Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon

The National Museum of Scotland will exhibit a large collection of late British fashion designer Jean Muir’s work from Friday 7 November.

Jean Muir photographed by Gemma Levine
Jean Muir photographed by Gemma Levine

Jean Muir (1928-1995) was an internationally acclaimed dressmaker who founded the label Jean Muir Ltd with her husband Harry Leuckert in 1966. The upcoming exhibition aims to celebrate the life and work of the designer and will showcase selected highlights from her works on display to the public for the first time. Included in the show are garments, sketches, patterns, accessories, catwalk footage and fashion photography.

Harry Leuckert, Muir’s widower, donated in April 2005 the Jean Muir collection of over 18 000 items to the National Museum of Scotland. It is believed to be the largest archive of a fashion designer in any museum. “Both of Jeans grandparents came from Scotland and she was tremendously proud of her Scottish roots. She loved the country, its landscapes and its people and used a great number of Scottish craftspeople in her work throughout her career”, said Leuckert after the donation. 

Jean Muir was known in Paris as “the new queen of the dress” and in New York as “the jewel in the crown of British fashion”. Although Muir had no formal training from any art school, she managed to work her way up through the fashion industry and then onto establishing her own label, Jean Muir Ltd, in 1966. She was known for her strict attention to details, her classic and simple shapes and her use of black and navy. In Muir’s own words, she claimed to be “evolutionary, not revolutionary”, and her clothes have been celebrated by women such as Lauren Bacall, Barbra Streisand and Judi Dench.

The entire collection represents an outstanding educational resource as it sets out the making of a fashion house as well as numerous collections, ranging from the very first sketches drawn by Muir until the clothes actually appeared on a runway.  Consequently, it has taken the museum three years to catalogue, document and conserve all of the 18 000 items, of which only 30 finished garments will be displayed. “The exhibition has been crafted to follow Muir’s training, her early career and her resultant status as the figurehead of one of Britain’s best-loved and respected fashion labels, providing an inspiration to all”, says Barbara Lyon, a spokesperson at the National Museum of Scotland. 

There will also be a programme of events for those who wish to gain deeper and perhaps more practical knowledge on the subject of fashion and designing. The program will commence in November with lectures and workshops scheduled.

The exhibition will run from Fri 7 Nov 2008 – Sun 15 March 2009, it is free and located in the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh. For more information please visit www.nms.ac.uk.