52 pm

    Allie,

    Maybe this would be too authentic 60s and 70s for you and your audience, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway. There was a label, Gunne Sax, that I loved back then. I had 3 of their dresses and I wish I still had them for costume parties or festivals. Allie I think you would know how to style them to bring them into 2015. Gunne Sax were better made commercial clothing than you find now. Perhaps that’s why so many of their garments are still around on ebay and etsy.Their designs drew on prairie, Edwardian, Victorian, and even Renaissance elements.

    Their designs took a different direction in the 80s, which I didn’t like as well as their earlier offerings. If you want genuine boho, you might give Gunne Sax a glance.

    Chris

    • TheLibrarian28
      May 21, 2015 / 4:53 pm

      Great suggestion. My 1975 wedding dress was a Gunne Sax! It had pale blue ribbon threaded through the lace on the bodice.

      • PassThePopcorn
        May 22, 2015 / 10:48 pm

        My prom dress (84) was a Gunne Sax. I recommend the brand as well, and am reasonably certain you can make it work now by choosing the right accessories and other details.

  3. Brianne
    May 21, 2015 / 2:47 pm

    This post is great! I love the white, lace backed dress. What kind of bra would you recommend?

  4. Lilliasrose
    May 21, 2015 / 11:34 am

    Oooh, that white ASOS dress is so pretty! I could willingly wear nothing but airy white frocks all summer long- my inner hippie meeting my inner goth by way of Downton Abbey. Slowly amassing white sundresses- they’re harder to find than you would think!

    I used to love this little hippie headshop type place near the college campus- great place to get embroidered boho dresses from India for cheap, wish I could find an online source of those kind of things!

  5. karabooiloveyou
    May 21, 2015 / 10:48 am

    I’d like to add a couple of other sites that have suprise boho clothing for plus sizes, Simply Be has quite a bit. Their quality is hit or miss, but they have a lot to choose from. Also, eShakti has a great boho selection and it goes up to a size 36, and is customizable! They always have coupons and discounts, too! Great article. I’d love to hear about some blogs. I’ve been looking for ages. I do like Justina Blakeny at The Jungalo, but she doesn’t do a lot of fashion posts.

    • TheLibrarian28
      May 21, 2015 / 4:56 pm

      I second the Simply Be recommendation. I haven’t bought a lot from them, but what I have bought is well-designed and reasonably priced. I also like Asos Curve which has really cool stuff for plus size, as Allie mentioned above.

  6. Carrie
    May 21, 2015 / 9:52 am

    You can pry my sharkbite tops from my cold, dead hands. 🙂

    • May 21, 2015 / 9:58 am

      LOL there’s a reason why they are popular! Nothing wrong with them, but they’re not very “Free People” 🙂

      • PassThePopcorn
        May 22, 2015 / 10:46 pm

        Actually I would disagree with that – I’ve picked up some Free People stuff off ebay that had shark bite hems, stripes, waffle knit textures, and similar details in glovely oversized silhouettes. Which is actually the other thing I would say; I am an 18 with a 38H bust line, and I have a number of pieces from Free People that fit. They may look a bit different on me than on someone who is flat chested or skinnier, but I love them anyway.

  7. May 21, 2015 / 9:49 am

    This is why I sew! As soon as warmer weather hits, I start making my summer maxi dresses and skirts and the occasional caftan (which I LOVE). But I’m barely 5’3″, and what I call a “full hourglass” and on me, boho can easily look “Earth mama”. So I focus on a minimal boho effect, rather than full-on flower/festival child dressing–which when you think about it, is really just a costume. For my minimal boho approach, one major item (dress, top, bottoms) can be full-on boho, but the others have to be more standard/classic and the accessories can go either way. For example, I combine a floaty maxi dress and sandals with a classic cardigan; an embroidered peasant top with slim capris or denim leggings and suede ballet flats (or tall boots if it’s winter). It works for me.

  8. kittysocks
    May 21, 2015 / 8:31 am

    I’m not particularly curvaceous but I am over weight and carry my weight in my middle. I just went to a retail store called Goodys and bought some things. I was so tired of having things that didn’t fit or were very plain (jeans/teeshirts). One of the things I found was a “cocoon” kind of like a kimono without sleeves in a very pretty print. I LOVE IT. you can pair it with a tank and jeans and look fab. It gives you a little more coverage and disguises the middle part of me. Thanks for your post today. I like boho, but feel best in plainer clothes. You gave some good tips for jazzing up our wardrobe.

  9. Patricia
    May 21, 2015 / 8:16 am

    Thanks for the timely inspiration. We’re going to a barbecue on Friday and my sis just passed along a black caftan. I’m going to wear that as my boho look.
    My tip is look for ethnic clothing when you travel, especailly Thailand or Bali or Egypt. I’m still wearing pieces from those trips. Okay, not everyone is a traveler but there are ethnic clothing stores out there. Check the districts around your local colleges.

    • Patricia
      May 21, 2015 / 3:17 pm

      Just back from shopping and found a Soft Surroundings shop (new to area). A boatload of Boho styles at reasonable prices and they carry Petites. My sis grabbed their catalog. I quite liked some of their tunic styles … a little sheer but with a nude cami underneath, very do-able.

  10. Roberta Johnson
    May 21, 2015 / 8:03 am

    Peruvian Connection is another possibility. They have good sales and interesting designs. Because they have so few stores, you don’t see yourself coming and going too.

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