HouseofMirelle.uk a Frank Usher late 1960s Maxi Dress
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Fashion History: Researching the House of Mirelle Clothing Collection – A Frank Usher Late 1960s Dress

August 27, 2019

The House of Mirelle was a fashion house with taste. Over the 40 years it was open customers bought a glittering array of clothes, hats and shoes from some of the most well known labels of the time.

The list of what was sold at Mirelle is a roll-call of some of the most famous names from fashion history and we’re thrilled to have many pieces in the House of Mirelle collection too.

The House of Mirelle collection 

We collect items with House of Mirelle label – yes real life physical clothing is part of our archive 🙂 People have also added to the collection by telling us about labels they remember, donated pictures of clothes and even loaned us items to photograph.

The collection has grown like a brightly colored garden. Each piece tells a story about the fashions of the era and what the shop was like for their clients, Showroom and Workroom too.

Researching the collection  

We’ve had lots of questions about fashions sold at Mirelle so we thought we’d tell you a little bit about what’s involved with researching the collection.

We look at every aspect of an item to confirm information. Only when it’s confirmed can it be deemed historically accurate – we don’t want wrong info. to be included.

Each item of clothing has its own biography 

The biography of the item – what happened in its life or the life of the owner – is as crucial to the collection as the design or the year it was made, so is where it fits into the history of the shop. Stains, rips, tears – even they tell a story of its life and the person who wore it.

We tie in what people have said with information about the designer, the label and history of fashion itself. That then becomes the Mirelle fashion collection archive.

Frank Usher dress 

Recently we had confirmation that Frank Usher was a label sold at the House of Mirelle. We thought we’d take you through a few research steps using this brightly colored outfit as an example.

HouseofMirelle.uk a Frank Usher late 1960s Maxi Dress
Late 60s psychedelia influenced fabric design and shaped this Frank Usher maxi dress and matching coat.

Frank Usher was a widely popular label sold in many outlets – certainly the House of Mirelle was not the only shop selling it in Hull.

But as this is a Frank Usher outfit and the label was sold at Mirelle does that mean we can say this specific outfit was sold there?

Let’s have a look.

Check the label

The easiest way to find out is checking whether it has a House of Mirelle label. The shop label was stitched into every item sold there by the nimble-fingered Workroom girls.

Unfortunately this only has one saying “Frank Usher.” OK. What next?

Dating it 

The House of Mirelle was open for 40 years. If this outfit was made during that time it’s possible it was stocked.

Let’s see if we can pin down a year. The outfit is a maxi-dress and matching coat made of brightly printed silk.

Although the dress is sleeveless, the long coat has full length sleeves closed by one hook and eye at the neck leaving an open seam straight down the front.

A 3 wuarter length photo of a Frank Usher psychedelic late 1960s outfit houseofmirelle.uk
Long, long, long. Maxi dresses became popular in the late 1960s. Hippies and Victorian Retro a trend.

Can we find any other example of this design to help us pin down a date? Yes we can.

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 1967 houseofmirelle.uk
A sewing pattern from 1967. The centre dress is similar to the Frank Usher dress.

This sewing pattern was published in 1967. The centre dress is almost identical to ours, except ours is full length.

There are other references too…

Psychedelic 1967 dresses houseofmirelle.uk

This advert was also from 1967. It shows brightly printed maxi dresses which remind us of both the style of fabric and dress design.

That’s great. So it’s 1967 then? Not necessarily!

Here’s another reference. It’s a Frank Usher advert and it’s from 1969. The text reads: “Crimplene Fashions Are Wonderful!” then “Top international models love the legend of Frank Usher.”

Frank Usher Crimplene Dress Advert 1969 houseofmirelle.uk

The right hand maxi dress has a similar neckline and wide neo-natural print.

1960s dress sold at CircaVintage

Then there’s this wonderful creation. On sale at CircaVintage it’s so close to our Frank Usher that we think it could be the same year although not the same design. The fabric is silk not crimplene. In 1969 synthetics were all the rage, cheaper to manufacture too.

Do they say a year? No they don’t. They say late 1960s – and we agree. We decide to say this dress is Frank Usher circa 1967 – 1969.

Oral history 

We then look back on what people have said about the House of Mirelle. People’s memories are every bit as important as any book based research.

Do people mention Frank Usher?

So far a woman said she bought a Frank Usher cocktail dress there between 1956 and 1960.  That’s good – we can confirm it was stocked between those years and we even have a photo of it but that’s not the same time frame as 1967-1969.

Complicated.

Yes it is.

What did we decide…

Can we say this outfit was stocked at the House of Mirelle?

Let’s go back over our checklist.

Was Mirelle open when it was designed? Yes.

Does it have a House of Mirelle label? No.

Do we have confirmation that Frank Usher was sold at Mirelle in 1967-1969. Not directly.

We could assume that it was, reasoning that if it was stocked in the mid to late 1950s because the label was trading in subsequent years it continued to be on its shelves. Mirelle did that with other, similar labels over time. However that’s only an assumption and we need a few extra snippets to confirm.

What our detective work tells us

At the moment our archive says:

“Frank Usher was sold at Mirelle circa 1956-1961 (confirmed PW Oral History and photograph Frank Usher cocktail dress circa. 1956.) It is assumed that the label was continued to be stocked subsequently however there is no direct evidence. ” Then the entry is dated.

Like a garden, information in the Mirelle Collection needs tending and pruning to allow it to grow. Our archive is ever-changing with new information and items.

Could you be the person who unlocks the final piece in the puzzle and confirms whether this lovely long maxi coat and dress was part of their stock at that time…. 🙂

© HouseofMirelle.uk 2019

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** Background research into the Mirelle Collection is complex and uses multiple lines of enquiry before any confirmation is made, the ones you’ve read about here are a few examples of them.

If you’d like to add to the Collection by donating memories, photos or even items of clothing, you can read about what we’re interested in on our donations page. You can also tweet us or message us through the House of Mirelle Facebook page and we’ll get back to you.

Thank you. Your help keeps the House of Mirelle alive. 🙂

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