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1970s Janice Wainwright Empire Waist Metallic Cheetah Print Maxi Dress
British designer Janice Wainwright had a way with fabrics. She thoroughly involved herself in developing textile designs for her clothing, leading to creations that held a striking balance between cut, drape, and pattern. This gown was designed during her Simon Massey years in the 1970s, but glimpses the work she did under her own label during the 1980s.
The combination of empire waist and metallic cheetah pattern creates an unlikely, but arresting, mash-up of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Cher. Featuring a slouching high neck, the bodice is defined by a shoulder yoke that extends down to the top of the bust line. Fabric gently gathers from the yoke into a high waistline at both front and back. Sleeve caps angle up slightly towards the neckline, providing a rounded fit over the shoulders before tapering slightly down to the wrist.The overall silhouette is semi-fitted through waist and hips and falls to full length.
A center back zip extends from the waist up through the raised neckline. The semi-transparent cheetah print, which is made with a jacquard knit that integrates metallic gold threads, is positioned provocatively over the female form and provides luxurious drape. Unlined, the dress can be worn with many slip colors including beige, taupe, cream, or gold.
While her name may not be as recognizable as some, Wainwright had a definitive place in British fashion. As said in a Women’s Wear Daily article describing her 1981 line, “Janice Wainwright presented a luxurious and tasteful collection, which demonstrated she is a major London designer.” (McCarthy, P., WWD, 142:63, April 2, 198, pp.1,7.)
Size estimate: S
Shoulders: 15 inches
Sleeves: 23 inches
Bust: 34 inches
Waist: 25 inches
Hips: 36 inches
Length: 57 inches
This late 1970s dress by Janice Wainwright for Simon Massey is in excellent condition. The empire waist dress is made from a jacquard knit, with cheetah pattern on beige ground and metallic gold highlights. A shoulder yoke extends down at front and back, with gentle gathers across the bust line and upper back.
A continuous center back zip extends from waist to neckline. Full length sleeves and semi-fitted skirt have turned and stitched hems. Unlined. High-quality vintage pieces like this are yours to live in and love while increasing in value every year. It’s never too soon to start collecting them, as an investment in your wardrobe—and in yourself.