What is the Difference Between a Shirt and a Blouse?

What is the Difference Between a Shirt and a Blouse?

    In the world of women’s fashion, we have lots of different terminology for items of clothing, and over time, these can become confused and misused. Two of the biggest offenders are the blouse and shirt and it's surprising how many people don’t fully understand how these two commonly used garments differ.

    I want to put an end to that and in the below article, I take a look at the blouse vs shirt argument, outline the differences, and give some handy shopping tips for both items of clothing - enjoy!

    Understanding the Blouse

    In modern fashion, a blouse typically refers to a woman’s top that extends to the waist and usually has a more “puffy” appearance and fit. Although the origin of the term isn’t definite, there is a theory that it originates from the loose-fitting tunics that farmers and peasants would typically wear in the Middle Ages.

    Today, the blouse is a more refined and stylish item of clothing and is available in a gorgeous variety of styles, colors, patterns, and fittings.


    A key distinguishing feature of blouses is the front fastening. Blouses don’t have buttons down to the hem but instead have limited fasting at the top. This can be a small row of buttons, a neck zipper, or even tassels. Blouses are often open at the chest too and have no neck fastening.


    Compared to button up shirts, blouses are usually loose-fitting and have a more elegant, flowing style which some people refer to as puffiness. They have a fuller design where the fabric gathers at the waist and “puffs out” to give a more free-flowing, accentuated look. The material is often thinner and lightweight compared to shirts which complements the puffier appearance.


    Blouse length can vary greatly and there is not a single defined length for this type of women’s top. You can get longer blouses that flow down to your thighs or shorter blouses that sit above your waistline and are great to wear with high-waisted jeans for example.

    Suitable Occasions

    Blouses are fantastic in that they can be suitable for any occasion! It all depends on the design, style, colors, and fitting. Some blouses have a more formal appearance and look amazing in the workplace, at events, or on nights out. In contrast, you can also get casual blouses that you would wear around the house or for meeting friends for a leisurely coffee.

    a person wearing a blouse in a garden

    Deciphering the Shirt

    So, we can see that a blouse is a traditional loose-fitting woman’s top, usually with a limited set of buttons or fastening at the top. How does a shirt differ? Firstly, a shirt is considered non-gendered with both men and women wearing them. Secondly, as you will see below, shirts traditionally have some stylistic differences such as the fit and button arrangement that distinguish them from blouses.


    The main difference in the blouse vs shirt argument is the fastening. As mentioned above, blouses usually have a minimum fastening at the top that never extends to the hem. Shirts are different and they have a full-length row of buttons extending from the collar to the hem. This allows you to fully open a shirt and take it off without pulling it over your head.


    Traditionally, shirts are more fitted and not as billowy or puffy as blouses. They typically have a collared top, with tighter-fitting fabric that hugs your body closer than a blouse.


    Compared to blouses, shirts usually have less variation in length and they will typically hang below your waist so that they can be tucked into trousers if needed.

    Suitable Occasions

    While blouses cover both formal and informal occasions, shirts are usually limited to more formal outings. They look fantastic in the workplace and events, but can also be especially stylish as part of a night out ensemble. Most women would not wear a shirt around the house as a type of leisure wear.

    Get the Right Top for the Right Occasion

    I hope you now have a clearer idea of the differences between a blouse and a shirt and this should have given you food for thought for your next shopping trip.

    In terms of matching the top to the occasion, blouses can work great in any situation! Whether you want a light and elegant blouse to create a bright summer ensemble, or a formal blouse to match your work attire there is something available.

    Alternatively, if you want to combine style and professionalism and have a workplace outfit you feel great in but also look the part, a formal button up shirt can work wonders. Think about the occasion, when you are likely to wear the top, and the setting and you should be able to choose between a shirt and a blouse - failing that, get both!

    Article by:

    Gina Kuyers

    Gina Kuyers is the founder of Luxeire. The idea for Luxeire came out of founder Gina’s frustration with the discomfort and high maintenance of beautiful clothing. With a 20-year career and PhD in school psychology, Gina spent decades applying research to real-world problem solving. She brought these well-honed skills to designing and producing a line of elevated wardrobe staples.

    Gina grew up in West Michigan where she attended Calvin College graduating with a degree in education. She continued her education at Fordham where she received her PHD in school psychology. Gina and her husband, David, have four adult children and live in New Jersey—just a short ferry ride from the Luxeire studio in New York City.