Ladies have been wearing shirts for centuries often in the same style as the men. There have been differences, but generally as different styles of shirt have been introduced to the high street they have proved just as possible with the female gender as with the male gender. In 1870s the French actress Sarah Bernhardt walked around Paris with her custom-made suit, shirt and ties. The major differences in the shirts were the location of the buttons.
For some reason women’s buttons are on the left-hand side of the shirt while men’s are on the right hand side. There is actually no proven answer to why this is the case only theories. One popular theory for the men’s buttons being on the right-hand side is that in olden times it would have been easier for the normal right-handed man to unbutton his shirt with his left hand, leaving his strong hand free to remove his gun. During these times ladies were more than often dressed by maids so it was easier for the servants if the buttons were sewn on the opposite way around. However, during these earlier times ladies were seen out more in public wearing dresses rather than shirts.
The First World War went a long way to changing people’s perceptions on ladies’ dress. The Allies had ladies serving in the forces and they were dressed in shirts serving alongside the men. In the early 1920’s Coco Chanel burst on to the fashion scene in Paris. Her legendary “signature suit” set the standard of ladies’ dress for decades. The suit consisted a Pea Jacket with bell bottoms. Naturally a shirt of some form was required to be worn with the outfit.
As women gained greater rights during the twentieth century their dress became more business-like with shirts emerging as part of everyday wear. With skirts taking over from dresses in the 1920’s blouses started to be worn more and more. Blouses had started to emerge at a much earlier time. They were loosely fitted cotton garments worn over the tops of skirts. They were popular with women as the low waist line and baggy appearance meant they did not need to be tucked in, and so would hide a woman’s natural curves. Simple plain blouses were popular for ladies going out to work in the Victorian period. As their popularity increased in the 1920’s there was an explosion in colour as the period coincided with the art-deco era. The design of blouses would be inspired by geometry, folk art, Egyptian art, the Far East or any other area that the designers would find inspirational. Blouses are still as popular today.
As fashion took hold during the 20th century t-shirts became more and more popular with women. Women started off having to wear small sized men’s t-shirts and they appeared baggy. Now t-shirts are designed specially to fit women. These shirts are tighter in the waist and suits the natural woman’s shape better. As ladies have increasingly worn shirts the amount of choice has risen considerably. If a woman today shops for a dress shirt she is faced with an amazing variety of products. There are more categories for ladies’ dress shirts than there is for the men. These categories include the traditionally classic, plus size dress shirts, petite women’s dress shirts, tall women dress shirts, dress shirts especially for the busty, none iron dress shirts and maternity dress shirts.
Women may have entered the shirt market late compared to the men, but there is no doubt they are more than making up for it. Women choose shirts just as carefully as they choose their shoes and are a major target area for shirt manufacturers.