Muir, Jean (1933–1995)

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Muir, Jean (1933–1995)

British fashion designer. Born Jean Elizabeth Muir in 1933 in London, England; died of cancer on May 28, 1995, in London; educated at Dame Harper School, Bedford, England, 1945–50; married Harry Leuckert, in 1955.

Worked in lawyer's office in London (1951); worked as salesgirl and fashion sketcher at Liberty's department store, London (1952–55); was a designer for Jacqmar, London (1955), and for Jaeger dress and knitwear collections, London (1956–63); was a founder-director, Jane and Jane fashion company, London (1962–66); founder-partner, with Harry Leuckert, and chief designer, Jean Muir Limited, London (from 1966).


"Fashion: An Anthology" (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1971); "Eye for Industry" (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1986).

Concentrating on elegant and stylish tailoring instead of fashion's latest whim, Jean Muir designed clothing that is known for its quality and classic appeal. She was born in London in 1933 and studied at the Dame Harper School in Bedford, England, before going to London in 1951 and working briefly in a lawyer's office. She then became a saleswoman at Liberty's, where she also did fashion sketching from 1952 to 1955. She began working at Jaeger in 1956, and in 1961 opened a shop known as Jane and Jane. She started her own design firm, Jean Muir, in 1966.

Like designers Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet , and Alix Grès , Muir took an approach to design and fashion that was fundamental: clothes start with the body and fabric is a determining styling concept. She considered herself an artisan rather than an artist, noting, "Fashion is not art, it is Industry" and a beautiful design that could not be transferred into reality was useless. Her favorite clothes had classic shapes and were often made of jersey, which she favored because of the way it flowed on the female form. Muir also liked working with leather, especially suedes. The blatancy of plunging necklines and high-slit skirts did not appeal to her, and she strove to create clothes that were both refined and subtly seductive. Her clientele included Carol Channing, Lauren Bacall, Elaine Stritch , and Glenda Jackson .

Muir was the recipient of many fashion industry honors, including the British Fashion Writers Dress of the Year Award (1964); the Ambassador Achievement Year Award (1965); the Harper's Bazaar Trophy (1965); the Maison Blanche Rex International Fashion Award, New Orleans (1967, 1968, 1974); the Churchman's Fashion Designer of the Year Award (1970); the Neiman Marcus Award (1973); Mayor's Citation Award, Philadelphia (1977); the British Fashion Industry Award (1984); the Federation Française du Pret-à-Porter Feminin Award (1985); and the Design Medal, Chartered Society of Designers, London (1987). She was also named Royal Designer for Industry, Royal Society of Arts, London (1972), and a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, London (1978). She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art, London (1981), and was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1984. Jean Muir died of cancer at age 62 on May 28, 1995, in London.


Pendergast, Sara, ed. Contemporary Designers. 3rd ed. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1997.

People Weekly. June 12, 1995.

suggested reading:

Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. London, 1975, 1980.

Bowles, Hamish. "The Prime of Miss Jean Muir," in Vogue (New York). September 1995.

Fashion: An Anthology by Cecil Beaton. Exhibition catalog compiled by Madeleine Ginsburg. London, 1971.

Halliday, Leonard. The Fashion Makers. London, 1966.

Howell, Georgina. In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion. London, 1975.

McDowell, Colin. McDowell's Directory of Twentieth Century Fashion. London, 1984, 1987.

Muir, Jean. Jean Muir. London, 1981.

O'Hara, Georgina. The Encyclopedia of Fashion from 1840 to the 1980s. London, 1986.

Spindler, Amy M. "In London, Straining for Consistency," in The New York Times. October 24, 1995.


The Museum of Costume in Bath, England, holds a collection of Muir's clothes.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont