Q&A: How to Wear Empire Waist Styles without Looking Pregnant

May 15th, 2007

Q:  All the empire-waist dresses and tops advertised this season look lovely - however putting them on in the shop makes me look like the one thing I’m not: pregnant. Being tall and rather slim still won’t help. Any suggestions as to how to avoid the "she might just be" stares at work?

Silk Macrame Woven Top at Banana RepublicA: We know exactly what you mean about the might-be-pregnant empire waist styles. The pregnant look comes from stiff and/or blousy empire waist tops and dresses.  Because of the elevated placement of the waistline, if the fabric beneath that waistline doesn’t skim the body, you end up looking like you might be expecting.  After the jump, two tips to avoid the pregnant empire waistline look:

(1) Look for styles made of drapey fabric, such as a buttery cotton jersey or silk charmeuse.

(2) If you’ve fallen in love with a blousy empire waist top or dress, wear a belt to reign in the extra fabric. 

Pictured: Belted Silk Macrame Woven Top | $78 at Banana Republic.

Style question?  We’ve got answers.  E-mail us at tips at omiru dot com, or leave us a comment with your question.

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women's

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laura  |  May 15th, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I think an empire waist looks better with darker shades, since they tend to be more slimming. If the little black dress seems overplayed, here’s a really cute navy satin dress at bluefly

  • 2. Marcie  |  May 15th, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I have a slightly bloated belly most of the time, and for me long sleeves - either a long-sleeved empire waist top or layering it over a long-sleeved shirt - does the trick. If there’s no fabric on my arms, that means most of the fabric is around my belly which is what makes me look pregnant.

  • 3. Trisha  |  May 15th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Dark shades and long sleeves–excellent tips, Laura and Marcie! Thanks for sharing.

  • 4. Jojo  |  June 18th, 2007 at 5:55 am

    The cut on these tops is critical, as that dictates how they fall against the body. Those that are gathered under the bust fall nicely and look less like maternity wear. I would also recommend pairing an empire waist top with form-fitting bottoms to balance the loose fit on top and to show your figure a bit. And make sure that the top doesn’t hang too low. Although I love these tops and don’t mind the loose fit, if you don’t feel comfortable in something, don’t wear it!

  • 5. Trisha  |  June 18th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Love the big-over-small silhouette you’re suggesting, Jojo!

  • 6. Jennifer  |  August 23rd, 2007 at 6:53 am

    I love the look of the empire waist but I have put on a little weight in the mid section and bought a couple of empire waist tops. I am not sure that they fall where they are suppose to. The top of the band falls across the lower part of my bust. If I pull it down then it is too low cut. Help! How are you suppose to know where the band is suppose to fall?

  • 7. Trisha  |  August 24th, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks for asking, Jennifer. The band is usually supposed to fall right below the bustline. Unfortunately, there are many tops out there that don’t have enough fabric above the band–in these cases, the shirt ends up being too low cut, like you’re saying, or the band just falls in a different place. If you like the look, go for it–it’s not a fashion crime :) But if you’re more comfortable with a traditional fit, look for empire waist tops with the band right below the bustline.

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