At this time of year you always feel a bit like a fish out of water. The back to school bell has rung. The days are getting shorter. There is tweed and conker brown leather in the stores. But before we get into all that, we need a basic lifesaver.
It’s the same every September: we want something to wear that doesn’t feel like summer clothes, but it doesn’t feel like fall either; not flashy new but not old, something simple and at the same time fresh and for the money.
Well, that magical item is a wow blouse. Yeah, that old thing we’ve been talking about for a few years now with the balloon sleeves, the puffy shoulders, or the ruffled stand-up collar. You probably already have one.
You may have thought of this blouse as your outing, dress-up job and, if so, as you were.
Shane Watson shared advice for embracing this season’s wow blouse trend at every opportunity. Pictured: Victoria Beckham
The good news is that the wow blouse is now officially your look-sharpening item, no matter the occasion.
Maybe you want a regular shirt for the office (who doesn’t love a quality tailored shirt? And for that you go to the British brand With Nothing Underneath).
But you might also want a wow blouse to spice things up and save yourself from scrambling to change into the ladies’ room at the end of the day, before heading out (remember in pre-Covid days? ?).
The point of this blouse is that it doesn’t look out of place anywhere; work or cocktail bar or PTA, provided you follow a few rules.
You’ll probably want one that’s the soft side of wow and then one that packs a bit more punch.
In the soft corner we look for full sleeves with cuffs in a flowing fabric and an elegant detail. I would buy Mango’s puff sleeve blouse in dark forest green or vanilla (£35.99, mango.com).
It has ruffles on the shoulders and a slightly ruffled round collar, with a small keyhole neckline. All of the above makes it easy enough for work, tucked into black pants, maybe with a sleeveless vest on it, and Prince Charming enough (just untie the knot and add gold chains) to go out.
BLOUSES: THE RULES
- Keep the fit loose and flowing.
- Try a high neck style under a jacket.
- Avoid fancy collars like the plague.
- The frilly cuffs are back.
Me+Em has a black voile blouse, a fraction fancier, with embroidery trim on the collar and cuffs (£95, medem.com) that also fits the bill. Worn with a dark slim midi skirt, or baggy black pants, it’s just the right side of romantic.
For me, the key to keeping the wow blouse mature and not clownish is a round, stand-up collar or high neckline (soft and draped, no pie crust), but never a real collar.
Avoid all fancy collars like the plague – they’re just too Princess Diana.
That said, this is definitely a time for floppy bow ties, and if you like them (some of us look like Catherine Deneuve, others like poodles), they’re a more feminine solution to neck coverage than the trusty polo. Try Mango for a classic textured white blouse with a tie (£35.99, mango.com) – just what you need to make your trouser suit, or dark jeans and a blazer, look new.
Otherwise, Zara and Me+Em both have a great selection of tie blouses.
For that extra wow factor, opt for a printed blouse, something like Mango’s paisley blouse with a tie belt (£29.99, mango.com) or Ba&sh’s Caia blouse in a dark floral print (£185, ba-sh.com).
If you like punchy geometric prints, there’s plenty to choose from, including a muted geoprint from Me+Em (£165, medem.com). My tip is: don’t go too wow on the print side and let the volume and details do the work.
As for volume, it’s true that large puff sleeves risk wrinkling if you put anything on them, but perhaps this season’s puffy quilted jackets are light enough to accommodate them. Otherwise, choose flowing fabrics like viscose, which bounce back the best.
What makes an old blazer or sweater look like new now is a fringe strip at the neck, a bit of a ruffled cuff peeking out of a sleeve. Then you can roll up those sleeves, take off your jacket and wear your wow blouse in town.
What could be easier?