I regularly refer to shirts and blouses on YLF assuming that the differences are commonly known. But the two are often mixed up or used interchangeably, which is problematic because they are very different. It doesn’t help that retailers are sloppy in the way they categorize and describe their products.
Being deliberate and careful about describing wardrobe items correctly is a habit I learned as a retail buyer. So when I say “shirt” – I don’t mean blouse or T-shirt!
Here are the differences with some examples.
A shirt is a button-through or button-down silhouette with a collar, just like a classic men’s shirt (which makes it easy to remember). Sleeves and hems can be any length. Fits are tailored, fluid or oversized. Fabrics are woven. The integrity of the shirt is for the most part crisp, a little stiff, dressy and Tomboy. That said, some cotton, silk and plaid shirts are soft and casual. And details like flounces and ruffles make a shirt far less masculine.
Shirts are easier to fit on a straighter body type with a smaller bust and regular width shoulder line. They also work well on a longer neck. A curvy body type with a larger bust is harder to fit into a shirt, unless it’s very fluid or oversized and more of a tunic. Broad shoulders can be hard to fit into shirts too. Gaping at the bust is a common challenge with shirts.
A blouse doesn’t button through in front like a shirt. It seldom has a shirt collar, and is generally a lot softer and more drapey. That said, blouses can be made of stiffer fabrics. Sleeves and hems can be any length. Fabrics are woven. Fits are tailored, fluid or oversized. Blouses come in just about any silhouette, creating a larger assortment than what we typically see in shirts.
Blouses are more forgiving than shirts, and easier to fit on a range of body types because they are soft and drapey. In my experience with dressing clients, blouses look best on those who can fill them out on the shoulders and in the bust. They are also forgiving of muffin top. Blouses are amazing on curvy body types, and look a lot less Tomboy than shirts.
A shirt or blouse made of knitted fabric is a knitted top, and I will absolutely split hairs about that.
I find shirts very easy to fit because I’m a slam dunk for the body type guideline. For that reason, simple shirts used to be a wardrobe essential that I wore very regularly. But over the years, my sartorial preferences have moved away from shirts and on to blouses because I’m craving a soft, pretty and romantic vibe in my outfits. Unfortunately, I’m harder to fit into blouses because I battle to fill them out. I have to restrain myself from purchasing a shirt instead of a blouse because that’s not what I want on this leg of my style journey (unless the shirt is flouncy or ruffled.)