The term blouse most commonly refers to a tailored ladies’ shirt, and there are several different types of blouses that have been fashionable throughout the years. Blouses can vary in their material, collar, sleeves, and detailing. Different styles of blouses are worn all around the globe, featuring traditional names and customs that reflect their culture of origin.
Blouses are typically fashioned from such fabrics as cotton, linen, silk, and polyester. In addition to the standard folded, angular collar there are many other different types of blouse collars, including the rounded “Peter Pan” collar, the ruffled “Elizabethan” collar, the sailor-style “middy” collar, and the wide, flat “butterfly” collar, to name a few. A blouse can be sleeveless, or have capped sleeves, puffed sleeves, bell sleeves, or any other number of sleeve styles and lengths.
Blouses that button up the front and feature a shirt collar or pockets are sometimes referred to as “dress shirts,” and are popular staples in the work wardrobe of many women. In the early 1990s, oversized raw silk blouses and embroidered cotton dress shirts both became big fashion trends. During the late 1990s, dress shirts with three-quarter-length or elbow-length sleeves became popular, giving the casual appearance of rolled-up sleeves. Small zippers replaced buttons on many dress shirts during the early 2000s, giving them a sporty yet still professional look.
During the 1970s and 1980s, blouses featured such feminine detailing as frills, ruffles, bows, covered buttons, and puffed sleeves. The “peasant blouse” was a popular style in the 17th century as well as the 1970s, characterized by its long, flowing bell-shaped sleeves and off-the-shoulder neckline. Sometimes referred to as the “Mexican peasant blouse,” this style is most reminiscent of the 1970s hippie, flower child, or bohemian look. Another type of flowing blouse is the “pirate” style, which features draping at the collar, bell sleeves, and was most famously parodied in a popular episode of the hit 1990s sitcom, Seinfeld.
In China, traditional blouses are made from silk and feature a small, stand-up “mandarin” collar. This style is also traditionally adorned with “frog” buttons, which are braided buttons that fasten through a loop. In India, the traditional “choli” blouse is backless and cropped to expose the midriff. The choli blouse is typically worn with a matching sari or “lehenga” gypsy skirt.