From the chitons of classic Greece, to the gowns of witty Jane Austen
heroines, to the pastel-adorned little girls of Kate Greenaway
illustrations, to a choice shape of the contemporary woman, the empire
waist silhouette seems to be the Eternal City of fashion.
This shape, consisting of a high-waisted garment, gathered, pleated, or
accentuated by a belt just below the bust, with an elegant, loosely
fitted skirt, is a style that can be found in images on Grecian urns
from over 2,000 years ago. After the Greco-Roman era it resurged during
the Renaissance, later during the Neo-Classical period in France, which
England then borrowed during the Regency era.
Perhaps its enduring popularity can be attributed to its free flowing,
comfortable fit. This silhouette is less constricting than its
historical counterparts, such as the hourglass silhouette, which came
with rigidly structured corsets set in boning and wide, unwieldy
Today, the empire waist silhouette is perhaps the most used shape of
women’s wear from the past. The graceful flow of the skirt and its
elongating quality has led it to be a runway and red carpet favorite,
the ease about and flattery of the waist lends its popularity to
maternity wear, and working women have shortened the gown into tops that
can be paired with pants and jackets. Whatever version of this chic,
comfortable silhouette you sport, remember that Helen of Troy and
Elizabeth Bennett wore it, too. Well, in fiction at least.
Please visit around our site for more information on the empire waist
silhouette, images of contemporary and classic versions, and directions
on how to make various forms of this shape (including historical
student, in her more modern version of the empire waist
student, in a garment she designed and made, inspired by Greek
goddess for a camp Project Runway challenge.