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    

Amazing Custom Made 1940s 1950s Levi's Cowgirl Fringe Western Suit Blouse Skirt Vintage Yves Saint Laurent Gypsy Blouse And Skirt Set1940’s Vintage Silk Blouse With Tie, Blue Birds, Clean, No OdorsTrue Vintage 30s 40s Art Deco Semi Sheer Blue Silk Pink Cluny Lace Blouse Top LEdwardian Sailor Collar Tambour Lace Ayrshire Embroidery Lawn Blouse Antique #2Antique Victorian Edwardian Fancy Tulle & Filet Lace Bodice BlouseAntique Edwardian To 1920's Size 38 Vtg Sheer Lawn Or Voile Long Sleeve BlouseVintage 80s White Embroidered Floral Mirror Finely Legging Tunic Blouse One SizeVtg 70s Black Lace Sheer Fringe Boho Gypsy Goth Stevie Nicks~esque Blouse Xs/s/mVintage 1940s Med Sheer Lace Blouse Mid Century RockabillyTrue Vintage 50s 60s Semi Sheer Pin Up Mop Button Back Lace Trim Blouse Top 36"True Vintage 50s 60s Pin Up Pink Broderie Anglaise Button Back Blouse 38"True Vintage 60 70s John Craig Fashion Model Print Stretch Nylon Blouse Top MTrue Vintage 40s 50s Bombshell Black Satin Embroidered Rose Tunic Blouse Top LVtg 70s Romantic Gunne Sax Cream Voile + Lace Victorian Boho Hippie Blouse TopVintage 90s Organza Sheer Ruffle Avant Garde Blouse Sz M True Vintage 50s 60s Pin Up Satin Rose Print Sleeveless Blouse Top 36"Vintage 1970s Emerald Green Embossed Leaf Metallic Kitten Bow Blouse Sz MVtg 90s Blue Silk Velvet Rhinestones Tunic India Blouse Boho Hippie Gypsy MVtg 1960s St Michael Yellow Sheer Silky Nylon Pussy Bow Long Sleeve Blouse 40 True Vintage 50s 60s Semi Sheer Cotton Eyelet Broderie Anglaise Blouse Top 36"Vintage Rhoda Lee Blouse 100% Cotton, 1947-1964 (post Wwii) 34 Bust PinkTrue Vintage 60s Lemon Beige Semi Sheer Poppy Print Tie Neck Blouse Top LTrue Vintage 60s Mod Maggi London Cotton Dagger Collar Daisy Print Blouse Top 34Vintage 1960s Shiny Silver Shimmery Liquid Satin Blouse Sz L1940s // 1950s White Textured Nylon BlouseVintage 1940s Med Sheer Lace Blouse Black Mid Century Goth RockabillyTrue Vintage 50s 60s Pin Up Button Back Broderie Anglaise Lace Blouse Top 36"1930s Vintage Frivolity Red Embroidered Apple Play Fun Day BlouseVintage Circa 1905 Silk Dark Blue Edwardian Blouse With Hand Work EmbroideryVintage 90s Jet Black Ruffled Avant Garde Blouse Sz MAmazing Vintge Western Cowgirl Rockstar Shirt Blouse Vintage 1980s Shimmering Garnet Red Wrap Cocktail Blouse Sz L Vintage 1940s Med Brown Sheer Blouse Rockabilly Mid Century RhinestonesVintage Anxiety Shiny Red Liquid Satin Blouse M/l Bust 36"Vintage 90s White Satin Victorian Lace Blouse Sz LLaurence Kazar Sequin/ Bead Vintage Blouse. Size M 100% Silk Multicolor/ BlackVintage Womans Bordados Gisela Size 34 Linen Embroidered Top Blouse Bell SleeveTrue Vintage 50s 60s Pin Up Long Sleeve High Neck Broderie Anglaise Blouse 38"True Vintage 50s 60s Pin Up Floral Ruffle Lace Trim Glass Button Blouse Top 36"Vintage 1940s 1950s Rayon Blouse Beaded Gold Metallic White Silky M L NosJessica's Gunnies Gunne Sax Black Satin Peasant Blouse Prairie Victorian Boho, 7Vtg 1910s Edwardian Blue Art Deco Blouse Shirt Oriental Collar Gold Ornaments MVintage 1960s Shiny White Liquid Satin Blouse Sz 10Antique Victorian 1800's Brown Bodice Blouse Handmade Buttons & Eyelets Very OldVintage Chinese Japanese Oriental Cheungsam Blouse Top 40s/50s Ww2 Style LVintage Victorian Womens Shirtwaist Blouse With Lace Trim Vintage 1980s Funky Fashionista Pearls & Heels Fluid Blouse Sz S Vintage 90s Caramel & Onyx Paisley Sheer Sleeve Blouse Sz Xl Fausto Puglisi Silk And Leather Vtg BlouseInterlocking G's. Gucci Logo Gold Silk Blouse Top. Vintage 70s Italy. Sz 44 Vintage Antique Black Victorian Edwardian Mourning Blouse Jacket Lace SteampunkVtg Romantic 80s Laura Ashley Victorian Lace Puffy Sleeve Blouse Top Shirt Sz 8Vintage 1940s Gold Silk Satin Blouse Top Shirt Sz L Retro I Love Lucy RockabillyVtg Top Shirt Blouse Steampunk Plus Size 1x 42" 100% Sheer Black Victorian LaceTrue Vintage 50s 60s Lilac White Floral Broderie Anglaise Ruffle Blouse Top 40"Antique True Vintage Victorian Handmade Black BlouseFuchsia Lillie Rubin Pleated Couture Crepe Vintage 80s Blouse Sz S Vintage 70s Plaza Square Beige Gray Pink Floral Sheer Boho Shirt Top Blouse S/m80s Vintage Janice Mccarty Blue Print Button Down Blouse M/l