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

The VFG is a non-profit international educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vinta… [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 Christian Dior Boutique Silk Made In France 90's Polka Dot Blouse Sz 10Vintage Laura Ashley English Daisy Lace Panel Delicate Beauty Summer Blouse 12Vintage 1950s 60s Distressed Project Top/blouse Lot Rockabilly 1960s 50s CottonVintage Embroidered Blouse Floral Bright Cotton Hippie Ethnic Boho Festival Vintage Embroidered Blouse Floral Cotton Mexico Hippie Ethnic Boho Long Sleeve Fabulous Vintage Victorian Edwardian Blouse All Lace Scoop NeckCute Vtg 50s Black Velvet Top Shirt Blouse Small Xs Retro Pinup Rare True Vintage 70s Phool India Cotton Gauze Sheer Blouse Hippie Boho MVtg 40s Periwinkle Sheer Nylon Mesh Ruffled Lace Jami Originals Blouse Top S-mVintage Ivory Ruflle Trim Sleeved Sheer Secretary 80's Blouse Sz MWomens Vintage 50s 60s Nautical Theme Navy Blouse & Navy Pedal Pushers CaprisStunning Antique Victorian Embroidered And Netted Camisole Or Blouse 1900s 1910s Shirtwaist Vintage Edwardian BlouseVintage Embroidered Blouse Floral Cotton Peasant Ethnic Boho Hippie FestivalVintage Embroidered Blouse Heiroglyphic Symbols Cotton Hippie Ethnic Boho UniqueBeautiful Vintage Victorian-style Lace BlouseVtg Fendi Cotton Watercolor Top Blouse Skirt Neiman Marcus 2-piece Set 40 6-8 MAntique White Edwardian BlouseVintage Embroidered Blouse Floral Cotton Hippie Ethnic Boho Festival Long SleeveTrue Vintage 50s Novelty Blouse Top Fruits Butterflies B38 Rockabilly SummerWomens Vintage 1950s Red Blouse & Gray Skirt - Colorful Pockets Summer Set - GucVintage 40s Bolero Cape Jacket Mexican Cropped Coat Boho People Gold BlouseWomens Vintage 1950s Nautical Themed Blouse & Pants Set - Sally Togs - FairAntique Victorian 1880/1900 Cream Silk & Taffera Lady Blouse1930s - 1940s Floral Cotton Smock / Blouse / Jacket ! Vintage 1970's Metallic Art Deco Retro Disco Hippie Boho Blouse Sz L Vintage Gucci 80's Purple Paisley Silk Blouse - Size 40 - Pleated AscotVintage 90's Chocolate Brown Turtleneck Velvet Blouse Sz Xs Vintage 1970's Platinum Metallic Retro Disco Oversized Blouse Sz XlVintage 70s Embroidered Blouse Floral Cotton India Ethnic Boho Hippie FestivalVintage 40s Romantic White Cotton Lace Blouse Shirtwaist LVintage Embroidered Blouse Red Black Abstract Cotton Hippie Ethnic Boho FestivalVtg Penny Potter Pleated Embroidered Sheer Blouse M Rockabilly Pinup Vlv E15060s Mod Paisley Acetate Suit Blouse W/bow M 37 Bust As IsVintage Finely Emroidered Paisley & Beaded Silk Party Blouse Sz MVintage Women's White Cotton Embroidered Mexican Blouse Vtg 70's Mod Op Art Hawaiian Tiki Novelty Print Sleeveless Blouse Shirt Size L Vintage Embroidered Blouse Poncho Butterfly Cotton Hippie Ethnic Boho FestivalVintage 80s Barbecue Party Kitch Blouse By Sharon YoungVtg 90's Sheer Button Down Shirt Oversized Blouse See Through L Satin Trim TopSuper Cute Vtg 70s Op Art Navy White Centerstage Label Poly Top Blouse Indie M Patty Woodard Of California Vintage White Button Down Back White Blouse LgVintage "jessica's Gunnies" Victorian Style Blouse Vtg Size 9 Mint Condition!Peggy Lou Boho Hippy Vtg 1970's Blouse Top Teal Blue Floral Geometric Xl Womens De Mura Vintage Ivory Blouse 12Vintage Moana Hawaii Women's Blouse Blue Floral Design