Get the look...and get it right: Glad to be fey

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
The name "Empire line" came about because the dresses worn at the time of Napoleon's Empire (1804-15) were high-waisted and emphasised a heaving bosom. In fact, this look was around before Nappie came on the scene. The 19th century had barely been counted in when English girlies were already wearing this "vertical" silhouette (as it is more properly called, but empire line sounds better than vertical). The French, however, went for it rather more whole-heartedly - it was not uncommon for mademoiselle to dampen her dress (often made of fine silk or muslin) so that it would cling to her. Which goes to show that the wet T-shirt look is, like so many things in fashion, old hat. Anyway, this is a fantastically romantic look which we have recreated in more contemporary fashion on the previous page. To get the look, you have to concentrate on the details and the most important is your underwear: this is no time for a wonderbra look, you need a "balcony"-effect cleavage, which you get most effectively with an old-fashioned corset. Necklaces should be delicate and bags should be tiny - Emily Jo Gibbs makes the absolute best. Finally, for those handy with a needle, Amazon Drygood (2218 East 11th Street, Davenport, LA 52803- 3760, USA, write for a brochure) sell fabulous patterns, so you can make your own empire-line dresses.

Pale-pink damask satin strapless bustier (sizes B 34-36, C 34- 36, D 34-38), pounds 38, Warners, from Debenhams and House of Fraser branches nationwide. Enquiries: 01159 795796. White lace bustier (sizes A 32-36, B,C,D, 32-38), pounds 60, Rigby and Peller, from Dickins and Jones, Regent Street, London W1. Enquiries 0171 734 7070, and Rackhams of Birmingham, 0121 236 3333. Black and grey bustier (sizes S, M, L), pounds 85, Valentino,from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1, and Jenners of Edinburgh. Enquiries 0171 734 7070

Original 19th-century check shawl, pounds 145, original 19th-century silk woven shawl, pounds 295, both from The Gallery of Antique Costume & Textiles, 2 Church Street, London NW8, 0171 723 9981. Cream daisy-print chiffon shawl, pounds 9.99, and chiffon shawl in shades of blue, pounds 14.99, both from Accessorize, branches nationwide. Enquiries: 0171 313 3000

Royal-blue glass rose earrings, pounds 14, Agatha, 4 South Molton Street, London W1, and mail order, 0171 495 2779


Fashion plate from 1807 showing the vertical line of dresses of that time. This look has become more commonly, although incorrectly, known as 'empire line'

Green glass bead necklace with flower drop, from pounds 4.99, Accessorize, as before

Black antique feather fan, pounds 150, Gallery of Antique Costume & Textiles, as before

Red crochet and beaded dolly bag, pounds 19.99, Accessorize, as before. Cream beaded and satin antique clutch bag, pounds 25, Steinberg & Tolkien, 193 Kings Road, London SW3, 0171 376 3660. Mushroom velvet bag with silver drop detail, pounds 247, butterfly bag, pounds 286, filigree heart over mushroom velvet bag, pounds 273, and copper heart bag, pounds 164, all by Emily Jo Gibbs, 0171 490 8834 for stockists

Faux amethyst drop earrings, pounds 4.99, Accessorize, as before

Fine blue bead and silver necklace, from pounds 4.99, Accessorize, as before