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A modern blouse

The word blouse most commonly refers to a woman's shirt[1] , although the term is also used for some men's military uniform jackets.[2]

Contents

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.

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.

A Highland dancer wearing Aboyne dress. The white part on her body and arms is the blouse.
A woman wearing a dirndl. The white part on her body and arms is the blouse.

Blouses (and many women's shirts with buttons) usually 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 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 Muslim sects require women to wear blouses with the top buttons fastened while in public for modesty. Members of these religions who find this uncomfortable will often circumvent this requirement by wearing a crew-neck or mock turtleneck shirt under their blouse.

Some blouses do not have a top button at all, and collars are styled to be open.

They also form part of some nation's traditional folk costume.

Choli

A choli (lehnga in Urdu or ravika in Telugu) is a midriff-baring blouse worn in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other countries where the sari is worn. The choli is cut to fit tightly to the body and has short sleeves and a low neck. The choli is usually cropped, allowing exposure of the navel; the cropped design is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Cut-out backs and front-opening buttons are some of the features of contemporary designs.

Saris are often woven with an extra length of material meant to be cut off and fashioned into a matching choli. The choli may be sewn so that the elaborately woven borders of the sari material form the bottom edges of the choli sleeves. However, cholis need not match the sari. There is a growing trend towards stretchy, comfortable cholis made from knit materials.

The traditional choli was worn without a brassiere, as is evident from the images in the Choli Art Gallery, below. However, many modern South Asian women wear a soft bra under the choli, for a firmer appearance of the bust. Expensive designer cholis are sewn with padding and reinforcements so that a bra is not needed and backless or off-the-shoulder cholis can be worn with ease.

Women of the Gujarat and Rajasthan countryside may also wear the choli with a gypsy skirt, or lehnga. Their cholis are often loosely fitted and heavily ornamented with embroidery and mirror work, or shisha embroidery.

When wearing a semi-transparent kameez, women usually wear a sleeveless choli as an undergarment similar to a camisole or a bustier.

Office dress codes usually prohibit cropped, sleeveless cholis; similarly, women in the armed forces, when wearing a sari uniform, don a half-sleeve shirt tucked in at the waist.

Some Western women have started wearing the choli as part of their belly dance costume. They typically wear backless cholis (held together with strings) so that the audience can see a dancer's bare back as she sways.

Backless cholis have become a fashion in India after the movie Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, in which Madhuri Dixit wears one.

A lehenga is a skirt worn with a choli, also called a gypsy skirt or gopi skirt. While women of the Gujarat and Rajasthan provinces of India usually represent the outfit for foreigners, the lehenga is native to several other parts of India too. Depending on which part of India one is referring to, the lehenga is worn in different styles, made of different fabrics and includes unique patterns. The lehenga of Rajasthan and Gujarat is known for its bandhni work which is a technique in tie-dye mastered by Hindu women of the region. In the Southern states of India, the lehenga skirt is not as voluminous and is worn without a chunni/chunri but with a kurti that covers the midriff. The lehenga worn in the Northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand has a voluminous skirt and kurti/choli that covers midriff with a long chunni.

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Choli art gallery

References


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BLOUSE, a word (taken from the French) used for any loosely fitting bodice belted at the waist. In France it meant originally the loose upper garment of linen or cotton, generally blue, worn by French workmen to preserve their clothing, and, by transference, the workman himself.


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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|150px|A woman wearing a blouse]] A blouse is the female version of the dress shirt. Professionals wear them in order to look presentable in front of a panel of corporate executives.

bjn:Blus


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