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Empire line Dresses

Empire Line - what is the definition of empire line dress?

An empire line dress (or even top) is one where the waist line is very much higher than the bodys waistline. It can be as high as right under the bust. The skirt is long and loose and hides the body shape.

On petite figures an empire dress can give more length to the body and can camouflage a chunky waist or bottom heavy body shape. The outline is flattering to apple shape bodies wishing to disguise the stomach area or emphasise the bust.

A baby doll dress is therefore a specific type of dress that features an empire waist. It is more likely to be sexier than a normal empire dress - The 1956 film Baby Doll which starred Carroll Baker is said to have popularised the name given that Baker wore costumes of baby doll nightwear.
The baby doll outfit is often trimmed with lace, ruffles, bows and ribbons, optionally with spaghetti straps. Sometimes it is made of sheer or translucent fabric like nylon or chiffon or silk.

The original empire line derives perhaps from early Greco-Roman art when loose fitting rectangular tunics known as "Peplos" were belted under the bust, crossing over and around the shoulders.

It's seen again in the 1790-1800 period when high waist lines appeared again where neck and frill ribbons formed part of the high waisted effect. Margot Lister's "Costume" gives two examples of this where the high waisting is instantly recognisable as the empire style.
The Napoleonic Era brings us more examples - Caroline Bonaparte and Empress Josephine are amongst the many women who sported the high waisted ribboned waistline. Regenecy Britain also saw the empire style.


The 1960s saw a revival of the Empire dress just as there is currently!



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Trinny and Susanah say in "What not to wear" that an empire dress is the worst type of dress to wear if you have no boobs as it hangs like a nun's habit

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