Frank Usher Jacket from around 1983
This is an evening jacket designed and made by Frank Usher, bought around 1983-4.It is pale lemon yellow silk, on which mother of pearl colour sequins and beads form a heavy effective embellishment on the silk. It is Medium in size, coming to the mid hip. Long sleeves, no collar and fastens by a series of hooks and eyes. It drapes, rather than floats, because of the weight of the embellishment on the soft silk georgette. It originally had shoulder pads but I took them out and have lost them over the years. It is unusual in the colour and the heaviness of the sequins on this light tone. When I bought it I was not very happy with the colour and level of ornament, I found it possibly garish for me, but I had been desperately searching something to wear for a ball, to go with my always first choice in everything black trousers. I had worn it only 3 or 4 times but I resurrected it from the back of my cupboard two years ago to wear it in Canada, and it received a myriad of compliments for its vintage nature, its design, ease and comfort yet ‘fancy’ design. I now have decided I love it. but it has taken me 30 years….. I can now appreciate the work that went into designing and creating this, as I have had other little jackets since then but this has a quality of ‘line’, fabric, attention to detail. It looks very good quality. Interestingly the colour seems less garish to me now. I don’t think it has faded, I think I am more used to stronger colours in fabrics.
It was expensive to me when I bought it but I don’t remember how much. It was from a glamorous shop in London Brent Cross, not at all my usual TopShop level.
1. When was it made and how long has it been in your possession? It was made in the early 80’s and I have owned it from new. It has only been worn a handful of times but has spent years wrapped up in covers.
2. Who made it and where was it made? It was designed by Frank User who I have found out was a post war couturier who specialised in taking haute couture and re-designing for a wider market. This was not a large mass market however as the price was still a stretch for well-paid under 30s… Interesting to research his background as very little personal information is available, however he designed for movies, and several stars of the 50s and 60s wore his clothes. He developed the Dior and Chanel looks for the general consumer, evening and bridal wear.Frank Usher’s studio was in London, but this garment was made in India. It is classic and timeless, well fitting to the female shape.
3. What is it made of? This jacket has a polyester lining (effect of a silky cotton?) and the top is silk with sequin and bead embroidery.
4.Can you identify the techniques that have been used? The top layer and the lining were made seperately and then sewn together once the embroidery and embellishments were added to the top silk. Shoulder pads, stips of sequins and individual sewing.
5. Was i made by hand of machine? How are you able to determine this? The lining was made with machine stitching, as were the seams in the silky upper. The beading and embellishments were hand sewn on, because you can see some of the stitches. The layers were sewn together by hand, as once again you can see the hand stitches.
6. What is its purpose? Do you still use it? An evening jacket in the style of Chanel, embellished and fabric chosen to give glamour and femininity to a classic design, not trendy. I was not too comfortable with the colour of pale lemon, when I chose it, as it felt too ‘noticable’ for a person who wanted to wear black and hide into the background. It was relegated to the back of my wardrobe, sometimes taken out and stroked lovingly, but then put back again. However 30 years later I wear it quite often to be fancy with black trousers and it gives a stamp of classic, stylish, almost casual glamour.I love the hang of the jacket from the back, it flatters and the fabric feels good even the lining is good quality. It has a sense of agelessness.
7. What does it tell you about the maker or user in terms of gender, role in society, wealth or environment? Frank Usher was a British designer who after the austerity of WW2, started in 1946 by imitating Dior New Look, and interpreted couture for modest prices. Big in the 1960s, became a collectible designer in his own right. Feature in Vogue, movies, is recorded at Liberty as ‘one of the most coveted collector’s labels’.
He was aiming at the middle class woman, I think, in the days of the class system, bringing movie glamour from the 50s and 60s to the high street..Chose clean lines and tailored look with embellishments to add glamour. To me there was a sense of affluence (pretension to affluence, maybe). I chose it to wear to my first ball for professional executives , so that shows my pretension at the time! Now I wear it to almost mock current monetary acquisition and consumerism. I wear it with confidence, knowing it is old, classic and individual. Maybe like I feel about myself on my positive days!
8. What do you particularly like about the piece? The simplicity of the actual cut and shape of the jacket, only the rather strong sequin and bead embellishment adding a sense of vintage, almost art nouveau trail of nature across the silk. I love it’s shape, the swing and flow of the jacket. The way it has fit my ever changing shape over the past 30 years! The quality of the materials and the labour that went into making it.