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While shopping for new clothes, questions might arise in your mind about different styles - for example, what is an empire line dress? We've searched many style blogs in a quest to answer that question for you in this post. Additionally, we've compiled some helpful information about styling empire line dresses and finding the most flattering version for you.
An empire line dress (also called an empire waist dress) is a dress with a fitted bodice, a high waistline that's usually located right below the bust, and a loose, flowing skirt. Empire line dresses are typically long, but they can also be knee-length or shorter. Most famously worn in Regency Era England, empire line dresses remain a constant favorite even today.
Since not all empire line dresses are exactly the same, we'll show you a few different examples worn in a variety of situations. This information will help you confidently select and style your perfect empire line dress for any occasion.
What is the History of the Empire Line Dress?
Empire line dresses first appeared in late 18th century Europe due to a renewed interest in early Greek and Roman culture. They were inspired by the loose-fitting dresses worn by women in those cultures. The name "Empire" refers to Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon's empress, who popularized the style in the early 1800s. Empire line dresses remained popular until around 1820 and then reappeared in the 1960s as an antidote to the restrictive styles of the 1940s and 50s. They've been popular ever since for their easy-to-wear shape that's flattering to many women.
Are Empire Waist Dresses Flattering?
Because an empire waist dress fits most closely around the rib cage - the narrowest part of the body for many women - it creates a very flattering silhouette. Of course, some individual dresses are more flattering than others. Here are a few ways to choose an empire waist dress that will be most complimentary to your figure:
- Avoid billowy fabric that adds unnecessary bulk to your lower half.
- Find empire waist dresses that feature a subtle A-line fit instead of gathers and fullness at the waistline. This means that the dress will skim your body instead of hiding your curves.
- Choose lower necklines to accentuate the curves of your bust. This provides contrast to the flowing lines of the skirt. High necklines can be very flattering as well if the bodice closely skims the curves of the body.
What Body Type is An Empire Line Dress Best Suited For?
Empire line dresses are particularly flattering for pear-shaped women (larger on the lower half than the upper) because the raised waistline draws the eye upward. They're also great for shorter women because the high waistline increases the appearance of height. Empire line dresses are a very forgiving style and can hide a lot in the lower half, making them a popular choice for women who are pregnant or trying to lose weight.
How Can I Style An Empire Line Dress?
Empire line dresses are a versatile style that can be dressed up or down and adapted to hot or cold weather. You can even pair a short empire line dress or tunic with pants or leggings! Here are a few ideas to get you started styling your empire line dress:
- For summer casual wear, a knee-length empire line dress looks perfect with strappy flat sandals. Dress it up with heels, and transition it to fall with ankle-length booties and a cropped denim jacket.
- Long empire waist dresses are just made to be worn with long cardigans for a romantic, free-spirited fall look. Extend the wearing time of your sleeveless empire line maxi dress by wearing it with a chunky, long cardigan and boots of any length.
- Even though empire waist dresses are often sleeveless or have cap sleeves, you can also find versions with three-quarter length or long sleeves. These dresses tend to have a breezy boho vibe and look great with any type of boot and dangling earrings.
- When styling an empire-waist tunic, balance out the fullness of the tunic with close-fitting pants or leggings. If you'd like to pair it with looser pants for a chic, artsy look, select a tunic and pants in similar colors. This monochromatic look will help your loose-fitting outfit look elegant and put together instead of messy and busy.
- Belts can be a fun addition to any type of empire-waist dress. Many dresses come with a belt or waistband of some sort, and you can experiment by swapping it out for a different style.
What is An Empire Wedding Dress?
An empire wedding dress is typically made from white satin and lace. It has the same silhouette as any other empire waist dress - fitted across the bust, a high waistline, and a long, loose-fitting skirt. The waistline can be accented with a narrow belt, usually also made from white satin. The bodice can be as revealing or covered up as the bride prefers. This type of wedding dress often features cap sleeves, but can also be strapless or sleeveless. Empire wedding dresses are a great option for both women who prefer to accent their curves and those who would like something more modest.
Now that you know the basics of empire line dresses, let's look at some examples!
Empire line Dresses
This floral sundress features a knot right below the bust line that draws the dress close to the body. The location of the waistline makes the dress an empire line, as does the loose-fitting skirt. As you can see from this example, empire waist dresses can have long or short skirts.
The empire line qualities of a fitted bodice and loose skirt are found in this simple scoop-neck dress. This time, the high waistline is accented with a wide waistband.
This empire line dress features short sleeves and a high-low skirt. You can see the influence of the empire-line style in the high waistline and flowing skirt. Click here to view it on Amazon.
Wearing an Empire Line Dress in the Winter
Empire line dresses aren't just for summer! Style a maxi dress for cooler weather with a long cardigan and boots. The high waistline is highlighted with a narrow leather belt, which accents the bust and enhances the height of the wearer.
Empire Line Wedding Dresses
Cap sleeves and a higher neckline give this wedding dress a modest, sweet appearance. It has the classic elements of an empire line dress, including a long skirt loosely flowing from a high waistline.
This elegant empire line wedding dress creates the appearance of height with its high waistline and body-skimming skirt. The low-cut bodice is covered with a high-neck lace panel for a touch of mystery.
For a more revealing look, this empire line wedding dress pairs its high waistline with a plunging sweetheart neckline. The fitted bodice contrasts beautifully with the softly flowing lines of the skirt.
The sweetheart neckline on this empire line dress is accented with thick, lacy sleeve straps. The long, flowing skirt skims the body as it flairs out from just below the bust. Click here to view it on Amazon.