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There’s a reason the empire waist dress has stood the test of time. From the chiton dresses we see in depictions of ancient Greece to the aristocratic evening gowns of the Jane Austen era of the 1800s to mid-century mod style, it’s a tried-and-true form of dress we’ll love forever. And its appeal isn’t hard to spot: the fitted bodice, high waist, and full skirt create a universally flattering and endlessly indulgent silhouette.
Since the silhouette is designed to draw attention away from the waistline, its appeal is more inclusive. Unlike other styles, a cinched waist is not a prerequisite, and for this reason empire waist dresses are often a go-to silhouette for newly engaged couples. At Alicia Keys’ 2010 destination wedding to Swizz Beatz, she showcased her baby bump in a one-shoulder Grecian-style empire waist gown by Vera Wang.
Meet the expert
Gina Vinnitsky is the owner of Marriage of silk and style, a concierge service that helps brides find their dream dress. She brings an edgy approach to style, while incorporating each bride’s personal vision.
“Empire cuts are making a comeback thanks to Bridgerton,” says bridal stylist Gina Vinnitsky. “The purpose of the empire waist is to lengthen and define. By cinching the waistline just below the bust, it elongates the rest of the torso and draws attention away from bellies and hips. It’s the perfect dress for brides petite or shorter. an undefined natural waistline will love how it gives them definition in all the right places. When it comes to accessories, Vinnitsky says it’s important to strategize. “An empire waist dress really accentuates the neckline of a woman, giving you the perfect opportunity to add well-matched accessories,” she explains. “A fabulous diamond necklace or statement earrings will really up the ante, but choose the one or the other. Too much visual interest in the same area can seem cumbersome.
From playful short dresses to dramatic pouffes, here are our favorite empire waist wedding dresses for brides looking for a timeless look.
Yes! Since the higher waist gives the illusion of a longer torso, empire waist dresses have a lengthening effect. This makes it a perfect choice for petite brides who want to look statuesque.
The “empire waist” takes its name from the fact that it was commonly seen during the First French Empire.
While some empire waist dresses, especially straight cuts in puffy fabrics, can conceal the midsection, if you prefer a more fitted look, there are designs that feature higher waists with a fitted skirt.
About the Author
Sumiko Wilson is a freelance journalist with over seven years of editorial experience. More recently, she has worked as a copywriter for brands such as Kotn and SSENSE. As a journalist, much of her work has revolved around music, television, beauty and style. While completing her undergraduate studies, part-time roles at Loversland and Naked Beauty Bar in Toronto furthered her expertise in style and bridal beauty.