22 Empire Waist Wedding Dresses For Every Style Bride

The vintage silhouette gets a modern day update.
Empire cut tulle gown with off the shoulder sleeves
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
The Knot Fashion Contributor
  • Elle writes for The Knot online with a focus on fashion, covering gown design trends and shoppable accessories.
  • Elle is a contributor to wedding publications across the country, including Brides, The New York Times Vows and Modern Luxury Weddings.
  • Prior to shifting to weddings, Elle covered lifestyle, culture and celebrity across Chicago as the editor of the Chicago Tribune’s SPLASH magazine, where she interviewed cele...
Updated Jan 02, 2023
We have included third party products to help you navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments. Purchases made through links on this page may earn us a commission.

In the most basic terms, an empire wedding dress is a gown with a fitted bodice that drapes out from a raised waistline, usually right under the bust. But, that is where the similarities end. Today, the lengthening style is ultra versatile, with styles from V-neck to open back to midi and everything in between.

A little history lesson? The empire waist first became popular all the way back in Napoleonic times, when the French ruler's wife, Empress Josephine, began wearing the style. It's had a few revivals over the centuries, including a notable comeback in the 1960s, when it was most often seen in mod babydoll mini dresses. In recent years, the popularity of Netflix hit Bridgerton has given rise to the style among brides once again, and bridal salons are stocking countless variations on the silhouette. Even some celebs are signing on: Ariana Grande's viral Vera Wang gown had an empire waist and an open cowl back. TLDR; The empire waist is a wedding dress trend brides can get on board with no matter their wedding vibe.

Here, we share 22 of our favorite empire wedding dresses for a range of styles and budgets.

Jasmine Katherine D Dress in Ivory

Crepe strapless dress with twisted sweetheart bodice

A unique twisted sweetheart bodice creates the empire waist on this strapless wedding gown, made from a sleek stretch crepe. A peek-a-boo keyhole and fit-and-flare silhouette will guarantee all eyes on you on your wedding day.

Adrianna Papell Hand-Beaded Empire Fit-and-Flare Gown with Back Keyhole in Ivory Silver Pearl

V-neck dress with sheer flutter short sleeves and beading

Float down the aisle in this V-neck stunner, with sheer flutter short sleeves and beading that cascades from bodice to skirt, catching the light with each step you take. An empire bodice, keyhole back and soft train amp up the romance.

Sachin & Babi Melody Dress in Off-White

Dress with ruched bust, semi-open back and billowy long sleeves

Sachin & Babi is king of casual couture, crafting pieces perfect for intimate affairs and wedding events like the bridal shower or rehearsal dinner. The label's Melody dress is no exception, with a ruched bust, semi-open back and billowy long sleeves. Plus, the feminine satin crepe material offers just a touch of shine.

Justin Alexander Signature Hamilton Dress

V-neck dress with illusion straps on back

This ultra-feminine wedding gown by Justin Alexander Signature seems like two different dresses from the front and back. In the front, a square-cut deep V neckline ends at the empire waist; from the back, illusion straps create the look of a strapless gown. A dramatic bow at the waist tops a long row of covered buttons all the way down the chapel-length train.

Goli June Sorrento Jumpsuit in Ivory

Crepe jumpsuit with wide legs

Indie bridal label Goli June's Sorrento style looks like a dress from certain angles, but is actually an ultra comfortable wide-leg crepe jumpsuit. Box-pleated pants rise high to an empire waist, and an on-trend square neckline completes the look. It's a look sure to surprise—and delight—your guests.

Sophie et Volià Gina Dress and Top

Crepe dress with strapless sweetheart neckline and removable tulle top

If you aren't sure about committing to the empire silhouette, try this transformable style that offers two looks in one. The base is a recycled crepe sheath with a strapless sweetheart neckline; but add the removable tulle top, which subtly cinches below the bustline, for the romantic empire waist.

Viktor & Rolf Mariage Duchess Elegance Gown

Sweetheart strapless bodice with A-line skirt

Exude elegant empress vibes—or, rather, duchess ones—in this empire waist dress from Viktor & Rolf's collection. The sweetheart bodice features chic draping, and the back has an oversize kimono bow with draped ends that flow into the train. Pair it with embellished opera gloves for an even more sophisticated look.

Azeeza Rory Raw Silk White Dress

Midi dress with puffy sleeves

Chicago-based designer Azeeza's bridal range is ideal for fashion-forward brides. Made of 100% raw silk, the luscious Rory dress has voluminous puff sleeves with elastic cuffs and a gathered hemline. And, unlike many wedding gowns, you can wear this one again. The empire waist dress will take you from wedding day to honeymoon seamlessly. Psst, Azeeza also makes great evening dresses for wedding guests.

Wilderly Bride Arly Dress

Dress with straight silhouette, simple spaghetti straps and cowl neck

A silky, slinky style for the classic yet daring bride, this empire wedding dress combines timeless elegance with a bit of sensuality. A straight silhouette and simple spaghetti straps are all elegance, and the peekaboo sweetheart neckline made with lace appliques beneath the cowl neck adds a hint of sultriness.

Christina Wu Destination Style 22801

Lace dress with illusion empire waist and billowy sleeves

Lace panels on either side of this backless bodice offer an illusion empire waist in this style that's made for boho brides. Bell sleeves are rendered in a uniquely patterned lace, held together with a delicate tie across the fully open back. Another plus? A fit-and-flare skirt and train brings the drama.

Olivia Bottega Extra Convertible Audrey Wedding Dress

Organza dress with off the shoulder sleeves and knee slit

With a total of five separate pieces—dress, bolero, sleeves, bow and detachable train—this dress can be worn countless ways. If you're looking for an off-the-shoulder empire style, don the lightweight organza bolero over top of the sweetheart dress. Attach the 43-inch voluminous organza train for your walk down the aisle and you'll feel—and look—like you're floating on a cloud.

Ines Di Santo Carina Dress

Dress with criss-cross ruching on the bodice and mermaid skirt

At once romantic and sexy, this chic wedding dress features criss-cross ruching on the bodice, creating an empire waist above a long trumpet skirt. Lingerie straps and peek-a-boo sides are fashion-forward details, while the row of covered buttons is classic. Put a (literal) bow on the look with the sold-separately attachment.

Houghton by Katherine Polk Camille Gown

Floral lace tiered strapless dress

Just made for an ethereal garden setting, this wedding dress incorporates multiple kinds of lush floral lace. There's French Guipure lace—an intricate bobbin lace connected with bars rather than mesh—across the bodice; and classic Chantilly lace edging the tulle tiers. And, bonus: The size-inclusive label is designed sustainably in Los Angeles.

Allison Webb Wellsley Reese Dress

V neck dress with wide empire waist

The New York-based designer puts an updated spin on one of her classic styles with this sleeveless empire waist beauty. The dramatic V neck dives toward a wide empire waist, then down a fitted skirt. A subtle floral pattern across the fresh fabric gives dimension to the clean silhouette, and a removable bow can change up the look from ceremony to reception.

Vera Wang Bride Liane Dress

Empire cut tulle gown with off the shoulder sleeves

An all-tulle bridal gown is the epitome of romance, especially when paired with a bateau neckline, as in this style from icon Vera Wang's collaboration with Pronovias. Soft, eco-friendly tulle drapes from an empire waist in an A-line silhouette, then floats and flutters in the breeze. Lingerie straps support the draped bodice.

BHLDN Valerie Gown

Dress with plunging neckline and empire waist and tiers of pleated charmeuse

If an unexpected material is top of your list, opt for a design in pleated charmeuse; it makes a fashionable yet surprising statement on your strut down the aisle. Fluttery ruffle short sleeves, a square V neck and open square back make this BHLDN wedding dress our top pick in the fabric.

Savannah Miller Cleo Dress

Satin A-line dress with spaghetti straps

A satin bust detail gives this A-line wedding gown a faux empire waist, the change in fabric below the bust elongating the line of the gown. Its simple shape and easy spaghetti straps make it a fashion-forward yet no-fuss option for the big day.

Watters Clara Dress

Dress with plunging V-neck front and V back, dramatic sleeves and bias-cut skirt

Vintage inspiration meets modern aesthetic in this Vellan Charmeuse Watters wedding dress. Long puff sleeves button at the wrist, harkening back to 1920s style, while the deep V neck and even deeper V back are all contemporary cool. A cummerbund empire waistband ties in a sash across the open back, and the bias cut skirt has a slight train.

Pronovias Nikita Dress

Crepe dress with lace details and mermaid skirt

Pronovias is a powerhouse when it comes to bridal gowns, so if anyone can do empire waist right, it's this label. Here, the empire waist is highlighted with a draped bodice, and exposed Guipure lace peeking out from behind the soft crepe in a Regency-inspired pattern. In the back, covered buttons secure illusion material for a tattoo effect. A detachable lace-embroidered tulle train adds something special for the walk down the aisle, and the gown is also available in a wide range of sizes, including plus size.

Markarian Helene Ruffled Bodice Midi Dress with Detachable Train in Ivory Silk Faille

Ruffled bodice mini dress with dramatic train

An avant-garde look as only a New York label can create, this empire waist wedding dress is a bold choice for the big day. The midi tea length is a fresh update to the classic wedding gown, but brides still get their romantic walk down the aisle with a long and voluminous detachable train. The ruffled empire bodice has a slight V shape.

By Watters. Meringue Dress

Babydoll mini dress with puffy long sleeves

Calling all party brides! This short style gives off all the babydoll vibes in radiant taffeta, with a square V neck, empire waist and dramatic puff sleeves. Pair this party dress with a fun tiara headband or Vegas-elopement-inspired shoulder veil and hit the dance floor. Plus, in the black or orange colorways it makes a great wedding guest dress.

Adore by Justin Alexander Amina Dress

Pleated bodice with off the shoulder sleeves and illusion empire waist

A pleated Mikado bodice contrasts with the soft, flowing chiffon skirt to create an illusion empire waist, extending into off-the-shoulder straps. The juxtaposition of materials translates to to a gown that's at once classically romantic and ethereal

Up Next
  • strapless high-low wedding dress
    24 High-Low Wedding Dresses for Any Style