As Indian as it may seem, the Blouse is nothing but a European power on a Sari. The quintessential accompaniment to a Sari- The Blouse and Petticoat made its way in the Indian vocabulary only under the Victorian Era. While upper-class Indian women donned fully covered clothing, the majority of women of India in the 19th century, wore the Sari without a blouse underneath. It was only after a sudden wave of Western fashion traditions hit the business capital of India (Calcutta) that women of all statures started to wear the blouse.
How did it Start?
The term blouse has been derived from the French word blous that means cloth for peasants. In the good old days- farmers, women and children wore the blouse. However, after a sudden cultural wave, sailors started to wear ruffled shirts (often called blouses). This became a major accompaniment for women with pleated blue skirts and high-heeled shoes. Gradually, it gave birth to the blouse and the petticoat.
An Offering from the Occident
The Orient got inspired by the fashionable ways of the West and adopted the European blouse in their deep-rooted culture. While a lot of women preferred to wear Saris without blouses, Jnanadanandini Debi, spouse of SatyendranathTagore (brother of Rabindranath Tagore) made a conscious effort to imbibe westerly fashion ways. After being rejected entry to clubs for being bare-chested, she had no choice but to wear the blouse.
The Reinvention of the Blouse
The blouse got reinvented as the Choli, and soon places like Rajasthan imbibed the trend of Lehenga choli. The blouse got an indigenous association and stuck for more than a decade. However, it soon caught the eyes of stylists in India, and they itched with the idea of glamorizing the said piece of clothing. They added embroideries and contrasting colours, some sharp cuts here and there, just to make it the stereotypical face of Indian beauty.
Ellie Saab Gets Inspired
The blouse became so Indian, that ironically the western designers got inspired by the Indian Sari & Blouse to create a gown that looked like a stitched Sari with blouse. So the blouse that might have been a European offering became Indian enough to inspire the Occidental World of Fashion. The journey of the Blouse has been quite a roller-coaster ride. With Occidental origins and indigenous blends, the blouse is not quite the same anymore.
While we keep criticising the British Raj for constant hurdles and dysfunctional ways, the blouse is something we can thank them for. The blouse made its mark in the Indian language only because of the Victorian fashion culture. Had it not been for the Western influences on Indian trends, the blouse wouldn’t be a part of our tradition. With deliberate attempts to Indianize the blouse, our Indian designers have made it a part of our indigenous culture, so much so that it has become the identity of a typical Indian Woman. Quite ironically Indian artists aren’t the only ones eyeing the blouse for inspiration, it’s the western ones seeking inspiration from the actually “Indian blouse”.