The French Revolution had championed the ideal of equality throughout Europe and had had a strong influence on fashion. In the first part of the 19th century, female attire was linked to Neoclassical style, where the blouse became longer and turned into a sort of dress similar in shape to the dresses worn in the times of ancient Greece and Rome. This style called “empire”, lasted until the second half of the century, when once again trends changed. Together with the short bolero jacket or hip-length jacket, the blouse also became very popular with women and important because it completed two-piece outfits.
At the time the blouse was strictly white and made of lightweight fabrics, and was again worked with embroidery, lace jabots, ribbing and frills on the front. The waist dropped to its natural point, the collar was high and fitting and the long sleeves were puff or balloon, rendering the upper part of the body voluminous. Corsets with puffed out crinoline skirts slimmed and highlighted the waist, the crinoline was a rigid structure that gave the skirt a typical bell shape.
In this period fashion reflected the ideals and style of the middle-class family. Men left the living room and devoted themselves to work in offices and shops and, therefore, there was a need for comfortable, convenient clothes. Women, on the other hand, continued to look after the house and the family, but also started to place more importance on their physical appearance. However, it is only with the new century – the twentieth – that one could speak of the simplification and revolution of women’s clothes, when women made their entry into the world of work.
In the next chapter we will discuss how the blouse announced the emancipation of women.
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