Dressed like an Empress

Before France had  Carla Bruni, the country had Empress Josephine. The wife of Napoleon Bonaparte was a French Fashionista before the term even existed. The empire dress, where the bodice ends just below the bust and the skirt falls from this seam, came from the time period of Josephine and continues to reign in fashion. Rumor has it that the dress may have been developed as a solution to Josephine's bulging belly during a pregnancy.

You may notice that many of the empire dresses have the feel of a Roman goddess, as a take on the toga. This is likely a result of Napoleon's emphasis on the Roman empire as he established the new French regime. Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2006

The collections I've pulled from to showcase the Empire style often intertwine the masculine and the feminine. Boy meets girl on the runway and in ready-to-wear.

Masculine touches of armor or military boots may find themselves paired with billowing fabrics and feminine silhouettes.
Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2006
Givenchy Couture Fall 2009

Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2006

Napoleon came to power as a result of the revolution that sent royal heads rolling. The over-the-top lifestyle of Marie Antoinette and the French court helped instigate the civil unrest. Napoleon's military expertise helped him grasp the seat of power for himself and Josephine.

The atmosphere of war enters fashion with design details like brass buttons, military coats and armor-esque metal work.

Napoleon crowning Josephine as they become Emperor and Empress of France. By Jacques Louis David.
Royal-wear included luxurious ermine (the white fur with black spots), rich red velvets and satins and gold accents.

Givenchy Couture Fall 2009

Alexander McQueen Fall 2008

Dior Couture
Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2006

For time away from court, Josephine purchased a retreat called Malmaison. Her daughter Hortense called it a "delicious spot." Though it was an expensive purchase, it apparently needed work. But Josephine was happy to update the home to make it into a cultural oasis.
Several paintings were done from the grounds and interior of Malmaison.

Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2006

J. Mendel
Runway photos: Style.com