National Museums Scotland acquired the Jean Muir archive in 2005. It comprises an estimated 18,000 objects, which fully document the design, making and promotion of Muir’s collections from 1966 to 1995. Explore highlights from the archive here.
Muir particularly enjoyed working with jersey. This fabric doesn’t need to be either hand-sewn or lined, or the edges bound to neaten them, but can be given an extraordinary architectural structure despite its supple qualities.
This dress features all the quintessential elements of Muir’s work: navy blue matte jersey, pin-tucking across the chest yoke, top-stitching, decorative buttons and the precise cut, fit and flare for which her jersey dresses were much admired.
Muir’s use of prints gave her collections vibrancy. She favoured supple fabrics, such as this silk georgette, which took the pigment well but also responded beautifully to a woman’s body. This maxi-dress is enlivened by the bold leaf print, echoed in the sequin embellishment at the neckline and cuffs.
Although Muir’s dresses appeared simple in shape, they were always intricately made and were the result of fastidious attention to detail – the tiers of chiffon in this dress are hemmed with lines of top-stitching.
Muir’s work in suede often featured experimental cutting, hand-punching, printing and a beautiful use of colour. This very feminine jacket demonstrates her technical excellence, with the use of clever cutting and pleating to create the full sleeve shape.
Muir had a wonderful facility for carrying characteristic details of each season’s designs across the collection. Motifs printed onto jersey would be hand-punched or stamped into suede, bringing a unity to her work and helping to define the Jean Muir look.
Muir’s skill for using soft, pliable skins like woven fabric is illustrated by this leather jacket, which falls softly in a feminine, flowing shape. It was working with matte jersey, with its ability to take architectural shapes but to remain restrained and fluid, that taught Muir to work in leather. This jacket features all the classic elements associated with Muir’s designs, with striking contrasting top-stitching, pin-tucking and statement buttons, mirroring her work in jersey.
Working in harmony
Jean Muir frequently commissioned prints for her collections, but she also loved the aesthetic qualities of Liberty fabric. She would often source textiles from the company’s archive, such as the silk used in this dress.
Muir’s printed fabrics were tailored with particular care, so that her fabrics and shapes would work in harmony. This dress combines print with her signature use of decorative acrylic buttons and lines of top-stitching.
Hand crafted fabrics
Creating a Jean Muir collection involved collaborating with many highly skilled craftspeople. Muir saw technical excellence and craft skills as fundamental to turning her ideas into successful clothing.
For this striking coat she worked with Annie Sherburne to create this hand-made felt. The painterly abstract pattern mirrors Muir’s work with intarsia-knitted cashmere sweater dresses and reflects her readiness to inject colour into her wool designs.
Painting in cashmere
Muir loved the versatility of wool and her designs often featured ribbing, cabling and intarsia, a technique used to create block patterns with multiple colours, without carrying the yarns across the back of the fabric. She was particularly fond of cashmere because it took colour so beautifully and each season she ordered yarn from the Scottish cashmere specialists, Todd and Duncan.
This intarsia knit sweater features the ‘JM’ signature logo and the abstract faces that recurred often across her collections.
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Find out more at www.nms.ac.uk/jeanmuir.