Tag Archives: Jean Muir

Jean Muir, Woman Designer

Jean Muir is one of those designers who really deserves more attention. I wrote a bit about her back in 2007 when a book about her, Jean Muir: Beyond Fashion, was released. At that time Muir had been dead for twelve years, and the Jean Muir brand closed shortly after.

I was reminded of Muir last month when visiting my friends at Style and Salvage Vintage.  The great thing about having top-notch vintage dealers in the neighborhood is that whenever I need a dose of inspiration, all it takes is a visit to their studio. On this visit I was struck by a wonderful suede jacket by Muir.

I took lots of photos mainly because the piece was so great, and I wanted to study the details a bit more. Seriously, there is suede, and then there is top-quality suede, which is what Muir used in her creations. This leather is thin and light and smooth. It’s a shame that all suede can’t be like this.

My photos can’t tell the entire story, so S&S kindly let me borrow theirs. I went back and reread Beyond Fashion, because I wanted to refresh my memory of the woman who created this jacket. I tend to associate Muir with knit jersey, but she was also known for her work in suede.

That is a seriously wonderful sleeve.

Muir began designing in 1962 under a label called Jane & Jane. In 1966 she started her own label, Jean Muir. She was considered to be one of the new British “Mod” designers, but she really came into her own in the 1970s with her softer construction and styles. She continued to design clothes that women found comfortable and beautifully constructed. In designing a new season, she went back and studied what she had done for the past two years, She saw “fashion” as a progression of ideas, rather than a slavish dedication to what everyone else was doing.

For this reason, Muir garments can be a bit hard to date. They were meant to fit in with what came before, and what would come later. In other words, she designed for the way women actually build a wardrobe.

In this Muir jacket we can see a mix of suede and leather.

It is also a great example of one of Muir’s favorite design elements – top-stitching.

 

Muir is also remembered as a minimalist, which you can certainly see in the very dark green wool crepe dress. She says it best:

Clothes which step back allow the personality and some kind of cerebral presence to be felt. I do not think one should indulge the weakness for fripperies, which is present in human nature. I think people should be what they are visually; they should simply enhance with clothing what they are naturally. You should like your self, not disguise or hide it.

I rarely see Jean Muir garment here in my corner of the USA, so these were a real treat. My guess is that they are much more common in the UK. I know there are far-sighted collectors who focus on some of the great American woman designers such as Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin. I’d like to hope there are also collectors in the UK who are focusing on Jean Muir. She deserves it.

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Currently Reading: Jean Muir, Beyond Fashion

I’m always hesitant about one-topic fashion books, especially when written by someone who was involved professionally with the subject. Seems like you either get an emotional homage or an insider-tell-all. In this case, the insider is Sinty Stemp, who was Jean Muir’s personal assistant, and who is still employeed at Jean Muir, Ltd. She has managed to honor Ms. Muir without being overly sentimental, and at the same time, she gives us a wonderfully detailed look inside the design house that made simplicity chic.

The book is beautifully illustrated, not just with fashion shots, but also with sketches, personal photos, newspaper clippings and magazine pages. There are photos from all the decades of her career, and it makes clear not only the progression of ideas, but also the themes and fabrics to which Muir turned to again and again.

One of the things that impressed me most about Muir is how much color she used. I have a vision of the arch-typical Muir frock as being a dark wool jersey, close-fitting dress. And while it is true that she was a master of the little black dress, after spending some time with this book, I saw what a great colorist she was.

Read Jean Muir: Beyond Fashion, and gain a greater appreciation for this woman who knew what women wanted, and then gave it to them.

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Filed under Currently Reading, Designers