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    

1950s Burlesque Pinup Bombshell Tulle Ruffled Off Shoulder Hourglass Top BlouseVintage 50s Original Sheer Blouse With Bronze Stripes And Rhinestone Buttons 10 Sublime Antique French 1940s Silk Organza Blouse Charcoal Mauve Original Box1860 Civil War Rare White Linen Ladies Under Blouse Enormous Poet SleevesVtg 90s Woven Linen Denim Blue Jaeger Wide Pleats Draped Minimal Tunic Shirt TopVintage 1970s Levi's Levis Strauss Chambray Denim Shirt Rainbow PatchesVtg 50s Chinese Hand Embroidered Cutwork Beige 100% Pure Silk Blouse Shirt Top SVintage Shaheen's Of Honolulu Ladies' Hawaiian Shirt Swordfish,wood Buttons,redVtg Meyer Lemon Silk Draped Deep-v Wrapped Crop Sleeve Minimalist Blouse Top S/mGenuine Vintage Escada Jacket Coat Shirt Pure Wool Cream Pearl Off White 12 /40 Vtg 90s Italy Prada Tissue Thin Drape Magnolia Cotton Minimalist Fray Shirt TopVtg 40s 50s Sheer Nude Nylon Pintuck Pleated Button-back Secretary Suit Blouse MVtg Pink White Camisole Top Wide Palazzo Pants Satin Night Shirt Nightgown Xl 1xVintage Silk Sequins Top Rose 3/4 Sleeve Shirt Scalloped Retro Blouse M40s Ivory Silk Crepe Blouse W/ethnic Embroidiery L 44 Bust As IsVintage 1940s 40's Art Deco Print Pleated Jacket Top/blouse 1950s/50s VolupVtg 60s Leonardo Strassi Stripped Sweater Shirt M Rat Pack Ultra ModVintage Nautical Top Button Up Cardigan Long Sleeve Shirt Fall Retro Pockets LEdwardian Plaid Stripe Silk Wool Sailor Collar Middy Top Shirt Bodice Blouse VtgVintage Park-storyk Black Flapper Top/blouse -m- Sequin & Fringe, Fully LinedNwt Vtg Alfred Shaheen Red Rose Floral Cocktail 3pc Set Skirt Blouse Belt Sz 12Antique Victorian Black Satin Bodice BlouseLot 17 Vintage Secretary Blouse Shirt Top 60s 70s 80s Polka Dot Stripe Bow Levi's Vintage Red Gingham Plaid Pearl Snap Shirt Blouse Women's Medium M Vintage Jaylan Of California Soft Red Floral Short Sleeve Blouse Size LAuthentic Vintage 1960's-70's Pan-her Blouse. See Measurements For SiVtg 50s Womens Pink Nylon Knit Cropped Rockabilly Pin Up Blouse Shirt Top MVintage 1930s Adelaar 38 Yellow Rayon Crepe Button Back Wasp Ss Blouse PocketVintage 70s Hippy Blue Jean Bell Bottom Pants Button Up Shirt Set Ribbon Lacing Vintage 80s 90s Bold Blue/cream Daisy Print Shirt Blouse M/l Oversized GrungeVintage Metallic Women Blouse Top Yellow Gold Mustard Size 10 Shirt Fashion SilkVintage Womens Dkny Shirt S 90s Fashion Vintage Draped Top Party Cocktail Sparkle Jacket Open Gold Shirt One SizeVintage Women's Blouse Size M Black Background Silky Feel BeadedCreamy White Vintage Soft All Nylon Blouse By Queen W Darts Short Sleeve ?smallVintage 70s Shirt Elles Belles Knit Size MVintage V-neck Top Sleeveless Boxy Knit Cropped Shirt Pastel 70's Retro S/mVintage Dolly Parton Tour Shirt Live In 85 Sz Medium Original Screen Stars Rare!Vtg 80s Pussy Bow Secretary Blouse Polka Dot Top By Evan Picone Sz 8 Womens Smokey The Bear Original Tank Top Shirt Blue Xl Official ShirtVintage 70s Teddi Bell Sleeved Floral Top Blouse Retro Boho Hippy Tie WaistVtg 70s White Stag Womans Size 16 Sheer Blouse Shirt San Francisco Bay BridgeGorgeous Boho Hippy Vintage Frilled Lace Leopard Print Blouse/top Size 16Vintage Bis Gene Ewing Camouflage ShirtVintage 70's Disco Shirt Women's 36 Orange Ribbed Stripe 100% Stretch Nylon VgcVintage Jon Woods 70's Boho Hippie Mod Blouse - Small1970s Floral Pussy Bow Blouse