History of Indian Saree Blouses

Indian Saree Blouses

A well crafted and fitted saree blouse can beautify any saree. It adds a lot of grace to your saree by giving you a regal look and can be a versatile addition to your wardrobe. It makes you look incredibly glamorous and can draw all the attention you deserve.

Origin of the word "Blouse”

The word blouse is borrowed from French to English which refers to the light, loose upper garment made of cotton or linen worn by French workmen. The term "blouse" was applied to the various smocks and tunics worn by English farm laborers. In 1870, the blouse was first referenced as a garment meant for a young lady.

The Blouse or Choli is generally a garment cropped at the waist to cover the upper body, when wearing a saree or lehenga. There are heavily embellished blouses, designer saree blouses, readymade blouses, interesting lehenga cholis, sequined blouses, bridal cholis, voguish bustier or jacket-style blouses and many more. These exuberant blouse designs are inspired by many sources like cinema and fashion industry. They come in a variety of designs and cuts to suit your body type. Lets learn more about these sensuous blouses and explore some of the latest designs.

The colonial history of India’s saree blouse

The blouse is known to be Britain’s major export to India. Over the centuries it has gained such great indigenous appeal that it is considered part of tradition itself. What many Indians today believe are home-grown ideas of modesty and decorum are in fact bequeathed to us by the British Raj.

It was Jnanadanandini Debi, a popular Bengali actress and wife of the famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore’s elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, who popularized the blouses, jackets and chemises and the modern style of the saree today. Debi was allegedly refused entry into esteemed clubs under the British Raj for her impudence on being blouse-less. She is widely credited with popularizing Victorian style blouses, shirts and jackets. 

Jnanadanandini Debi

Image Source- Wikipedia


Once chided by the British for wearing her saree over her bare upper body, Jnanadanandini Debi later became the greatest style icon for blouses and chemises worn under the saree in India. She is a great metaphor for the spectacular influence of the British on garments in India in those times. 

The trend of wearing blouse caught up with the saree wearing communities across Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in the late 19th century. Shirts, sweaters and high necked Victorian blouses, much like today’s boho-fashion trends, came to be worn under the saree as part of high fashion.

The era before independence saw mild bursts of experimentation with the saree blouse. Famous painter Amrita Sher-Gil was known for her bold choice of sleeveless blouses at the time. Maharani Gayatri Devi made satin blouses with 10-inch sleeves immensely popular. The success of the Indian Cinema in the 1940s and the subsequent rise of the costume and fashion industry, also inspired many of the sartorial trends.

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