This web site, dedicated to Jean Muir, includes a collection of press cuttings and other information celebrating the life of one of Britain's greatest fashion designers.

Lots more information can be found in the Jean Muir Archive at: National Museums Scotland.

Brilliant mistress of the little black dress

Iain R Webb - The Times, 30 May 1995

There is one question people always ask a fashion editor: "Who is your favourite designer?" My answer has always been: Jean Muir.

Jean Muir

In an industry that relies upon novelty and innovation, the diminutive designer stood head and shoulders above the rest with her vision of fashion: that women's clothes should be simple, flattering and easy to wear. Her understated style was the definition of moderm chic, elegant and effortless.

The appeal of her pared down clothes is astounding. They are admired by fashion editors and customers alike. Among those who love to wear Jean Muir are the actresses Patricia Hodge and Joanna Lumley a house model in the 1970s the writer Antonia Fraser and the artist Bridget Riley. Muir clothes are expensive because she insisted on quality fabrics that responded to her fluid lines: jersey and silk jersey, wool, crepe, suede, cashmere and the softest leather. To her basic palette of navy, black and grey (Miss Muir herself invariably wore black or navy blue), she added shocks of red, turquoise, yellow or pink.

Whenever I have had her creations hanging in my office, women would quickly gather to see and, if they were lucky, to try on these remarkably unremarkable fashions. Her clothes allow women to feel comfortable and look elegant.

Yet Miss Muir, as she was respectfully referred to, was as modest as her designs. Among the industry's egocentric celebrities, her unpretentious outlook was rare. She referred to herself as a dressmaker and cut through any pompous analysis of her work as deftly as she might slice into a piece of navy blue jersey or shocking pink suede. "I'm not hung up about clothes," she once told me.

Jean at work

But she cared passionately about them. More than anything she adored the exacting process of her trade. "If I want to put my staying power down to anything", she said, "it is because I am a good technician." Miss Muir's technique was nothing short of brilliant. The quintessential little black jersey dresses, for which she is perhaps best known, are testament to her talent. To make a dress that looks so simple requires tremendous skill. It is a long, exhausting process that demands not only precise cutting but endless fittings and minute adjustments.

Miss Muir loved these fittings, trying on everything she designed. She would stand in front of a long mirror, painstakingly studying the reflection. She inspected her work, looking for mistakes, pinning and repinning the fabric until she was finally happy with its silhouette. It was an arduous task of which, thankfully, she never tired.

Her approach to her profession was uncommonly pragmatic. "When designing clothes, you must remember that you are covering a body that moves," she said. "That is the reason for the craft." Her clothes are indeed her finest tribute. They are enduring, tasteful, irresistible and unmistakable, a permanent reminder of the remarkable energy and refinement that was Miss Muir.

Iain R Webb - The Times, 30 May 1995