Robot print dress
Printed matte jersey, Perspex, belt buckle by C&N
Jean Muir Ltd, London, UK
Having learned her trade visiting couture shows as a designer at Jaeger, Jean Muir set out to make clothes that had a couture cut and feel, but that would be straightforward to manufacture. By her own account, she was not so much interested in clothes as she was endlessly fascinated by the craftsmanship involved in the making of them.
Muir used prints to add a vibrant, unique quality to new collections. She wasn’t afraid to inject humour into her designs and her prints were often quirky, with designs ranging from abstract shapes to dragonflies and whimsical clowns. Muir often sourced designs from Liberty of London’s archive or specially commissioned them from British and French printmakers.
Former editor of British Vogue Beatrix Miller called Jean Muir the ‘English Vionnet’, likening her work to that of the respected French couturière Madeleine Vionnet, who was credited with pioneering the bias cut. The eminent fashion journalist Suzy Menkes believed that Jean Muir clothes were ‘bought by women who were self-confident.’
Who wore it
Dutch actress Britt Eckland wears a Muir crepe wrapper-coat for Vogue
British fashion designer Mary Quant recognised the timeless quality to Muir’s work, explaining that ‘she made the most extraordinary, fluid and incredible dresses. One of the things that occurred to me is that people will go on wearing those dresses for years and she must have realised that.’ She was simultaneously hailed in the UK as the new Chanel and in Paris as ‘la Reine de la Robe’ – the queen of the dress.
Viscose matte jersey featured frequently in Jean Muir’s collections from 1968 on and became one of her signature materials. Muir enjoyed its qualities as a fabric which doesn’t have to be hand-sewn or lined, or the edges bound to neaten them. Jersey can be given an extraordinary architectural structure despite its supple qualities.
Muir’s printed textiles were tailored with particular care, so that her fabrics and shapes would work in harmony. She favoured subtle patterns on matte jersey as she thought excess pigment destroyed a fabric’s texture. She often carried characteristic details of each season’s designs across the collection and this Robot print featured in a number of viscose matte jersey dresses from the Spring/Summer 1980 collection.
Vogue photography © Alexis Waldeck/Conde Nast Collection