A silhouette with royal origins, dresses with an empire waist are elegant, effortless, and timeless in design. Not only are they inherently feminine, they also flatter an array of different figures and body types. Lightweight and ethereal, the empire silhouette is an easy way to recall old fashioned refinement while still looking chic in the modern era.
An empire waist dress or gown is easily recognizable. This type of silhouette is characterized by the placement of the waistline, which falls directly below the bust. The busts of these dresses are traditionally very fitted and often are accompanied by details like an open neckline and sheer cap sleeves. Beneath the bust, the skirt slightly flares out slightly and falls effortlessly over the body.
The empire silhouette is one with ancient origins. It first became popular in Ancient Greece, when women would wear loose tunics known as peplos or chiton. These robes were tied to the body and cinched directly below the bustline. The result was a loose, billowing dress that allowed women to remain comfortable even in hot Mediterranean weather.
This type of look once again rose to popularity thanks to the prevalence of Ancient Greek art pieces. In the late 1700s, First French Empress and Napoleon’s wife Josephine de Beauharnais was a top fashion influencer during her time. She quite famously took a liking to this style of dress. When she wore glamorous dresses boasting this delicate silhouette, the public soon followed suit.
Thus, the empire waist dress became a wardrobe staple among European women in the early 1800s. This “Regency” style of dress became popular in the years following the French Revolution, a time when women wanted to cast off the oppressive silhouettes and undergarments that were popular in Europe during the 1700s.
Despite its Greek and French origins, it was the British that first used the word “Empire” to describe this type of dress in the late 1800s. During the Edwardian Era - which took place in the early 20th century - this style of dress once again had a revival in both England and America. Women once again wanted to cast off the oppressive garments they were expected to wear during the Victorian era and turned to breezy empire waist dresses to do so.
A Modern Take on a Classic Silhouette
The 40701 Dress by Nataya features a modified empire silhouette. Here, the waistline lightly graces the sides of the waist while encircling the bust. At the front, it creates a V-shape for added elegance. These demure details breathe new life into a silhouette that has been popular for centuries.
This dress - and any that feature a classic empire waistline - is ideal for pear-shaped women. It highlights the bust beautifully while also drawing extra attention away from wider-set hips. The smooth, unstructured skirt lengthens, elongates, and slims the body, creating a statuesque silhouette with Neoclassical origins. Although not a new design element, the fact that empire waistlines are rarely used in today’s garments makes it as surprising as it is unique.