The Humble Blouse in your closet - II
According to this report by the BBC, It was Jnanadanandini Debi, the 
wife of Satyendranath Tagore, brother of the famous Bengali poet 
Rabindranath Tagore who popularised blouses, jackets, chemises and the 
modern style of the sari in India. She reportedly did so after being 
refused entry to clubs under the Raj for wearing the sari fabric over 
her bare breasts. Shirts, sweaters and high necked Victorian blouses, 
much like today’s boho-fashion trends, came to be worn under the sari as 
part of high fashion.

The blouse that is probably Britain’s longest export to India has over 
the centuries gained such great indigenous appeal that it is considered 
part of tradition itself.

While it’s interesting to see many contemporary brands bring the 
anti-fit blouse that attempts to make the sari more wearable, it tends 
to bear more resemblance to its Victorian counterpart than the Indian 
choli. Also rather ironic — collections like ‘Enter India’ by haute 
couture designer Elie Saab have garments like an Edwardian dress with a 
sari like stole which claim to be inspired by India.

While the blouse did liberate white women from the tight corsets in 
Europe it imposed its standard of decency and public decorum on the 
Indian population who had probably never considered breasts as 
titillating before being asked to cover it. In a country like ours where 
from time to time so called nationalists decide to define the integrity 
of a woman by her compliance to tradition, the story of the origin of 
the blouse shows us just how misguided notions of tradition and culture 
can be!

Well-cut simple and fitted
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.

Artistic inspiration
Shortly 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.

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.

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