Women’s blouses, sometimes simply referred to as shirts, are lightweight, loose-fitting garments worn above the waist. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, fashionable women wore high-necked blouses made from cotton, linen, or voile covered in decorative lace trimmings or tiny eyelet patterns. The most stylish women in Paris and London had blouses handmade from fine fabrics like silk or sheer net finished with exquisite detail work in sequins and beads.

In America, the trend for simple, light-colored blouses called waists took off in the early 1900s, in part because of their popularity among growing numbers of working women. Ready-to-wear waists had plain sleeves, a shirtfront with vertical ruffles or stripes, and a high tight collar. This practical design made these shirts perfectly suited for the “New Woman,” a stereotype created to describe those who wanted less complicated garments that would allow them to take part in physical activities, whether for leisure or labor.

During the 1910s, exotic Eastern elements entered mainstream blouse fashion. The hit Ballet Russes in Paris had a strong influence on the period’s brightly colored and loosely draped blouses with beaded ornamentation. In the '20s, conventions regarding women’s attire relaxed even further, as blouses made by Coco Chanel and others began featuring geometric patterns made in slinky, transparent materials, sometimes with no sleeves whatsoever.

Blouses lost much of their careful tailoring during this period because they were increasingly mass-produced in a generic range of sizes. During the '30s and '40s, new synthetic fabrics were incorporated and blouse styles became more masculine, with simple square collars and button-down fronts.

By the 1940s, sportswear tops were in vogue, following the fashions of Hollywood stars whose casual attire suited California’s temperate climate. Blouses made by companies like White Stag, Pendleton, and Catalina added Mexican and Native American motifs to their lines. Other companies like Lee and Levi’s made comfortable western-style blouses and denim workshirts for women who spent their lives outdoors.

In contrast, the more formal blouses of the 1950s were often designed to be traditionally feminine, with strong bust lines, floral patterns, and rhinestone accents. Following this era of conservatism, designers went wild, experimenting with new shapes and colors: Brightly patterned fabrics were everywhere in the '60s, showcasing bold prints in paisley or floral shapes, like those made by Liberty of London. Ethnic styles were also popular, like loose-fitting West African dashikis or peasant blouses with their tight cuffs, billowing arms, and open necklines.

In the '70s, Valentino’s silky button-ups with oversized ascots set the tone for women’s workwear, while sequined tops with huge shoulder pads took blouses to a new level of ostentation in the 1980s.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Victorian / Edwardian Fine White Lawn Rmbroidered Blouse Button Back Victorian Battenburg Lace Camisole Or BlouseVintage Adini India Bohemian Hippy Ladie's Shirt Blouse Size P 100% CottonVicorian Button Down Camisole Or BlouseLavishly Embroidered Colourful Black Vintage 1940s Hungarian Blouse.long SleevLot Of 24 Vintage 50s 60s 70s Shirts Blouse Top Novelty Groovy Rockabilly DiscoVintage 30s 40s Original Smock Blouse Bold Floral Print Free SizeVtg 50s 60s Ladies Hawaiian Tiki Floral Cropped Top Blouse Shirt Midriff PinupVintage 1940s Natural Tussah Silk Hungarian Style Embroidered Blouse. S 16Victorian Camisole Or Blouse With Embroidery And Lace TrimAntique French Embroidered Blouse + Lace Edged Skirt 1890s - Authentic LagenlookVintage 90s Does 70s Polka Dot Semi Sheer Lace Detail Blouse Sz L Vintage Button Up Shirt Short Sleeve Striped Tunic Retro Boxy Crop Top BlouseVictorian Camisole Or Blouse With Art Nouveau Floral EmbroideryVintage 1940's 1950's 2 Pc White Black Red Gray A-line Skirt Blouse Jo CollinsGuy Laroche Womens Vintage Outfit Red Print Blouse Skirt Scarf Sz 42 6/8 (2343)Vintage Knit Tank Top Pastel Pink Sleeveless Slouchy Shirt Terry Cloth Blouse SVictorian Battenburg Camisole Or Blouse With Lace TrimVintage Button Up Shirt Short Sleeve Striped Top Retro Oversize Boxy Blouse MedVintage Ethnic Peasant Top......embroidered Hungarian/romanian/mexican Blouse XsVintage Edwardian Era To 1920's Silk Blouse Top, Hand Embroidered, Old SchoolVintage 1920s Crossover White Voile Embroidered Blouse Gathered Waist .pintucksVintage Antique Lace Blouse Elegant Long Sleeves Victorian Edwardian Fancy TrimVintage 90s Ethnic Cinched Waist Aztec Blouse Sz L Vintage 90s Angel Sleeved Taupe & Brick Red Fluid Swing Blouse O/s Vtg Satin Wet Shiny Slvless Button Blouse Pj Lounge Pants Nighty Wear Loved 3xVintage 90s Drama Sleeve Watercolor Floral Kitten Bow Rosette Blouse Sz MVintage Ivory Iridescent Sequin And Faux Pearl Beaded Trim Short Sleeve BlouseVintage 90s Silk Dragon Asian Edge Kung Fu Blouse Sz L Vintage 1980s Jewel Hued Sequined Silk Paisley Stripe India Oversized Blouse O/sVintage Button Up Silk Shirt White Floral Short Sleeve Blouse Top OversizedEastern European Peasant Blouse, Early 1900's, Hand Embr. Petit Pt./cross StitchVintage Indian 100% Cotton Gauze Blouse Purple Floral Free Size Bohemian HippieVintage Ladies 1970's Gucci Silk Blouse Size XsVtg. Tiki Hawaiian Shirt Blouse Pink Green White 100% Cotton Med Size 16 Bust 36Victorian Lace Camisole Or Blouse With High CollarVintage Lipstick Red Accordion Pleated Trim Blouse Sz S Vintage Button Up Shirt Puffy Sleeve Plaid Print Top Retro Lace Crop Top BlouseVintage Knit Top Short Sleeve Shirt Long Slouchy Teal Chunky Sweater BlouseVintage Crop Top Smock Floral Blouse Sheer Boho Boxy Retro Wing Sleeve ShirtVintage 70's Mexican Top...cranberry Cotton Embroidered Oaxacan Peasant Blouse LVtg 1950s Western Squaw Patio Skirt & Blouse Southwest ~ M Silver Trim 29" WaistVintage Lady's Nylon Blouse C1950s Very Sheer, Pale Blue Pintucks & Lace PanelsVintage Polka Dot Netting And Lace Bed Jacket? Blouse? Black Ribbon BowVintage Tank Top Apron Smock Floral Blouse Sleeveless Boho Boxy Retro ShirtAmazing Vintage 1970's Oscar De La Renta Sequin Blouse-wow!Vintage 1980s Cobalt Blue Pleated Flutter Ruffle Secretary Blouse Sz XlEmbroidered Mexican Top, Vintage Oaxacan Peasant Blouse Tunic, San Antonino, M-lVtg Otto Kern Silk Western Cowboy Boots Novelty Print Shirt Blouse Womens L XlBow Tie Blouse Size Medium White Secretary Top White Vintage 60s Career Shirt50's Edith Hart Black Sheer Pussy Bow Collar Sleeved Blouse Shirt 42 14 -cl8 B87Very Sweet Vintge Floral Sleeveless Blouse 1960's Rockabilly #521Vintage Adelaar Short Sleeve Bright Print Ascot Tie Cropped Secretary BlouseVintage 1970s Red White Check Gingham Shirt, Blouse Cowgirl, Country Western Vintage 80s Satin Pearl Victorian Edge Blouse Sz M Vintage Bustier Tank Top Strapless Lingerie Blouse Black Backless Bra Top 34bVtg 70s 80s White Rayon Bali Cut-outs Draped Boho Hippie Gypsy Blouse M/lVintage 70s White Flower Polo Shirt Brady Bunch BlouseVtg 60s 70s Pale Blue Embroidered Floral Lace Trim Sleep Nylon Boho Blouse M Vintage Button Up Shirt Short Sleeve Plaid Top Retro Boxy Crop Top Blouse