From the 1800s to around the middle of the nineteenth century, women wore fewer clothes than ever before. Influenced by graceful, classical Roman and Greek styles, the high-waisted dress became very popular during the 19th century.
By the time of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule in France, it was known as the Empire waist, or Empire-line dress, and was the mode of dress worn in the Regency period of 1811 to 1820. Dresses often resembled a full length, thin nightdress, with a low neckline, or décolleté. The ‘waist’ of the dress was actually under the bust and the material then flowed in a narrow column to the floor.
During the day, women wore light, plain muslin dresses, even in winter. They often wore a pelisse outdoors, which was a cross between an over dress and a light coat, buttoned down the front, often shorter to display some of the dress beneath. Dinner dresses were sometimes of velvet or satin, while evening gowns were cut square and low at the bosom. Some dresses were trimmed with frills or rolls of the same material.
A very romantic time, when women’s figures were less constricted by hoops and bustles!