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Jean Muir


Along with the mini skirt and the black suit, Jean Muir's little black dress is a British style icon. But her great innovation was to unite the sensibility of a ballet dancer with the precision of an engineer to create clothes that responded to a woman's moving body.

Her technically complex articles were crafted from black jersey, wool, crêpe, cashmere, supple leathers and suedes. She eliminated laborious hand-sewing so her pieces could be available as ready-to-wear.

They were not inexpensive, but they lasted ages, and never looked out-of-date since she had no interest in fashion trends.

She established her own company, Jean Muir Ltd, with her husband, and was splendidly successful. She was autocratic, too, and was "an alarming presence on the London scene" (DNB). She looked a bit like a pixie.

She believed that British creativity in crafts (she was a trustee of V&A) had carried Britain far, and would again. She did not let her friends know she was dying of cancer. As she had instructed, all the flowers at her funeral in 1995 were white.

Her husband gave her sketchbook and thousands of clothes, patterns and colour swatches to the National Museum of Scotland, which has just opened an exhibit of her work.

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