Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Shirtwaist Strike (1909-10)

Shirtwaist Blouse

photograph of a dark rose shirtwaist blouse, displayed on a headless mannequin

Shirtwaist blouse, such as this one sewn in 1896 by an unknown American maker, became symbolic of modern, working young women of the early twentieth century. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The shirtwaist blouse, seen here in a dark rose color, was a symbol for the modern, working young woman of the early twentieth century. The easy-to-wear garment takes its design from menswear and can be worn in a multitude of ways, with or without a jacket. The basic shirtwaist design was easy to embellish, and designers added a variety of frills, ruffles, bows, and beading to make the shirts personalized and feminine. The majority of shirtwaist blouses were made in Philadelphia and New York, and many of the women who worked in the shirtwaist factories were the same young women who embraced the garment’s comfortable versatility.

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