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There’s a reason why the empire waist gown has stood the test of time. From the chiton gowns we see in depictions of ancient Greece to the aristocratic Jane Austen-era evening gowns of the 1800s to midcentury mod style, it’s a tried and true dress shape that we will forever love. And its draw isn’t hard to spot: The fitted bodice, high waist, and loose-fitting skirt create a silhouette that’s universally flattering and endlessly forgiving.
Since the silhouette is designed to take the focus away from the waistline, its appeal is more inclusive. Unlike other styles, a cinched waist isn’t a prerequisite, and for this reason, empire waist gowns are often a go-to silhouette for those newly engaged. At Alicia Keys’ 2010 destination wedding with Swizz Beatz, she showcased her baby bump with a one-shoulder Grecian-style empire waist gown by Vera Wang.
Meet the Expert
Gina Vinnitsky is the owner of Silk and Style Bridal, a concierge styling service that helps brides find their dream dresses. She brings a fashion-forward approach to styling, while incorporating each bride’s personal vision.
“Empire waists are having a huge comeback thanks to Bridgerton,” explains bridal stylist Gina Vinnitsky. “The goal of the empire waist is to elongate and define. By cinching the waist just under the bust, it elongates the rest of the torso and draws attention away from bellies and hips. It’s the perfect dress for petite or shorter brides. Brides with an undefined natural waistline will love how this gives them definition in all the right places.” As far as accessories go, Vinnitsky says that it’s important to strategize. “An empire waist gown really accentuates a woman’s décolletage, giving you the perfect opportunity to add some well-appointed accessories,” she explains. “A fabulous diamond necklace or some statement earrings will really up the ante—but pick one or the other. Too much visual interest in the same area can look heavy.”
From playful short dresses to dramatic poofs, here are our favorite empire waist wedding gowns for brides on the hunt for a timeless look.
Yes! Since the higher waistline gives the illusion of a longer torso, empire waist gowns have an elongating effect. This makes them a perfect pick for petite brides who want to look statuesque.
The “empire waist” gets its name due to the fact that it was commonly seen during the First French Empire.
While certain empire waist dresses—particularly straight cuts made from billowy fabrics—can conceal the midsection, if you prefer a more fitted look, there are designs that feature higher waistlines with a fitted skirt.
About the Author
Sumiko Wilson is a freelance reporter with over seven years of editorial experience. Most recently, she worked as a copywriter for brands including Kotn and SSENSE. As a reporter, much of her work has revolved around music, TV, beauty, and style. While completing her undergrad, part-time roles at Loversland and Naked Beauty Bar in Toronto have enhanced her expertise in bridal styling and beauty.