Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Blouse

My life in appalachia Blouse

  • Granny said “That’s a right pretty blouse you’ve got on. Where did you get it?”
  • Pap said “He had on this big ole coat that bloused out over his legs. Funniest thing you ever seen.”
  • Granny and Pap said “Honey fix your shirt its all bloused out in the back. You need to tuck it in tighter.”

Using the word blouse to describe a lady or girl’s shirt; and to describe something that billows or puffs out, is still common in my area of Appalachia-especially with older generations. I find the etymology behind this word very interesting.

According to the Wordnik Website:

French, possibly alteration (influenced by blousse, wool scrapsof Germanic origin) of obsolete French blaude, from Old French bliaut, probably of Germanic origin.
1828, from French blouse (“a workman’s or peasant’s smock”), of obscure origin. Perhaps from French blousse (“scraps of wool used mostly for flannel”), from Occitan (lano) blouso (“pure or short (wool)”), from blous, blos (“pure, empty, bare”), from Old High German blōz “naked, bare” (German bloß “bare”), or a conflation of the aforementioned and French blaude, bliaud (“a kind of smock”), from Old French bliau, from Frankish *blīfald (“topcoat of scarlet colour”), from blī- “coloured, bright” + -fald (“crease, fold”). More at blee, fold.

The Online Etymology Dictionary agrees:

1828 (from 1822 as a French word in English), from French blouse, “workman’s or peasant’s smock” (1788), origin unknown. Perhaps akin to Provençal (lano) blouso “short (wool)” [Gamillscheg]. Another suggestion [Klein] is that it is from Medieval Latin pelusia, from Pelusium, a city in Upper Egypt, supposedly a clothing manufacturing center in the Middle Ages.

Is the word blouse used in the manner I described at the beginning of this post in the area where you live?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    October 22, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Yes, have always used the word in the manner you describe and still do. My sisters made a distinction between blouses and shirts. The most I could ever learn from them was that it had something to do with the cut or fit of the garment with a shirt being more like a man’s shirt with a placket down the front where it buttons.

    I’ve always pronounced it with a ‘z’ sound, not and ‘s”; but I’ve heard it pronounced the latter way in some areas and in some British films. Wonder how others pronounce it.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    We use it pretty much the same here, although I personally call all top wear “shirts” to make it easier on myself.
    Interestingly enough though, when I was in the military, the top jacket of the men’s dress uniform was called a “blouse” for some reason, and the “shirt” worn under it was called a “shirt”; while the top jacket of the women’s dress uniform was called a “jacket” and the shirt worn under it was a “shirt”. Odd isn’t it!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Agreeing with Eldonna on the loss of descriptive words. Blouse isn’t just any shirt a woman wears, it is a particular type, common, but particular. My oxford is no blouse. But we don’t want to think about things too hard so every thing becomes “shirt”. She was wearing shirt, pants, coat, hat, but what was she really wearing? I remember when we had fewer things but each had more of a name than “my blue shirt”. I miss the beautiful description of clothing that often not only included the style, but the fabric as well.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Carol-thank you for the comment! Yes I’ve heard waist used in that manner too-hopefully someone will chime in with the reason behind it : )
    Blind Pig The
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    September 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Yes, to all the uses for blouse in my area. My Granny used to call a fancy dress blouse a “waist” – wonder if anybody has ever hear that used? I thought it might be a shortened form of shirtwaist??

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    That sure is a pretty young lady
    in the picture.
    I’m still stuck on etymology!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Don’t hear it used like that anymore. Now it’s referring to a top to wear.

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka Granny Sal
    September 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Random thoughts: I did not realize that the word blouse is obsolete among the young. I liked Eldonna’s comment about “britches”. At Biltmore High School (near Asheville), we were allowed to wear “jeans” on Friday. That was in the early 50’s. I love the way you research words..Tipper.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    September 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    In the Army, we were told to “Blouse” our trousers when wearing the fatigue pants. These were normal battle/work clothes. Dress uniform pants were not bloused.
    Women’s tops were always called “blouses” where I grew up, I don’t think either of these usages are particular to Appalachia. Possibly they came from England with Colonists, and are nearly universal in America? Are they also in use in England?

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Your descriptions are very interesting. At one time military shirts were called blouses. I still refer to a woman’s/girl’s clothing as a blouse if it has buttons down the front or back, otherwise a man’s clothing with buttons I refer to as a shirt. My interpretation probably is how I was brought up, but sometimes I might just refer to both male and female garments with buttons as shirt. Also, those that one slips over one’s head could be a T-shirt or just a plain shirt. I, personally, like the differentiations.

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry
    September 28, 2013 at 10:29 am

    That’s right, police w/Sam Brown belt and military formal coat.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 10:29 am

    O yea,, Blouse: woman’s garment or anything with a flared out look to it… kinda getting that look around my waist line..

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    September 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I’ve heard it used in the manners you described and also as I’m going to “blouse” his nose.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I’ve heard blouse used to describe a flared or puffy material, but not so much since the older folks who said it are gone.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 8:55 am

    sure, it’s the standard term wherever in the US i’ve been. skirt and blouse. i don’t think women’s blouses were ever called shirts until women began wearing pants primarily which, after all, has only been since about the 80s– and even widely only since the late 60s.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    September 28, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Well Tipper, as far as I can remember the word BLOUSE was used over in the Cove just like you present. Today I probably would not use the word to describe a blousing shirt or skirt. But after this interesting analysis I may put it back in my ‘mountain’ vocabulary.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 28, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Your description is probably right on nowadays. However, I never felt that a collared shirt, with buttons down the front a blouse totally. We usually called a blouse a more dressy (blouse) with a few loop buttons at the back of the neck. It was blousey and slipped over the head. I think what the young ladies wear today, light material, with maybe side folds coming off one shoulder or both, loose fitting with a loose 3/4 or drop off shoulder sleeve more a blouse of the older days…Shirts (blouses) are generally worn in my eye with pants or jeans. Blouses with skirts..or dressy pants.
    I suppose then that the Old Masters wore blouses and I wonder when the word changed to smocks!
    They were blousey at the sleeves and around the neck and very long. Personally, that there type of smocky blouse would smother me to death if I was tryin’ to paint while wearing it!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…It is very foggy here this morning. The better half is off to an estate sale. LOL
    The other morning while you were checking your green onion garden, I was checking out my back yard.
    Guess what! The first one I have seen, but have heard….A Bobcat, he didn’t tarry long. Ran thru the short opening between the shrubs, close to the woods like crazy! There are no big dogs running loose around here anymore.
    My big doe that had the triplets now only has one, and the spots on the youngster are fading fast.
    I read where Bobcats eat fawns and well as coyotes… more incidental..The Avett Brothers were on Jimmy Falon the other night, yep, I stayed up to watch…

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    September 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Always described a top not fitting closely to body as bloused out. Guess I thought everyone did.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Tipper, I’m familiar with all these usages of the word blouse. Didn’t know that it was Appalachian usage. I grew up with it and never knew it to be anything other than perfect English. Don’t that blouse your skirt out!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 28, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Yes, those are the ways that “blouse” is used, but I do remember when I was in the Army, sometimes the word “blouse” was used to describe the shirt for the fatigue uniform.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 28, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I have always heard and used blouse in all the examples you give and it seems fairly common since Paratroopers and other military folks “Blouse” their pant legs to billow out around the top of their boots. I have also heard it used to describe a good lick in a fight as in “Ole Joe really bloused Jim’s jaws and eyes fer insultin his wife. I think this was meant to describe the swelling resulting from a blow similar to the puffy look of pants ballooned out around the top of boots. The top jacket of a law enforcement officer’s dress uniform is also called a blouse, this is the hip length coat worn with the Sam Browne Belt worn around the waist not the more common “Ike” jacket worn for everyday work.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 28, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Yes, but I hear shirt more and more.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Very interesting! Both uses are common here, both for the garment and for something puffing out.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

    I’ve heard:
    “John run that smart mouth n’ got his ears rung and his jaws bloused out.”

  • Reply
    Donna Godfrey
    September 28, 2013 at 5:37 am

    I grew up in Pa. and we sure used the word blouse. Here in Georgia I hear people referring to skirt and blouse.
    I love to read what you write. Keep it up.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 5:19 am

    I was down town one Saturday morning a long time ago and this guys’ teenage son was getting on his last nerves and he said, “If you don’t put a quietus on some of that sass of yours I’m gonna blouse that mouth fer ye.” LOL

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    September 28, 2013 at 4:41 am

    In southern Ohio, where I grew up, that usage for blouse is in common use. I still use all of it to this day. It saddens me that our children and grandchildren are losing this heritage in so many ways. I used “britches” with my 6 yo DGD. When I explained, she decided I should use britches and she would use pants. A few days later I mentioned pants. She looked at me and declared, “You mean britches!” OK I was corrected/called out.

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