22 Empire Waist Wedding Gowns That Will Flatter Every Bride

From playful short dresses to dramatic poofs.

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bride wearing an empire waist wedding dress walking with groom by the sea

PHOTO BY ADRIANA RIVERA

There’s a reason why the empire waist gown has stood the test of time. From the chiton gowns we see in depictions of ancient Greece to the aristocratic Jane Austen-era evening gowns of the 1800s to midcentury mod style, it’s a tried and true dress shape that we will forever love. And its draw isn’t hard to spot: The fitted bodice, high waist, and loose-fitting skirt create a silhouette that’s universally flattering and endlessly forgiving.

Since the silhouette is designed to take the focus away from the waistline, its appeal is more inclusive. Unlike other styles, a cinched waist isn’t a prerequisite, and for this reason, empire waist gowns are often a go-to silhouette for those newly engaged. At Alicia Keys’ 2010 destination wedding with Swizz Beatz, she showcased her baby bump with a one-shoulder Grecian-style empire waist gown by Vera Wang.

Meet the Expert

Gina Vinnitsky is the owner of Silk and Style Bridal, a concierge styling service that helps brides find their dream dresses. She brings a fashion-forward approach to styling, while incorporating each bride’s personal vision. 

“Empire waists are having a huge comeback thanks to Bridgerton,” explains bridal stylist Gina Vinnitsky. "The goal of the empire waist is to elongate and define. By cinching the waist just under the bust, it elongates the rest of the torso and draws attention away from bellies and hips. It’s the perfect dress for petite or shorter brides. Brides with an undefined natural waistline will love how this gives them definition in all the right places.” As far as accessories go, Vinnitsky says that it’s important to strategize. “An empire waist gown really accentuates a woman’s décolletage, giving you the perfect opportunity to add some well-appointed accessories,” she explains. “A fabulous diamond necklace or some statement earrings will really up the ante—but pick one or the other. Too much visual interest in the same area can look heavy.”

From playful short dresses to dramatic poofs, here are our favorite empire waist wedding gowns for brides on the hunt for a timeless look.

For the Nontraditional Bride: Sandra Mansour Forêt Dense Dress

woman with a lime green ruffled taffeta wedding dress with flared sleeves and an underbust cutout

Courtesy of Sandra Mansour

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 34-46 (French sizing) | Length: High-low floor-length, Made to measure

This ruffled taffeta dress demands attention, so it’s the perfect pick for the bride who wants to dial up the theatrics and throw away the rulebook. Also, the flared sleeves, underbust cutout, and lace-up fastening are just as much fun as the striking lime green hue.

Best Modest Dress: Macgraw Romantic Gown

bride wearing long-sleeved empire waist wedding gown with square neckline standing in meadow

Courtesy of Macgraw

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 6-14 | Length: Floor-length

Everything about Macgraw’s Romantic Gown screams sophisticated. The square neckline emphasizes the delicateness of your collar bones, and the subtle slits at the arm cuffs will make sure that your wedding day wristwear doesn’t go unnoticed. 

For the Bride Who Wants to Sparkle: Dana Harel Madeline Gown

bride with plunging v-neck, sleeveless white wedding gown decorated with pearls and crystals

Courtesy of Dana Harel

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 6-14 | Length: Floor-length

Want some sparkle on your dress to match the ice on your finger? To give it a next-level shimmer, Dana Harel’s Madeline gown is covered in thousands of Swarovski crystals and pearls that work together to create the shiniest grade beam light. Plus, it comes with an equally iced-out detachable organza overskirt.

For At-Home I Do’s: Reformation Fairfield Dress

bride in white cotton sleeveless wedding gown with ruffles at the front and back V-necklines

Courtesy of Reformation

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 0-12 | Length: Floor-length

If you’re on the market for a dress that exudes elevated ease, Reformation’s tiered Fairfield strikes the perfect balance between comfort and style. The playful ruffles at the front and back V-necklines add some flair, but the organic cotton poplin fabric gives it an easy, breezy vibe. What's more, the tie fastening at the back is a delicate, charming finish for your relaxed nuptials. 

For the Fashion-Forward Bride: Khaite Karlina Dress

bride in calf-length, long-sleeved A-line skirt wedding gown with ruching at sweetheart neckline

Courtesy of Khaite

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 0-12 | Length: Calf-length | Care: Dry clean only

Whether you’re wearing the Karlina to your rehearsal dinner, a City Hall ceremony, or down the aisle at a church, it’s the perfect blend of traditional bridal and trend-consciousness. The A-line skirt is perfect for twirling the night away, while the ruching at the sweetheart neckline and bracelet-length sleeves add a touch of texture. Since it’s calf-length, if you’re keen on styling your bridal look with boots, this is the perfect look. Even better, it has pockets!

Best Silk Dress: Rixo Jazi Dress

bride in white wedding gown with bell sleeves, deep V-neckline, and hem feathers with flowers

Courtesy of Rixo

Runs: Generous sizing | Size Range: XXS-XL | Length: Ankle-length | Care: Dry clean only

Who says you can’t wear feathers down the aisle? If you want to add a bit of theatrics while staying tonal and somewhat traditional, the Jazi’s bell sleeves, deep V-neckline, and hem feathers amp up the wow factor without distracting from the bridal vibe.

Most Romantic: Alexandra Greco Cassia Dress

bride in white wedding gown with flutter sleeves, floral embroidery, and an illusion bodice

Courtesy of Alexandra Greco

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 00-20 | Length: Floor-length

The Cassia’s flutter sleeves and floral embroidery are reminiscent of Charlotte’s second wedding gown on Sex and the City, right? It’s hard to look away from the handmade details at the illusion bodice—but when you’re the bride, that’s totally the point. 

Best One-Shoulder: Markarian Lionette Dress

bride in white midi-length, bias-cut, floral-pattern white one-shoulder wedding dress

Courtesy of Markarian

Runs: True to size | Size Range: XS-XL | Length: Midi-length | Care: Dry clean only

If you have your heart set on a bias cut but don’t want a look that fits the typical bridal mold, this is worth a try-on. It’s easy to fall for the Lionette’s ultra-romantic elements, like the floral pattern and the lace trim—while the open back, twisted straps, and crystal detailing take it to nontraditional heights.

For the Grecian Goddess: Zeus + Dione Aphaia Gown

bride in white v-neck wedding dress with plisse skirt, kimono sleeves, and inset cape

Courtesy of Zeus + Dione

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 2-12 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Hand wash

In the Aphaia gown, you’ll look like you’re descending from Mount Olympus while you’re walking down the aisle. The plisse skirt adds texture while the kimono sleeves and inset cape add a bit of drama. 

For the Vintage Enthusiast: Markarian Cypress Waist White Jacquard Gown

bride in long white silk jacquard wedding dress with short cap sleeves standing on stairs

Courtesy of Markarian

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 0-16 | Length: Floorlength | Care: Dry clean only

This silk jacquard number looks like it could have been thrifted in a past life and that’s exactly why we love it. From the cap sleeves to the floral embossed pattern, it borrows from the bridal trends of yore to create a look that’s ideal for stepping into your future.

For the Jane Austen Obsessed Bride: LoveShackFancy Sho Maxi Gown

bride in white empire waist wedding gown with lacy bodice and pearl-trimmed neckline

Courtesy of LoveShackFancy

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 00-12 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean in net bag

Is Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma the main inspo for your bridal look? Let us direct your attention to the Sho Maxi Gown, LoveShackFancy’s textured take on regencycore. We’re crushing on the lacey bodice, the pearl-trimmed neckline, and the train.

Most Comfortable: Twobirds Slit Dress

bride in sleeveless poly-spandex jersey white wedding gown with V neck and front slit

Courtesy of twobirds

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 2-24 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean or machine wash cold

There’s a reason why Twobirds is a go-to brand for many bridal parties. The poly-spandex jersey material and the empire-cut silhouettes look great and feel great on every body type. So why can’t brides partake, too? The convertible straps also mean that you can switch things up between the ceremony and reception.

Best Floral Design: BHLDN Daphne Gown

bride with floppy hat wearing sleeveless floral gown with ruffled skirt

Courtesy of BHLDN

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 0-16 | Length: Floor-length 

Drawing inspiration from Regency-era wallpaper, the floral printed design gives it an earthy and ethereal edge. This gown is perfect for those planning a garden celebration in the springtime.

For the Wow Factor: Vera Wang Bride Liane Dress

bride in long white wedding gown with off-the-shoulder sleeves and full tulle skirt

Courtesy of Vera Wang

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 32-60 | Length: Floor-length 

This dress is the main event. For brides who believe that more is more, the romantic off-the-shoulder sleeves, full tulle skirt, and floral accented train are sure to strike a chord. There’s nothing wrong with unleashing your inner maximalist, after all.

Best Affordable: David’s Bridal DB Studio Bubble Sleeve Georgette V-Neck Wedding Dress

bride in white veil and long white wedding gown with bubble sleeves and front slit

Courtesy of David's Bridal

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 32-60 | Length: Floor-length 

A little bit of bohemian flair without breaking the bank. If you want a more playful look on your big day, the bubble sleeves, slit, and semi-open back on this dress can bring you there for less than $200.

Best Mini Dress: Aje Casabianca Dress

bride in white mini wedding dress with square neckline, ruched bodice, and frilled puff sleeves

Courtesy of Aje

Runs: Large, brand recommends sizing down | Size Range: 4-14 | Length: Mini | Care: Hand wash cold

Opting out of a traditional floor-length gown doesn’t mean you have to dial back the drama, and this is a dress that brings hems and theatrics to new heights. The ruched bodice adds texture, while the frilled puff sleeves and oversized bow exude ‘main event’ energy. And since it has pockets, you can keep beauty essentials on hand for touch-ups while you dance the night away.

Best Off-White Option: Reformation Gabbie Dress

bride in a long, sleeveless, flowing off-white gown with ruching at bodice

Courtesy of Reformation

Runs: True to size | Size Range: 0-12 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

For brides who want to keep things uncomplicated, but still feel elegant, Reformation’s 100% silk Gabbie Dress is a minimalist must-have—with classic ruching at the front of the bodice and smocked detailing at the back.

For Victorian Vibes: Rixo Ciara Dress

bride in long, high-necked, cotton white wedding gown with frill detailing while holding bouquet

Courtesy of Rixo

Runs: Large, brand recommends sizing down  | Size Range: XXS-XL | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

If you’re still dreaming about Ellie Goulding’s gown from her 2019 nuptials or more recently, the Grace Kelly-inspired gown that Lady Kitty Spencer wore down the aisle last year, this will pique your interest. Rixo’s Ciara dress is made using cotton broderie Anglaise. While the style is reminiscent of two modern Brits, the high neck with frill detailing feels very Old English.

For the Whimsical Bride: Odylyne the Ceremony Emilia Dress

bride in long silk organza white wedding gown with puff sleeves and ruffled skirt panels

Courtesy of Odylyne the Ceremony

Runs: True to size  | Size Range: 2-20 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

Hello, frills. Odylyne the Ceremony’s silk organza Emilia dress is what we’d imagine Daphne Bridgerton would wear if she lived in the Lower East Side. The sheer puff sleeves and ruffled skirt panels are playful touches that modernize the classic silhouette.

Best High-Neck: Savannah Miller Eowyn Dress

bride in white high-neck wedding gown with curved empire waist seam and double spaghetti straps

Courtesy of Savannah Miller

Runs: True to size  | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

Empire waist gowns don’t always need to have straight silhouettes, and the slight curve in the waist seam gives the Eowyn gown a more fitted shape. The double spaghetti strap detailing is also a delicate touch if you want your back to be the main event on the big day.

Best Voluminous Dress: Leanne Marshall Tilda Gown

bride in full white wedding gown with sweetheart neckline and detachable off-shoulder puff sleeves

Courtesy of Leanne Marshall

Runs: True to size  | Size Range: 0-20 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

Whether you wear the Tilda with or without the detachable off-shoulder puff sleeves, the Italian silk-satin gown is a showstopper—from the sweetheart neckline to the full skirt. 

Best Tiered Dress: Brock Collection x Over the Moon Quarrie Tiered Gown

bride in long white wedding gown with tiered skirt and delicate lace, self-tie straps

Courtesy of Over the Moon

Runs: True to size  | Size Range: 0-16 | Length: Floor-length | Care: Dry clean only

The beauty of this Brock Collection gown is in the details, like the delicate lace, self-tie straps, and flowy train. And it goes without saying that the flouncy tiers are made to twirl in.

FAQ
  • Are empire waist gowns flattering for petite brides?

    Yes! Since the higher waistline gives the illusion of a longer torso, empire waist gowns have an elongating effect. This makes them a perfect pick for petite brides who want to look statuesque.

  • Why is it called an empire waist?

    The "empire waist" gets its name due to the fact that it was commonly seen during the First French Empire.

  • Can an empire waist dress still show off my curves?

    While certain empire waist dresses—particularly straight cuts made from billowy fabrics—can conceal the midsection, if you prefer a more fitted look, there are designs that feature higher waistlines with a fitted skirt.

About the Author

Sumiko Wilson is a freelance reporter with over seven years of editorial experience. Most recently, she worked as a copywriter for brands including Kotn and SSENSE. As a reporter, much of her work has revolved around music, TV, beauty, and style. While completing her undergrad, part-time roles at Loversland and Naked Beauty Bar in Toronto have enhanced her expertise in bridal styling and beauty.

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