Body Type

Choose An Empire Waist To Hide A Tummy

An Empire waist is a dress or top with a raised waistline that comes far above your natural waistline to just under your bust.

slimming empire waist

This silhouette goes back to Greco-Roman times when women wore tunics with high belts under their busts.  The Empire Waist is a favorite of women over 40 because it was good at hiding middle-age spread. An empire waist draws the eye “up, up, and away” from your tummy while the skirt gently flows down over your problem area.

A bonus… this style also makes you look taller. How? Your legs look longer and leaner because your waist is made to look higher. And it’s so feminine too. Could it get any better?

Here are a few tips for how to wear an Empire waist.

1. Wear an Empire Waist Tunic with Leggings

Many women who don’t think they can wear leggings or tights just haven’t discovered the empire waist top. This style is the perfect complement. It’s loose and flowy, so it works well with the skinny proportions down below, and it is long enough to cover your behind, which is key to wearing leggings with style.

2. Get the Right Neckline

V or scoop necklines are most flattering since an Empire style draws the eye upward. Also,  showing some decolletage is attractive. It lengthens the neck, and seeing some skin is youthful.

Often you’ll find an empire waist top or dress with a very deep V- neckline. In this case, it’s fine to wear a camisole underneath your dress, so you don’t see cleavage. This is often the case with wrap dresses that belt high under the bust.empire sheath dresses

3. Play with Accessories

You can wear a short or longer necklace with an empire waist top or dress. Dangly earrings also suit this style nicely.

4. Throw on a Cardigan

Short, cropped cardigans look cute with an empire waist top or dress.

So, if you are looking for clothing to hide your jelly belly, and you don’t feel like sucking it all in with shapewear, then the Empire waist style is good to try.

Three things to keep in mind, so you don’t look pregnant.

  • Choose an empire waist dress that gently flows straight down from under your bust. A-line works well.
  • Avoid waistbands with lots of folds, and gathering. These add bulk where you don’t want it.
  • If your tummy is very high and round like a ball and sticks out further than your bust, an empire won’t be flattering. This style looks best on gals with some middle-age spread or proportions with a bit of a jelly belly.

Have you worn an Empire waist style? Send me a photo, and I’ll post it!

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26 thoughts on “Choose An Empire Waist To Hide A Tummy

  1. No. No, no, no. Where in the world did you get the idea that empire waists hide a fat tummy, then suggest that you essentially have to hide it by wearing “leggings,” a cardigan, or other accessories?

    It’s just the opposite. Empire waists make women look like fat peasants. If you want to hide a thick waistline, then DROP the waist. Look back to the 1920s, 1960s, and 1970s styles. While there were a few empire waist dresses, there were many other styles from which to choose, one of which is/was the drop waist style. I’ll be the happiest woman in the world when they stop shoving empire waist dresses down everyone’s throats.

  2. I love this look. It works for me, but I prefer it in a sleeveless tunic-length top with a flowing a-line shape, not a dress. I am long in the body, high-waisted, and pear-shaped. I am small-boned and on the tall side, but wear a size 16. This look is not for everyone,

  3. I love the Empire waist. I am 4’10, large bust, and moderate middle-age spread; I’m 67. With the A-line cut, it makes me look great. The only problem I have is finding this design. I prefer solid colors as prints make me look larger than life.

  4. No empire waist. I’m 5’4″ with a very, very short torso. I’m also primarily chested, which overpowers my entire upper torso. The Empire waist emphasizes the top while making me look pregnant, not attractive. I prefer drape neck tops, tunics and leggings, and square necks. It’s frustrating and challenging to find beautiful, affordable clothing for the mid-40s that does not make you look old and frumpy when you are a plus size.

  5. I have to agree with most of the posts. Unless you are stick thin, most empire waist blouses will make you look pregnant. The only exception I have seen is those without a lot of fabric around the stomach area. Then you can get away with it.

    I have a very high waist; if I wear pants at my waist and a short shirt, I look like I’m all legs (and I am tall with a 36 in inseam. I am all legs, it’s not attractive.) So some empire tops help me there, not accentuating the shorter body. But I have to be EXTRA careful which kind I get.

    Sorry. As much as I think they were trying to be helpful with this style, I think it was a HUGE miss, with over 40 women who carry extra weight around the middle.

    1. I have tried the empire style in all forms because it is suggested EVERYWHERE to hide a tummy. Where did this idea come from?!! I am always assumed pregnant – very embarrassing for the other person and me. The only empire style I can slightly get away with (only sometimes) is when there is no gathering at the bust.

  6. Hi Ladies,
    One point to make here about the empire waist. Make sure you choose an empire top or dress in an A-line skirt under the bust seam to flare out over your torso. If you go too full or have pleats under the bust, you are right; you will look pregnant.

  7. I quit wearing empire waist clothes of any kind a few years ago. I had picked up some weight and had just gotten married a few months prior, and everyone was asking if I was pregnant since I was wearing that style as I had heard it camouflaged a tummy. I wasn’t and couldn’t get pregnant, and the questions were just too painful. I donated all of my empire waist things and haven’t looked back! (I did lose the weight, though, after being diagnosed with a thyroid issue, which led to me not being able to get pregnant at the time)

  8. I echo the others here. Tiny bust (A too small), high rounded tummy, and hips too 36-36-44. Empire seems to sit right at the top of the bump. Have the same problem when belting high. Any help would be appreciated.

  9. I strongly agree with Janet. I have a small but noticeable tummy. People wonder whether I’m pregnant when I wear an empire waistline (I’m 48!). It gives a maternity look.

  10. I am a woman with a large tummy and a large bust (H cup). This look is a disaster for me. Though my hips are small, I think I qualify as an apple shape, though maybe not. (50″-40″-38″).

  11. Empire waists look good on many people, especially many shorter women. But at 5’11” with long legs, it is not a look I have ever been able to wear. Also, for people with tiny waists, camouflaging that asset by putting the core higher up at a broader point is a disservice. I cringe whenever I read “flattering on all body types” because I can’t think of any style that is flattering on ALL body types.

  12. Janet, I couldnt agree with you more. I really prefer to see photos of bigger women in different styles to emphasize the point. everything looks great on a skinny woman!

  13. I’m sorry but I can’t agree with this. An empire waist looks great on women with no stomach and smaller bust. On anyone else it looks like a maternity outfit, no matter how large or small a tummy one might have. Please show an example of a woman with a tummy, from the side. It’s clearly not a good look. Sorry to be such a downer. I really would like to see a non-model size person in one of your example pictures. I’m willing to change my mind.

    1. Hi Janet, Empire waistlines emphasize the bust, which is exactly what the apple shaped woman should do to call attention away from her larger midsection. Dresses with empire waistlines fall in a straight line from the bust to hide the midsection, and have a slimming effect if you have a tummy.

      1. I dont think there is an empire waist dress or top I’ve ever tried in my life that doesn’t make me look pregnant or just awful. I dont know why there are so many empire waist things in existence…I guess to make me feel bad? And I’m a size 6/8.

      2. The empire waist indeed draws the eyes up, and men and children might not then notice the tummy hidden by the skirt, but women often, in the act of comparing themselves with each other, which is in our nature, will still look right at that tummy. It’s just in our hearts to scan over each other to compare, use others as an example of what and what not to do, or get ideas. I am pear-shaped, which is supposed to look good on me, but I look pregnant, even though my bust is slightly bigger than my belly. I can sew for myself, and I just made a blouse with an empire waist, and I just threw it away because it made me look pregnant.

    1. I agree with the 90% here. I have clients with A-B cup bustlines and high tummies that protrude beyond their busts when viewed from the side. They look pregnant – like eight months. Empire does nothing for my plus-size ladies other than make them look even more pregnant. I’m still looking for an ideal solution, but I find that, in the case of the small-busted woman, shoulder and bust line emphasis – ruffles, bright colors, etc. – helps to balance the figure visually. No gathers beneath the statue. No ribbons, ties, elastic. Short of wearing a sack large enough to clear the belly, I haven’t found much else that’s attractive. Please be realistic in your choice of models. Women come in all sizes, many of them LARGE. And they are the ones that need the body-image boost that attractive clothing can give them.

      1. Hi Barbara, Agreed! If you have a high protruding tummy, empire waists don’t help much, but if you have a jelly belly below the navel, they are lovely! A loose flowy top is the only thing that hides high tummies.

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