How to Wear Ethnic Jewelry Without Looking “Too Bohemian.”

EEthnic jewelry gained recognition after the 1967 African collection by Yves Saint Laurent.

Although the collection was composed of minidresses in strong colors, embellished with wooden beads and shells, raffia capes, and ebony jewels – YSL managed to turn beaded, feathered, tribal patterns into chic and glorious haute couture looks.


Reinterpretation of the exotic and celebration of the beauty of ethnic dress presents ample opportunities for creating new styles. Depending on how deep one wants to dive into southern hemisphere inspirations, the looks can vary from very tribal, bohemian to the ones that are incorporating just a tint of the ethnic charm.


I found the latter to be especially challenging as ethnic pieces are usually very distinct, and can easily dominate the look. Because of that, my admiration for the designers creating jewelry from accessible and inexpensive materials usually ended without acting on it. That is, until one time during vacation, I wandered deep into the souk and ended up with a bag of stones and chains.


The struggle of how to wear them became real, so for those who don’t want to go all the way tribal but wish to feel a little bit of the exotic African vibes – here are 5 tips on how to wear ethnic jewelry.

Choose jewelry in neutral colors.

Coral and turquoise stones may be pleasing to the eye but are much more difficult to style. Black, beige, light yellow, or even light blue and pink pieces will draw attention to their original shape rather than flashy color.


Mix and match textures.

Forgoing beautifully saturated colors of ethnic jewelry, one can still have fun wearing pieces with different textures. Raffia earrings, matte stone necklaces, shiny beads can help create a fun but coherent look.


Use with moderation.

Nath, anklets, and abundance of beads and chains can easily make us look like we are ready for a safari, so moderation is a key. Pick pieces that go well together and stick to two or three at a time.


Keep it simple.

Wearing clothes in just one or two colors and unostentatious shapes creates an excellent backdrop for displaying ethnic jewelry.


Choose classic wear.

A black dress will gain new interpretation when combined with tribal pieces. The contrast of styles can be refreshing and unique.



Below you can find an example of a simple outfit consisting of a top, skirt, and a little cardigan styled with basalt rock necklace, metal chain, beady headwear, and African tassel earrings.

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Designed by me: pink tweed mini skirt.
Black silk top.