The word blouse most commonly refers to a woman's shirt, although the term is also used for some men's military uniform jackets.

Description and History

Blouses were rarely part of the fashionable woman's wardrobe until the 1890s. Before that time, they were occasionally popular for informal wear in styles that echoed peasant or traditional clothing, such as the Garibaldi shirt of the 1860s.

During the later Victorian period, blouses became common for informal, practical wear. A simple blouse with a plain skirt was the standard dress for the newly expanded female (non-domestic) workforce of the 1890s, especially for those employed in office work. In the 1900s and 1910s, elaborate blouses, such as the "lingerie blouse" (so-called because they were heavily decorated with lace and embroidery in a style formerly restricted to underwear) and the "Gibson Girl blouse" with tucks and pleating, became immensely popular for daywear and even some informal evening wear. Since then, blouses have remained a wardrobe staple.

Blouses are often made of cotton or silk cloth and may or may not include a collar and sleeves. They are generally more tailored than simple knit tops, and may contain feminine details such as ruffles, a tie or a soft bow at the neck, or embroidered decorations.

Blouses have buttons reversed from that of men's shirts(except in the case of male military fatigues). That is, the buttons are normally on the wearer's left-hand and the buttonholes are on the right. The reasons for this are unclear, and while several theories exist none have conclusive evidence. Some suggest this custom was introduced by launderers so they could distinguish between women's and men's shirts. One theory purports that the tradition arose in the Middle Ages when one manner of manifesting wealth was by the number of buttons one wore. Another that the original design was based on armour which was designed so that a right-handed opponent would not catch their weapon in the seam and tear through, and also that a person could draw a weapon with their right-hand without catching it in a loose seam of their own clothes. Female servants were in charge of buttoning their mistress's gowns (since the buttons were usually in the back). They tired of attempting to deal with buttons that were, from their point of view, backwards and as such they started reversing the placement when making or repairing them. Another possible reason is so men can easily undo blouses as, from the front, buttons are on the same side as a men's shirt. One other theory is that women were normally dressed by their maids, while men dressed themselves. As such, women's blouses were designed so it could be easily buttoned by the maid but that of men were designed so it could be easily buttoned by the person wearing it.

Although in all the cases proposed the reasons for the distinction no longer exist, it continues out of custom or tradition.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • blouse — 1. (blou z ) s. f. 1°   Chacun des trous en forme de poches qui sont dans un billard.    Terme de jeu de paume. Creux qui est au bout de la galerie de chaque jeu pour recevoir les balles, et qui est couvert de gros barreaux de bois. 2°   Terme de …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • Blouse — (blouz; F. bl[=oo]z), n. [F. blouse. Of unknown origin.] A light, loose over garment, like a smock frock, worn especially by workingmen in France; also, a loose coat of any material, as the undress uniform coat of the United States army. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • blouse — BLOUSE. s. fém. On appelle ainsi chaque trou des coins et des côtés d un billard. Les blouses des quatre coinsLes blouses du milieu. Il y a six blouses dans un billard. Mettre une bille dans la blouse. Les blouses de ce billardattirent.Blouse,… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • blouse — [ blaus ] noun count * 1. ) a shirt for women: a cotton/silk/nylon blouse a sleeveless blouse 2. ) AMERICAN a short loose jacket that fits tightly around the waist, worn by soldiers as part of their uniform blow2 blow 2 [ blou ] noun count ** 1.… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • blouse — 1828 (from 1822 as a French word in English), from Fr. blouse, workman s or peasant s smock (1788), origin unknown. Perhaps akin to Prov. (lano) blouso short (wool) [Gamillscheg]. Another suggestion [Klein] is that it is from M.L. pelusia, from… …   Etymology dictionary

  • blouse — ► NOUN 1) a woman s upper garment resembling a shirt. 2) a loose smock or tunic. 3) a type of jacket worn as part of military uniform. ► VERB ▪ make (a garment) hang in loose folds. ● big girl s blouse Cf. ↑big girl s b …   English terms dictionary

  • Blouse — Blouse, eigentlich das weite, meistens blaue Hemd, welches in Frankreich auch zuweilen die Bauern auf dem Lande, Gutsbesitzer und Reisende über der Weste und dem Rocke tragen. Als weibliche Tracht ist Blouse ein einfaches Kleid, das um die Brust… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • blouse — [blauz US blaus] n [Date: 1800 1900; : Frenc] a shirt for women ▪ a silk blouse …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • blouse — BLOUSE. Trou qui est au coin & au costé de la table d un billard, & où l on pousse la bille de celuy contre qui on joüe. Il met bien dans la blouse. il y a six blouses dans un billard …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Blouse — (fr., spr. Bluhs ), 1) weites, faltiges, meist blaues, hanfleinenes Hemd, mit bunten (rothen u. grünen) Nähtereien im Kragen, in Deutschland von Fuhrleuten, in Frankreich von Bauern u. den Arbeitern in den Städten, selbst in Paris, getragen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Blouse — (franz., spr. blūs ), s. Bluse …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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