215 Empire Dress


Misses 6-16.

This high-waisted dress known today as "empire" was worn in the period following the French Revolution in the late 1700s. The revealing style, requiring few undergarments, reflected a desire to return to simpler, classical Grecian dress after the excesses of the European nobility. Narrow bodice is gathered into a skirt that is slim in front and full in back. The optional full-length train and sleeve details make it perfect for a bridal fashion. On the traditional version, drawstrings fit the bodice firmly to the bust and tie at center back. For contemporary wear, we suggest a closed back and elastic in place of the drawstrings. Short puffed sleeves may be cut very high of slightly longer. The longer sleeves features button and cord detailing. 

Suggested fabrics: Soft, lightweight or medium-weight fabrics such as cotton gauze, batiste, dotted Swiss, rayon challis, silk, very lightweight silk velvet with drape.

Yardage chart (.pdf)

Era: Regency, 1700s to early 1800s

Sewing Tip

Linda of Pine City, Minnesota, says this dress is popular with the Fur Trade reenactment crowd and she has made it several times. She says, "Some of us have a devil of a time putting together the little pieces that go around the armhole. The pattern markings are critical, and you should use tailor's tacks and position them carefully. I also suggest that you clearly mark the wrong side of each of the little pieces if your fabric's right and wrong sides are similar."