The History of Blouses

Past and modern trends of a wardrobe essential

Coco Chanel once said that ‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening’.
At Patra we like to inspire our readers by sharing our knowledge and love for fashion, which is reflected in the design and manufacture of our own garments.
Fashion continues to find inspiration in past trends and yet it is constantly undergoing radical changes. Here we outline some of the main trends in the ‘history of blouses’ and link these to contemporary trends.

The blouse’s humble beginnings

Early blouseIn the early days, a blouse was mainly worn by workmen, peasants, artists, women or children. The blouse was in a loose design and gathered at the waist by a waistband or belt. Today, the term usually relates to a woman’s shirt, providing that its style is loose.
Until 1890 blouses were seen as rather unfashionable. A blouse was rarely part of a woman’s wardrobe and was essentially considered informal. A good example is the famous Garibaldi shirt from the 1860s, which was worn by peasants.

From practical workwear to evening chic

1890s blouseAfter the 1890s a blouse became a part of the normal working women’s outfit as practical informal wear. The standard dress code for women employed in an office was a plain skirt with a simple blouse. Blouses ornamented with lace or embroidery, known as ‘lingerie blouses’, were becoming extremely chic between 1900 and 1910. The ‘Gibson girl blouse’, which was designed with tucks and pleating was very fashionable.
The blouse became a daytime and informal evening staple. Any sort of women’s top in the 20s would be called a blouse or a shirt. With the popularity of blouses growing, not every occasion required women to wear a dress – a combination of skirt and blouse was already popular. It was comfortable and easy to wear, allowing a woman to create different outfits by matching together various colours and styles.

Well-cut simplicity

The blouses mostly had long sleeves with cuffs at the wrists, but you also had 3/4 sleeves, bell shaped or short sleeves. The silk jumper blouse and the low-cut V-neck shirt were very fashionable in the 1920s. The jumper blouse was made of silk or cotton and had a sailor collar, usually accessorised with a belt or a sash, falling to just below the hips. The 20s fashion gave us knitted long sleeve shirt with rounded collars, tank blouses, silk jumper blouses and low-cut V-neck shirts. However, the decade’s trend in blouses was more about simplicity compared to the explosion of colours that would follow.

Art Deco inspiration

Art Deco blouseShortly after the 1920s there was a significant change in fashion. The Art Deco era influenced everything from interior design to clothes. The style of blouses changed from plain to extremely colourful, incorporating various geometrical prints and designs with embroidery. Peasant tops inspired by the Puerto Rican peasant dress were also very popular.

Silk Blouses made from crepe-de-chine that came in different shades of colours became more fashionable. The delicate fabrics embroidered with beautiful beadwork and lace collars added visual impact and femininity. Fascinating changes also took place with collar designs. Blouses had huge collars in the 1930s, which eventually diminished in size by the 1950s.

The blouse gets trendy

The 70s made space for more synthetic fabrics such as polyester, which was also used for the design of wide blouse collars such as the sausage dog collar or rounded collar.
The 80s trend was about thin and shiny synthetic fabrics, such as the federal collar and concealed-button fly. The double cuffs, wide pointed collar or belt around the waist are 70s or 80s trends that are still seen today. Designs with folk, Egyptian or Far East art added intricate detail as did broderie anglais or crochet work.

An enormous amount of embroidery went into each top, old-fashioned hand embroidered blouses are today prohibitively expensive. In fact it is now very hard to find hand-embroidered blouses and they are to be treasured.

70s and 80s blouses

Fifty years of high quality blouse design

At Patra we have specialised in exclusive blouse designs in high quality, natural fabrics since 1964. Amongst our archives are the peasant blouses and the shiny satin blouses with shoulder pads that characterised the 80s.
We are especially proud of our collection of beautiful hand-embroidered pure silk blouses that were our hallmark during the 1980s. Harking back to the 20s style, these were delicately embroidered and finished with scalloped edges and in stunning colours.

Whilst our designs mirror contemporary trends, as with many brands, we find inspiration in the past.

Blending the elegant past with contemporary style


If you are inspired to explore the 1920s trend, have a look at our Essential Silk Shirt from the current collection. A classic and elegant style of blouse that will always remain fashionable in the finest quality Fuji Silk.

Or for that ‘peasant’ style take a look at our Silk Chiffon Tunic in a flower print it’s a loose fitting style with lace insert.

At Patra we take inspiration from the past and carefully blend it with the latest contemporary fashions giving a unique and stylish range to choose from. Always in easy-to-wear styles ours is a unique and distinctive collection. We have learnt during the years of designing and manufacturing blouses that a beautiful and elegant blouse is a perfect basis for stylish dressing.

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