History of the Empire Silhouette

Greco-Roman Art

As I conducted the reserach to find the most flattering garments for the various female shapes, I began to wonder back to the days of my History of Costume classes. The empire dress, flattering to all triangle shaped women who’s shape holds the majority, dates back thousands of years.

The silhouette itself is a high-waisted dress gathered just under the bust with a long loose, often flowing, skirt. The first examples of the silhouette were seen in early Greco-Roman art where women wore loose fitting rectangular tunics called peplos or a chiton and were belted under the bust.

Then in the 1790’s women’s style began to adopt a silhouette reminiscent of the Greco Roman era. These garments were less confining and cumbersome than the other high-fashion styles in the 18th and 19th centuries. The style at this time gathered under the bust with a long flowing skirt and close-fitting sleeves, usually three-quarter length or short and puffed.

It was Emma, Lady Hamilton who popularized the look in her performance poses of classical antiquity, which later evolved through the Napoleonic Era until the early 1820’s Regency Period. The name “empire” was derived from this time period when Napoleon declared himself ruler of the empire.

The style experienced a revival in the 1930’s and again in the 1960’s, possibly reflecting the less strict social mores of the ear. Today the style is know best for triangle shaped bodies to help emphasize the bust and disguise a larger bottom half. Next time you receive a compliment on your empire (pronounced om-peer) dress you can say you derived your inspiration from Lady Hamilton.

2 Responses to “History of the Empire Silhouette”
  1. Solar Panels says:

    You own a amazing flair of drafting.Best of luck and keep going.And yes i have digg your site scandedesigner.wordpress.com .

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