A blouse () is a loose-fitting upper garment that was worn by workmen, peasants, artists, women, and children.The Concise Oxford English Dictionary It is typically gathered at the waist or hips (by tight hem, pleats, parter, or belt) so that it hangs loosely ("blouses") over the wearer's body. Today, the word most commonly refers to a girl's or woman's dress shirt. It can also refer to a man's shirt if it is a loose-fitting style (e.g. and Cossack shirts),
It is suggested that the French form of the word comes from the Latin pelusia, from the Egyptian town of Pelusium, a manufacturing center in the Middle Ages, or alternatively from Provençal (lano) blouso 'short (wool)'.
Blouses are often made of cotton or silk cloth and may or may not include a collar and . They are generally more tailored than simple knit tops, and may contain feminine details such as ruffles, a Necktie or a soft bow at the neck, or embroidery.
Tailoring provides a closer fit to the wearer's shape. This is achieved with sewing of features such as princess seams or darting in the waist and/or bust.
Blouses (and many women's shirts with buttons) usually have reversed from that of men's shirts (except in the case of male battledress). 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 several theories exist without 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 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 that men can easily undo blouses as, from the front, buttons are on the same side as a man'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.
While most women prefer to have the top button open for better comfort, some blouses made for women have looser necklines so the top button can be fastened without compromising comfort, but giving the same stylish appearance.
Some women attach various pins and ornaments to their blouses over a fastened top button for style. Some of these attach directly to the button itself, others to the collars.
Some blouses do not have a top button at all, and collars are intentionally styled to be open. They also form part of some nations' traditional folk costume.
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 worker) 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 , became immensely popular for day-wear and even some informal evening wear. Since then, blouses have remained a wardrobe staple, so by now blouses have not ceased to be fixed in the "popular cloakroom" style.
German magazine "Die Woche" wrote in 1913 about ladies' blouses in connection with riding:
At the end of the 19th century the sailor blouses derived from were popular for girls to the blue pleated skirt. In the time of National Socialism this piece of clothing was rejected as a bourgeois-decadent. In the 1950s, the sailor's look then entered the leisure mode for adults.
The high collar in blouses was pushed out during this time by the halsferne variant. Specialist shops also offered "ladies' cloaks". KdW in Berlin applied in his illustrated main catalog: 1913 among other things a backfisch-confection, with eight blouses between 2.75 and 9.50 Marks. The simplest model was a "wash blouse, navy, white spotted", the most expensive one "blouse, white, wash, with tip and stick". One of the novelties of the season was the pointed "Charmeuse blouse, very elegant form, pure silk, with very fluffy crepe and lace gown".
The sleeves had been shortened during the early 1950s to the and length in Europe. They were reduced again in the mid-1990s and are now regularly at the , , and length around the world. As the eye will be drawn to the naked flesh below the sleeve, designers often use sleeve length to focus the minds eye on the slimmer parts of the arm, particularly short sleeve blouses below the elbow to give the illusion of a slimmer arm. Sleeveless tops were fashionable and a topical item in Western Europe and North America during the mid-2000s.
Many fashionable styles of both the 1970s and 1980s were on the go again after the millennium in the blouse fashion: double cuffs, extra wide pointed collar, belt around the waist, synthetic fibre and the like. Often the blouses also embroidery or "crystal stocking", have especially on collar and string. The blouses with the so-called three-quarter arm were a striking phenomenon of the 1990s. Blouses can be combined well and easily with a blazer, Sleeveless shirt, Bolero jacket or sweater, with or without some colourful silks or bead chain necklaces.
The blouse is worn under the bodice of the dirndl. It is cropped just above the waist. The blouse changes the overall effect of the dirndl especially through the cut of its neckline. A deeply cut blouse combines with a deeply cut bodice to accentuate décolletage, whereas a blouse with a high neckline creates a more modest effect. In traditional designs, the blouse neckline is at the base of the throat. Other popular necklines are V-shaped, balconette or heart-shaped. Materials most often used are cambric, linen or lace; the colour is usually white. Short Sleeve are typical, although narrow sleeves (short or long) are also common. Daniela Müller and Susanne Trettenbrein. Alles Dirndl. Anton Pustet Verlag, Salzburg 2013.