This month, Jenessa Williams digs deeper into the materialism of boujee culture, heavily admired but also mindfully critiqued
Where does this aesthetic come from?
Outfit 1: Veronica Beard Blazer, Skims Bodysuit, Gucci Boots, Reiss Skirt, Gucci Bag, Oliver Bonas Tights, Dyson Airwrap Hair Styler, Yvonne Lyon Ring, Mollie Mae Sunkissed Tanning Bundle
Adapted from the French term bourgeoisie, boujee (or bougie) has grown in public parlance over the last decade, as a way of capturing style, behaviour and aesthetics that are rooted in a sense of wealth or opulence. It is an aesthetic that is heavily influenced by celebrity and reality TV culture.
Shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Selling Sunset and The Real Housewives offer us a glimpse into how the upper classes live, but also inspire us to find ways to "hustle" for ourselves, creating careers that allow us to earn the kind of money that can sustain a boujee lifestyle. As such, boujee style has some crossover with the "baddie/instabaddie" aesthetic that is popular amongst YouTube beauty influencers, making big money from businesses that have been started in bedrooms.
"It is an aesthetic that is heavily influenced by celebrity and reality TV culture"
While "everyday" social media influencers bridge the gap between attainability and aspiration, the boujee mentality has also been criticised for being overly materialistic or snobbish, tone-deaf to the fashion impact of the climate crisis. Nonetheless, it is a look that remains hugely popular, and one that can—thankfully—be adapted to suit budgets that aren’t quite as lavish.
What does it look like?
Outfit 2: Arket Jumper, Acne Scarf, The M Jeweller "Aquarius" Necklace, Larq Filtered Water Bottle, Louis Vuitton Tote bag, Apple Watch, Lulu Lemon Leggings, Vivien Westwood Keyring, Gossip Girl Box Set, UGG Mini Boots
Put simply, this aesthetic looks like money, split into two interpretations. A more minimalist take on the look opts for gentle neutral colours; rose gold, grey, beige and impeccably-clean white, teamed with gleaming hair, skin, nails and brands that are instantly reocgnisable as the industry-leading "real" deal such as UGG, Apple and Louis Vuitton. The focus is one of well-groomed perfection, a base wardrobe that allows the wearer to flit about their fabulous life of high-end yoga classes, elongated brunches and luxury drives with stylish ease.
"Put simply, this aesthetic looks like money"
On the other side of the spectrum, maximalist boujee outfits positively scream for attention. Hot pinks, bold patterns, high heels, rhinestones, layered jewellery and brightly coloured make-up showcases wealth but also creativity, often sported by celebrities. Pop and hip-hop performers such as Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B are perfect examples of the boujee aesthetic in action, having fun with fashion and making big statements as they do so.
Even if outfits are at first impression quite simple, they frequently involve big-ticket designer labels, or revolve around iconic designs that can be instantly recognised from afar; Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Hermes, Cartier, Dior. With boujee fans often having quite the enthusiasm for selfie taking or uploading OOTD (Outfit of The Day) posts to social media, these tags can spawn strong affiliate links, meaning that influencers or creators can earn a small commission cut of the sale. As such, there can be a pressure to keep buying and promoting new outfits rather than re-wearing things, or of insisting that "luxury" items are essential to one’s happiness and productivity. Neither are true, but the problems is cyclic; after all, don’t we all love seeing what new thing our favourite celebrity is wearing?
How can I style it myself?
Outfit 3: Diptique Parfum, Ego Handbag, Missoma Necklace, Miscreants Dress & Glove Set, Christine Quinn Book, Ariana Grande "Thank You, Next" album
If you’re looking for inspiration, there are numerous TV shows that can help set the boujee juices flowing. Series that centre around wealth, such as Gossip Girl, Dynasty, Selling Sunset, White Lotus (and even arguably Succession, with it’s corporate boujee aesthetic), frequently deliver strong outfits, adaptable to particular personalities.
"If you really do feel like treating yourself, accessories are often the best place to start"
If the boujee look appeals to you, there are still ways to embrace the style without spending lots of money—or contributing unnecessarily to fast fashion. Use apps like Pinterest, Instagram and LikeToKnow to work out your signature colours, or think about how you can restyle what you already own in sleeker ways. Apps such as Karma can help to alert to sales or discount codes, but do consider curating a long-term wishlist before you splurge; with so many high-end trends thrown at us every day on social media, it’s important to work out which fashion cravings are truly coming from you, and what are just things you think you should like. Rental sites can also be a great way to try out new looks for big events, with a huge wealth of designer options to explore.
If you really do feel like treating yourself, accessories are often the best place to start. Designer shoes and bags hold their worth much more readily than clothing, and really can elevate a very simple outfit to boujee status. Deeper than even fashion, boujee can also be a state of mind; taking more time to do the things that make us happy, rethinking our relationships with our careers, allowing ourselves a little more time to indulge in a relaxing skincare or wellbeing routine. Boujee should never be a pressure to live up to, but done in a healthy way, it can be a great way to feel closer to the person many of us want to be—the creative, go-getter who knows exactly what she likes.
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