Jean Muir

Jean Muir by Glenys Barton 1991

Biograhy of Miss Muir

Born in London, England, in 1928, Miss Muir (as she liked to be called) started her career at Liberty in Regent Street. She worked in sales and as a sketcher (1950-1954) at Liberty, followed by a brief spell at Jacqmar, before joining Jaeger, Ltd., as a designer (1956-1962). She was then invited to design a range of garments in woolen jersey for David Barnes, a collection that was so successful that he formed the company Jane and Jane for her (1962-1966). With her husband, Harry Leuckert, whom she married in 1955, she launched Jean Muir, Ltd., at 22 Bruton Street, London, in 1966. She described herself as a "dressmaker" and acknowledged no influences.

The Jean Muir Label

From its inception, the Jean Muir label became associated with virtually timeless designs that flattered but never dominated the wearer. The collections evolved subtly but remained true to Muir's basic ethos: to create clothing that was feminine without being fussy, and classic but devoid of nostalgia. In a 1985 article in British Vogue, Muir stated that her style of dressmaking had been developed through an adherence to the anatomy and techniques of dressmaking:

"On that, one diverts, exaggerates, pares down the lines to make the kind of shape and movement one wants. Then it's a natural eye in terms of shape and colour, a sense of evolving while never losing sight of the structure (p. 118). "

Fabric Selection

Muir's signature fabrics were matte wool crepe and jersey, buttery-soft suede, and ultrasoft leather, which was invariably punched with small holes in decorative borders. Her fluid jersey garments were accented with precise rows of stitched or pin tucks, pleats, smocking, and shirring. Hemlines were determined by proportion rather than fashion. Although she was best known for her dark and neutral palettes, Muir was also a superb colorist. She adored beautiful buttons; for example, her tubular Perspex buttons, which were dyed to match the fabric of the garment they adorned and featured notched sides, were exquisitely restrained.

In addition to her mainline collections, Muir presented "JM in Cotton" from 1978 until about 1985 and "JM in Wool" from 1978 to 1995. In 1986 she launched her lower-priced Jean Muir Studio line, and within this, from the early 1990s, she introduced a capsule collection of well-priced separates in washable jersey called "Jean Muir Essentials." She was an ardent supporter of the United Kingdom's clothing industry.

Industry Leader

Muir shared her knowledge of fashion and design by teaching and was a vocal spokesperson for the need to raise standards in education, training, manufacture, and design. Not surprisingly, her contribution to the catalog that accompanied a 1980 traveling exhibition of her designs was an entirely practical essay aimed at students, outlining every stage of the production process. Her many honors include the following: Royal Designer for Industry (1972), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (1973), and Fellow, Chartered Society of Designers (1978). She was appointed a Member of the Design Council in 1983; made a Commander, Order of the British Empire in 1984; and received a British Fashion Council Award for Services to Industry in 1985. Muir was inducted into the British Fashion Council's Hall of Fame in 1994.

After Her Death

Following Muir's death in 1995, the company amalgamated the Main and Studio lines under the Jean Muir label. The label's design team, in the early twenty-first century-Sinty Stemp, Joyce Fenton, Angela Gill, and Caroline Angell-jointly have some forty year's experience working with Miss Muir. Since the founder's death they have continued to evolve the line while retaining Miss Muir's signature.

See also Jersey; Leather and Suede.

Bibliography

Bleichroeder, Ingrid. "A Certain Style: Jean Muir." Vogue (U.K.), August 1995, 118-119.

Miller, Beatrix. "Obituary: Jean Muir." Vogue (U.K.), August 1995, 98-101.

Jean Muir. Jean Muir. Leeds, England: Leeds Art Galleries, 1980. An exhibition catalog.

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Jean Muir