A blouse is a women’s dress shirt (usually—cue Jerry Seinfeld), named so because it “blouses” out, giving it a little feminine flare compared to a structured men’s dress shirt. Of course, today, the blouse encompasses all manner of style, tailoring and embellishment, making it the staple of all wardrobe staples. For real . . . open the closet of any women in the industrialized world and you’re sure to find one, if not dozens of blouses, in many different cuts and fabrics.
Until the end of the 19th century, blousy shirts were the domain of peasants, swashbucklers, and Shakespearean actors. You see, most women’s clothing, especially upper class formal wear, fastened in the back. But practicality prevailed, and by the Victorian era, even well to do ladies started wearing separates, like blouses and long skirts. Over time, the blouse became a staple of the professional woman’s wardrobe, pairing with skirts, pants, blazers and sweaters.
Where do we begin? If you can dream it, you can wear it. Women’s blouses come in so many different styles, prints and fabrics, with multiple variations on sleeves, cuffs and collars. At its most basic, a blouse is a traditional long sleeved, collared dress shirt, in silk or cotton. But, you can also find collarless blouses, or V-neck, split neck, boatneck and tie collars. Floral prints and stripes are popular, as is lace and other embellishment. While some blouses hang straight, others cinch at the waist, drape in front, or hang loose in the boho style. Peplum blouses are another flattering silhouette. Blouses come in silk, cotton, linen, jersey, poly and other synthetics. A woman’s blouse may be sleeveless, short sleeved or long sleeved, with button, elastic, flutter, roll or bell cuffs. We could go on, but you get the point—lots of styles of blouses to choose from.
Again, the sky’s the limit. For the office, pair your blouse with a skirt or trousers and a blazer. For going out, a dressy blouse, accessorized with heels and a clutch, is a great way to elevate a pair of jeans. Boho or peasant blouses go well with denim cutoffs for concert or festival wear. And a longer silk blouse, paired with crops, or leggings and boots, makes for a polished weekday look.