What is a Blouse? All Your Questions Answered

We have all the answers to your burning style questions, including today’s top inquiry: what is a blouse? Our wardrobes are full of pieces we love, but often, we don’t know the true definitions behind them. Blouses are no different. Luckily we have everything you need to know about blouses wrapped up in a bow. No, seriously, keep reading. Bow blouses are a thing, and we have the 411 on the world of the beloved blouse below. 

Understanding the Difference Between a Blouse and a Shirt

What’s the difference between a blouse and a shirt? In a nutshell, a shirt buttons up and a blouse is pulled over your head in a variety of flowy fabrications. Before we compare the two, let’s start at the top. Literally. More than likely, you are wearing a top right now. A top is a garment that covers the top half of your body. There are countless styles of tops to select—from sweaters to basic tees. Top is an all-encompassing term to distinguish pieces of clothing you wear on top from other clothing you wear on bottom like wide-leg pants, midi skirts and other options.  

Stitch Fix women’s styles in an array of purple, yellow, green, white and floral printed blouses.

Now that we know what a top is, it’s time to explore shirts. Shirts are a style of top that usually have straight fits and are typically tailored. They can be long or short and button down the front with a collar. The fabric of a shirt is generally woven, and the style is often classified as classic or traditional. Hems and sleeve length can vary, making it a versatile closet essential. While there are casual options, we often equate shirts with suits— staples in workwear attire for women and men. Although you may see additions like ruffles, as long as there is a complete, vertical button closure and a collar, it’s a shirt.

Let’s discuss blouse basics. Blouses are made from forgiving fabrics that drape and often have stretch. Silhouettes can vary and are far less staunch than shirts, making them flattering for many body shapes. They do not have functional buttons from top to bottom and seldomly have collars. A blouse is usually a pullover in style, meaning you have to pull it over your head to put it on. As different as they are, shirts and blouses do share woven fabrics and varying hems and lengths.  

Stitch Fix women’s blouse assortment in olive green, white, orange, blue and white stripes and yellow tops with puff sleeves and flutter sleeves hanging on clothing rack.

Different Types to Look For

Now that we have established the distinction between a shirt and a blouse, what are the different types of blouses? We are glad you asked because we love them all. There are a multitude of options, and we have the top 3 styles for you to try right now. Let’s kick things off with the dynamic bow blouse.

What is a Bow Blouse?

What is a bow blouse, you ask? Worn since the 19th century, the bow blouse is perhaps the most classic design of all blouses. Originating in France, this style was primarily worn by artists, students and women in the workforce. Also known as lavallière, designers like Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent popularized the design, and it quickly became a global style phenomenon.

In addition to the popularity of this style, the bow design emerged as a symbol of strength for women. A power-dressing staple, it rose to popularity in the 60s and 70s and remains a wardrobe staple today. It is fashion’s definition of empowerment that is timeless and will never go out of style.

Although synonymous with business casual, the bow blouse works for many occasions. You can style the bow itself in numerous ways. A bow shirt allows you to tailor the look to your specific style voice. From a big billowing bow to a simple knot that lets the ties hang, the styling options are endless. Wear a sheer style with a high-waisted faux leather trouser for a night on the town. Adorn a sleeveless printed option with a pair of denim shorts for a picnic in the park. Looking for a way to add a finishing touch to your look? Put a bow on it. There are a plethora of ways to style your bow blouse to perfection.  

Stitch Fix model in women’s floral polka-dot blouse with bow detail layered under blush trench coat.

What is a Peek-a-Boo Blouse?

Now that we know all about the bow blouse, let’s play peek-a-boo with this season’s must-have style. Intrigued? While a peek-a-boo blouse does not have extensive historical markers like its bow counterpart, it has made its way into wardrobes across the globe. More widely known as a cutout, a portion of the peek-a-boo style reveals a window of what lies underneath. From a peek-a-boo “V” at the collar to exposed shoulders, these blouses make a statement without saying a word. 

Wear the peek-a-boo blouse for work or play. Style it with a pair of trousers and neutral shoes for a crisp workwear look. Remix the blouse by pairing it with jeans and a pair of statement earrings for a fun dinner with friends. You can even wear it on a beach vacation with your favorite pair of denim shorts and flip-flops for a laid-back look. 

What is a Wrap-Front Blouse

More likely than not, we all know about the flattering wrap dress, but what is a wrap-front blouse? Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg set the scene as the architect of the wrap dress. This iconic style morphed into a blouse as chic as the original. Simply put, it is a wrap dress without the bottom half. Genius, don’t you think? One side of the top wraps over the other and is either knotted or sewed closed by design to create a gorgeous, flattering silhouette. Whether off the shoulder or cropped, wrap-front blouses are the epitome of grace and effortless style.

Looking for ways to wear a wrap-front version? Grab your favorite faux leather leggings and take a walk on the wild side with an animal-print wrap-front blouse. From leopard to zebra to snakeskin, your options are endless. Finish the look with a pair of slingback heels and voilà—you’re ready for a night out on the town.

Different Details to Look For

Now that we have outlined three sought-after blouse designs, what are the different types of details in a blouse? The possibilities are truly endless. Blouses are blank canvases for details like fun fringe ties and statements like puff sleeves—a hot 2021 summer trend. Flounces are a widely added detail, and plunging necklines add a dramatic addition

Stitch Fix women’s purple printed blouse with puff sleeves on hanger, white denim on hanger, blue purse on hanger and espadrille wedges on stool.

Another detail often overlooked is fabrication with texture. From sequins to gorgeous lace, introducing texture to your outfit with a unique blouse can totally transform your ensemble. Last but certainly not least is the use of print. From bold animal print to contemporary lines and shapes, a printed version can elevate any look in an instant. 

Are Blouses Versatile?

At the end of the day, all of these facts are great, but are blouses versatile? You betcha! They are light, which makes them excellent layering pieces. Wear them layered under a cardigan. A sleeveless design can be layered over a long-sleeved top to create a completely distinct look in many cases.

Dress your blouse up or down with ease. Style the most formal tops for multiple occasions. Pair a silk wrap-front blouse with elevated joggers. Add a white slip-on sneaker to create a chic athleisure vibe for a day date. For a night out with the girls, style the same top with a miniskirt and a pop of color pump. Wear the blouse to work by layering it under a plaid blazer. A pair of bootcut pants with a nude shoe makes for workplace-ready wear. When it comes to style, there is literally nothing a blouse can’t do.

Stitch Fix model wearing women’s floral blouse with plaid blazer and light wash denim leaning against a wall.

Ready to add new blouses to your wardrobe? Take your style quiz, order a Fix and ask your stylist for an all-blouse Fix. You can try on everything in the comfort of your home. Shipping and returns are always free. 

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