In praise of the empire waist

9 years ago

I'm one of those really unfortunate people who only gains weight in one place: My torso. Though some might call me fortunate because it doesn't go to my hips, butt or even my thighs. It's like I swallow the food and the food goes down my esophagus and to my stomach and there it stays. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. There it stays forcing my midsection to puff out and forcing passersby to play the French Fries or Fetus game. Fun for the whole family!

Not gonna lie, what excess weight - usually brought on my excess stress - does to my breasts is nothing short of miraculous. Despite the pleasure of filling out a bra, there's the disappointment of looking as if I'm concealing a pregnancy under that t-shirt. And then there are the oh so helpful nurse practitioners who like to point out that people who gain weight in their mid-section are going to die a slow and painful death from diabetes. But I find myself more concerned about how to keep from looking like I have a 17 week old fetus and keeping the mostly unnoticeable weight gain just that, unnoticeable.

So when this empire waist trend came back I got down on my knees and thanked the Fashion Gods for making something that I could wear. I feel like the empire waist with it's fitted around the breasts and billowy bodice, gets a bad rap. When worn properly an empire waist dress can be very flattering especially for those trying to conceal a little post BBQ and beer weight. I'm actually against empire waist shirts for they are far more likely to cause people to want to rub your belly. Case in point: Last summer I was wearing a cute little empire waist top from Anthropologie with boot cut jeans and espadrilles. I remember leaving Susan's house and her telling me that it looked cute so I gave myself a pat on the back and headed to Rhode Island. In Providence I got out of the cab and the driver asked me if I was pregnant. I told him "Uh, no" and he said "oh, well that's a funny looking top" and so he didn't get a tip.

Here is my standard for wearing anything with an empire waist. First of all, I need something with a defined waist as do most people with my shape. While I'm pretty much even all over - no part of me is massive while the other part is tiny - I cannot wear something that is just a shift dress or t-shirt dress. Secondly, for an empire waist to be worn properly it needs to be flowy but not so much that it looks like you're carrying a child but flowy so that it gives room to breathe and have your gut out and also doesn't OVER-emphasize the problem area. And one would think, "Well gee, HB, if we're trying to hide the problem area (the belly) then wouldn't the empire waist just draw it out?" My answer is no. What you're looking for in an empire waist dress is for it to be form-fitting and give shape and NOT look pregnant. I'm driving that point home because so many women complain about empire waists making them look with child but if you find one that fits properly and doesn't give off that vibe then you should be in the clear to drink wine and not get strange looks from the other bar patrons.

My current favorite empire/drop waist dress is this one from JCrew. Let's just say that if my mother likes it and says it looks flattering then I need go out and buy four more. There is also this BCBG dress that I adore. And the photo I posted above is the Dream SoHo dress. Again from JCrew again with the same flattering lower half as the flowy jersey bateau dress above.


Heather B. writes a lot about dresses especially those with pockets at No Pasa Nada.  

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.