What’s a blouson?

So glad you asked. Blouson. Pronounced ‘bloo-sawn.’ If you want to give it the French pronunciation, make up your mind you’re not going to say the ‘n’ at the end, then say the ‘aw’ through your nose.  

The cut may be seen in a blouse, jacket, or dress. The waist is fitted and the bodice—the part that fits over the torso—billows out and ‘blouses’ over a belt, drawstring, or elastic at the waist. Fabric loosely drapes the torso but defines the waist. It flatters just about every shape and works with a full or fitted skirt. It permits ease of movement. In womenswear the effect is a lovely, insouciant look. 

The word blouson first arose in the fashion industry between 1900 and 1910, derived from the French word blouse, and means, you guessed it, ‘billowy, like a blouse.’ The first use of the style in women’s clothes was in blouses that had a drawstring inside the bottom of the hem to adjust the fit. Here’s a painting of Princess Mary (1897-1965), a member of the British royal family, in a blouson cut.

The short, unencumbered blouson became the military pilot's leather ‘bomber’ jacket in World War II and made the silhouette a symbol of the hero. Perhaps the most famous military blouson was the waist-length, fitted, olive drab jacket worn by the Supreme Allied Commander and still known today as the Eisenhower jacket.

In the 1950s James Dean epitomized cool in the red nylon, blouson cut motorcycle jacket he wore in Rebel without a Cause. Today in French the term ‘blouson’ in menswear is used to refer specifically to a leather motorcycle jacket.

A memorable blouson cut in womenswear was the polka-dot dress worn by Julia Roberts in the 1990 movie, Pretty Woman. The copper color is stunning with Ms Roberts’ deep auburn hair. The effect is an easy, classic silhouette.

Photos from top, left to right: Princess Mary, oil portrait by James Jebusa Shannon, 1913; Crew of B-17 Ye Olde Pub, 1943, wearing leather jackets of the US Army Air Corps, from the Daily Mail, London, December 9, 2012; James Dean, Julia Roberts, film promotionals

Posted on August 28, 2016 .