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French Bobo Fashion for Fall: A New Look from Long Ago

French Bobo Fashion for Fall 

There’s a dress shop in the village square of my adopted home in France where finding what’s new in fall fashions takes you back a century or two.

A visit to the store reminds you of rummaging through your grandmother’s closet or uncovering an old trunk filled with brown tweed jackets and checkered woolen blankets from somebody’s past.

French BoBo Fashion


You walk through the front door of L’Atelier des Ours and hear jingle bells tingling behind you. When you look down at the sand-covered tile floor, it’s hard to know precisely why you’re there. Yet you have to take only a few steps to discover something special in this tiny place waiting to be discovered.


French BoBo Fashion

French BoBo Fashion

French BoBo Fashion


French Bo-Bo Fashion

L’Atelier des Ours, translated as “the teddy bear’s workshop,” caters to a unique clientele of European women, mainly from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany.

The style of clothing, shoes, and accessories they purchase in the shop can be called “bobo,” “bourgeois bohème,” or “bohème chic.” The look isn’t for everyone but is irresistible for those who define themselves by these flash-back fashions.

French BoBo Fashion
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, identified and named “Bobos” in his book, “Bobos in Paradise,” published in 2000. Quoting from his review of his own book, Brooks says about Bobos: “These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemians. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are bobos.”

According to Brooks, bobos are identified by having “rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together.”

Helen Bonham Carter, actress, and wife of Tim Burton, is the poster child for extreme “French Bo-Bo” dressing with her unconventional style. The Olsen twins’ non-conformist, bohème fashions could be considered “bobo” — somber colored, layered, and heavily laden with scarves.

For the bobo chic who shop at L’Atelier des Ours — in the store and online — the style is neither “hippy” nor dull and frumpy, nor make-believe. It is elegant, eccentric, and smart. In fact, it is so “smart” that it takes understanding each piece of clothing to put together the perfect outfit.

Start with a ruffled organza petticoat.

A multi-ruffled organza petticoat is the essential “bobo chic” element for daytime. Add a tee shirt that’s delicately fringed around the top and cover it with a dotted Swiss tunic. Wrap it all in a soft pewter sweater and shawl; pull on cotton stockings and Mary Jane shoes; and voilà!

A simple little dress and scarf

Grab one of the dresses with tiny stripes or granny checks off the rack. Slip on a crinkled organdy petticoat underneath (not to be confused with “organza,” which is netting). Swirl a matching scarf around your neck and a floppy handbag over your shoulder; you have a dashing afternoon ensemble there.

Smocks, frocks, and pantaloons

Heavy cotton smocks and baggy linen pantaloons are the mainstays of a “bobo” wardrobe for all occasions. Worn with a woolen shawl and crocheted beret, you’re off to market. Add a long, flannel, three-button jacket with knee-high black boots, and you’re ready for cold weather.

Poplin dresses and taffeta skirts

When visiting L’Atelier des Ours, I can never leave without trying on one of the “fantasy” dresses and ruffled skirts.

Picture a pale gray, ankle-length, crushed poplin dress with a scooped neckline and long crinkled sleeves. Below the dress’s hemline are layers and layers of off-white ruffles showing off from the taffeta skirts worn underneath. A lusciously soft scarf is tied loosely around the neck and shoulders to complete the fairy-tale costume.

I feel like a princess.

Another place and time

Around my little village, the “BoBo chic” ladies are easy to see. Occasionally, I put on my checkered frock, tee shirt, and pantaloons and join them among the townspeople and tourists. No one stops and stares.

In the fall and winter of 2014, Bobo’s style is neither glitzy nor glamorous. It’s more like comfort food and a warm fireplace. A new look from long ago. A different attitude. A way of life.

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Fashion elements for “BoBo chic.”

A short list of the items that “BoBos” stock in their wardrobe doesn’t vary much by season, just by color and weight.

Loose, layered clothing made of natural fabric
Smocks, tunics, loose trousers, pantaloons
Ruffles, organdy, and lace petticoats
Stapped shoes, boots, and sandals
Mixing patterns of prints and flowers
Simple or no jewelry
Basic-colored scarves in a variety of soft fabrics
Lacy bloomers
Simple tee-shirts, long and short-sleeved
Sweaters, wraps, jackets, and long coats

French BoBo Fashion


Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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