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Empire Line Dresses

1960s eclecticism created and revitalised many different styles of dress, and the age-old empire line became the freshest look of the adolescent revival.

The empire line waist dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, where the style was one of the first fitting measures used for women in the bulky, sheet-like togas.

The empire line brought the responsibility of fit to the bustline: instead of the tight bust darts that were common to the shift, the fitting was done in a separation right below the bustline. A tight bustband (think of it as a very high waistband) highlighted the bosom and allowed the dress to drop loosely from the bustline.

The empire style was copied from the fluid garments of the ancients, when ladies wrapped ribbons below their bustline to show off the bosom, and to create fit in the loose togas. The name comes from its revival during the 18th and 19th century.

The style, also called the directoire, was the vogue at the end of the 1700s during the French Directory period, and carried on through the Revolution. Empress Josephine also popularised the style during her husband Napoleon’s reign.

The 60s love of childhood celebrated the empire waist. Cute baby blue and pink ginghams were a popular print to heighten the child-like form, and adult women embraced the high style as a return to the carefree days of adolescence. The fluid skirts that spread out from the bustline alluded to freedom and gaiety, and so were adopted by the hippies as well.