DIY: Empire Waist Dress

Updated April 13, 2018

Empire waist dresses have a bodice that ends just above the waist, allowing the rest of the dress to hang down freely. Empire waist dresses suit women of many figures, as the free-flowing skirt camouflage many body parts women are uncomfortable with, including the stomach, thighs and bum.


Measure your widest part, usually the bust or hips. Measure just below your bust as well. If you want to add sleeves, measure around the top of your arm, and also where you would like the sleeves to end. Measure from the nape of your neck to where you would like the dress to end, whether above the knee, tea-length or at the floor for floor-length.

Choose your fabric

Empire waist dresses can be made from nearly any type of fabric. Flowing, gossamer dresses give a hint of elegance and are perfect for summer. Silk and taffeta make for formal dresses with a hint of sophistication, while knit jersey makes a casual, everyday dress. Choose a fabric with stretch if you would like a more form-fitting dress.

Cut it out

Use your widest measurement, plus 10 cm (4 inches), to cut two rectangles from the fabric you've chosen. Cut the rectangles to your desired length based on the length of the dress you want. Cut a piece of fabric approximately 20 cm (8 inches) wide and the same length as your under-bust measurement for the under-bust separation. You may also choose to use ribbon for the under-bust portion of the dress.


Sew the rectangles together on their longest sides. Pin the under-bust section to the rectangles, gathering fabric as you need to so that the under-bust sections meet at the back. Use a seam allowance of 1.2 cm (1/2 inch), and sew together so that no raw edges are showing. If you are attaching sleeves, attach the sleeve caps first to the dress, then the sleeves to the sleeve caps, then sew the side seams of the sleeves.

Necklines and hemlines

If you are an advanced sewer, you can play around with the necklines and hemlines of the dress. A daring v-neck may be perfect to layer over other shirts on a winter day. Miniskirt length hems can be daring and breezy for a summer outing, and bodices can be shaped with darts or embellished with ribbons, embroidery or buttons.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Tumbarello has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites. She is an animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society. Tumbarello attended Hocking College and is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology from San Juan College.