An empire dress is defined by the raised waistline that sits just below the bust, from which the rest of the dress flows down to the hem. This style is usually paired with a square neckline and wide set straps or sleeves. Like the A-line, the empire style is very versatile and can accommodate a wide range of formality.
Options: Since the empire dress is primarily defined by the placement of the waistline, there are many other design options that contribute to the overall look of the dress. Sleeve length on an empire dress can range from long, bell sleeves for a winter Renaissance wedding, to a sleek, sleeveless design perfect for an outdoor summer affair. Skirt style is another important variable on the empire cut, as it can flow freely or contour to your body, depending on the silhouette you want to create.
Lighter fabrics work best on the empire design because they allow for the most movement and flow from the waistline. Layering silk chiffon over a base fabric will create a romantic effect, especially if the layers are tiered or arranged in a petal style that gently overlaps in the front. Lace is another great choice for this style that can add texture and detail to an otherwise simple design. The empire dress is also perfect for contrasting two fabrics, such as pairing a detailed brocade bodice with a simple satin skirt.
Things to Consider: While the empire dress fits well on most body types, it is especially suited for those brides with a smaller bust since it draws attention to the neckline and creates definition. Added accents and fabric embellishments, such as capped sleeves or delicate bead work, will help to draw attention to your chest and neckline, and therefore create the illusion of a fuller bust.
Oddly enough, this cut can also work to conceal a large bust by controlling and minimizing the size of your breasts due to the traditionally square neckline of the empire dress. Unlike other necklines that accentuate breast definition, such as the scoop neck or v-neck, the Empire’s square cut modestly covers larger breasts.
The design of the empire dress is also ideal for covering other unwanted body features such as a long torso, short legs, or a pear shaped figure. Since the dress flows from the bust line, it can easily leave these areas undefined. The structure of the empire dress is also ideal for pregnant brides since the fluidity of the dress can accommodate a growing belly.