1930s Embroidered “Bohemian” Blouse

Sometimes we tend to think of 1920s and 30s design as being all about Art Deco and its geometric lines, but there were other forces at work as well.  Starting in 1909 with the wildly popular Ballets Russes,  the traditional peasant dress of Eastern Europe began showing up in fashionable clothing.

This look was just one of many ethnic influences in the 1920s, perhaps brought about by a world becoming “smaller” due to improvements in transportation and mass communication.  Middle and upper class people were traveling abroad and were bringing home embroidered folk blouses and dresses as souvenirs.

These became so popular that they were imported for sale into the United States.   Needlecraft companies published how-to books so women could make their own “authentic” European needlework.

Most of the examples I’ve seen are from the 1920s, and have dropped waistlines in the dresses and the bodices on the blouses are longer as was the fashion.  My blouse seems to be later, from the 1930s when the waist went back to a more natural position.  There was probably a cord tie at the neck, as there are thread loops through which to fasten them.

Mine has no label, but I’ve seen them labeled “Made in Czechoslovakia”.  Though it is very well executed, there is no way of knowing if mine was a home sewing project or an item made in Europe.  Enjoy the close-ups of the beautiful embroidery.


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

29 responses to “1930s Embroidered “Bohemian” Blouse

  1. Lovely blouse and great post about one of my favorite things – folk blouses and folk costume! I have a collection of these blouses (personal and for sale) and never cease to be amazed by the stunning embroidery, colours and techniques, so beautiful and often on such fine muslin. Some of mine are labelled ‘made in Hungary’, some seem more 20s in style or older. I love to wear them when I can, delicate as they are and always get compliments!


    • The fineness of the fabric is incredible. It really shows the embroiderer’s skill to put that much thread onto such a light textile.


      • yes they’re such works of art! I also love Ballet Russes costumes, there’s some (and other amazing Russian artist designed dresses with incredible applique and colour) coming up for sale in London auction in a couple of weeks. They’d be top of my wish-list if I won the lottery!


  2. VERY BOHEMIAN…..Looks like the prettiest blouse of it’s kind I have ever seen…just beautiful. Thanks for sharing


  3. Lynne Bassett

    So glad you mentioned the influence of the Ballets Russes!


  4. Teresa

    Such gorgeous embroidery work. I love blouses like these!


  5. Lovely! I never thought about the tie-in to the Ballet Russe.


  6. How lovely! I’d love to learn to that!


  7. sam common

    Definitely Hungarian in origin Take a look here to see a similar blouse:
    The design motif has a special name, which I fail to remember. I sold a tablecloth with a similar pattern, only worked on black cloth…stunning.
    Always enjoy reading your blog.


  8. When you posted this find on Instagram, my heart did a little dance – I”m obsessed with vintage folk wear. I have a 1920s pumpkin-colored dress that has a “Made in Czechoslovakia” tag as you mention. It was nice to read a little more history on the folkwear craze in the early 20th century, thank you!


  9. I just ADORE this! THis is SO my aesthetic. I LOOOOVE folk art and this is no exception!


  10. Oh, this is so lovely… Coincidentally, I was just writing about Ballets Russes and the Rite of Spring the other day and got really captivated by the original costumes, inspired by the Slavic folk tradition which btw is very close to the Greek one, at least in Northern Greece where I come from… I could really see myself in one of those tunics!


  11. vastlycurious.com

    Hi Jo! Peasant shirts have been my favorite for many years . I still buy them vintage if I see one. I have attached a photo of a photo that I recently took at my moms. I was 16 (40 years ago 🙂 I had hoped when I looked for the pic in my gallery that more of the embroidery was showing but it looked a lot like the one you have here. I also embroidered lots of my own shirts back then. I LOVED this shirt and felt so cool : ) Great post!


  12. Here in California, there was a wave of Mexican influence in the 30s and 40s. I wonder if “folk art” themes also had something to do with the depression.


  13. What a beauty! The colors of the embroidery are so fresh and vibrant, I never would have picked up that this blouse is from the ’30s.
    Deborah Saville’s chapter on the dress of Greenwich Village in the early 20th c. (in “Twentieth-Century American Fashion, ed. by Welters and Cunningham) touches on the popularity of peasant and Russian blouses as indicators of bohemian/artistic sensibilities.


  14. I loved the sites on Peasant Arts, but I see that as part of the Arts and Crafts movement. There were also Americans embroidering smocks in Greenwich Village in the early twentieth century. This interest in folk crafts is later, or perhaps a later continuation of the same influence?


    • My guess that it was on-going. If you look back at the 20th century, there were few pockets of time where some kind of folk clothing was not in vogue.


      • Christina

        There are some interesting influences that drew inspiration from folk or peasant costume and the embroidered blouse. The Arts & Crafts Movement is only one. I agree, it would make a great area of study. Anyone know of any research covering this subject?


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