Definition of Empire Waist

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The empire waist is one of the most common waistlines in fashion. An empire waist, usually seen on dresses and longer tops, usually hits high above the normal waist, below the bust area, hiding the stomach while emphasizing the bust. It also creates the illusion of length.


The empire waist was made popular in France in the 1800s by Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, Josephine, although a similar silhouette was known to exist during the Greco-Roman times. The word "empire" actually stems from the first French Empire. It later evolved into the well-known Victorian hour-glass shape.


The empire waist has once again reappeared on the fashion scene, being used by many designers such as Marc Jacobs. This time around, however, the empire waist look is more tailored then it had been in the 1990s. It still allows a woman to hide the stomach and emphasize the bust line, while still complementing her shape, be it curvy, long, short or thin. This waistline is also popular among brides when choosing a wedding gown, as it gives a soft silhouette while also offering comfort.


The empire waist can be worn by all body shapes and types. A dress or blouse with an empire waist is often cinched or gathered directly underneath the bust, which hides the stomach. Also, because of the height of the waist, it emphasizes the bust line, making the bust look more full. The waist line also creates length, and can make the torso seem longer and leaner.

Where To Buy

Empire waist tops and dresses can be found in nearly any clothing store, at any price range. Marc Jacobs popularized the empire waist in his September 2005 fashion show in NYC, using it on a bubble dress. The empire waist can be used on nearly any fabric, so it is easy to find anytime of the year, be it summer tanks or winter sweaters.

Popular Culture

Many celebrities can be seen wearing empire waist dresses on the Red Carpet. Nicole Kidman and Jessica Alba wore empire waisted dresses at the 2008 Academy Awards to cover their baby bumps. Taylor Swift wore a sleek black empire waist dress at the 2009 Grammy Awards, which was not only youthful, but also sophisticated.