During the late 1960s and early 1970s many young women rejected traditional fashion for more eccentric, original styles. One such style was the peasant look: a type of clothing that was an off-shoot of the garments worn for centuries by the European lower classes. Peasant skirts and dresses were long and flowing. Skirts and blouses featured loose, off-the-shoulder necklines, split necklines styled to resemble tunics, or drawstrings that could be tied. The blouses were tucked in or not, depending upon personal preference. Peasant-style clothing often was loosely woven, using such natural fabrics as linen or soft, combed cotton. They featured solid colors; earth tones such as brown, tan, white, and ivory were especially popular. Blouses often were adorned with hand-done embroidery, and outfits were designed using floral patterns. The sleeves were soft and ruffled or bell-shaped. To a lesser extent young men also adopted the peasant look. Male peasant clothing included a collarless shirt, pants, and belt. The shirt was usually not tucked in.
For real peasants, of course, this style was no fashion statement. It existed for practical reasons: peasant-style clothing was easy to make and loosely fitted, allowing the wearer to work in the fields or on farms with maximum comfort. For modern young people, however, the style offered a romantic, bohemian (referring to a person who lives an unconventional lifestyle) feeling that made them feel they were different from the rest of society.
In 1976 famed designer Yves Saint Laurent (1936–) initiated what came to be known as the "Rich Peasant" or "Peasant Chic" look. These designs were characterized by drawstring blouses and long, full skirts with a gathered waistband called dirndl skirts, and they were conceived in earth tones. A Rich Peasant outfit featured fur trim and expensive knee-length boots made of calfskin, elements missing from earlier peasant attire. Add-ons included scarves, shawls, and vests. Saint Laurent's designs remained popular through the mid-1980s.
The original, more basic peasant look enjoyed a revival in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. In addition to the conventional fabrics, rayon and crushed velvet polyester were also popular.
Holderness, Esther R. Peasant Chic: A Guide to Making Unique Clothing Using Traditional Folk Designs. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1977.