The Empire silhouette of the early 1800s reinterpreted the ancient Greco-Roman chiton, a tubular garment draped from the shoulders and sometimes belted beneath the bust.
The Empire style first appeared as white cotton children’s wear, then was adopted in women’s dresses with skirts gathered under the bust. Women wore white as well as richer hues, especially for daytime, and Americans in particular loved bright hues. Brighter and darker colors were more practical than white, as they did not show stains as readily. Saturated fabrics like this madder-dyed example were popularized as “Etruscan,” the color evoking the red hues of Etruscan vases.