www.jeanmuir.info

As the Jean Muir label celebrates its 40th birthday, do its designs still appeal to women today? Tina Gaudoin took four readers to find out.

Was Jean Muir the British Chanel? Certainly, the fiercely proud, self-taught Scot was the first British designer to persuade the women of Blighty of the flattering benefits of the little black jersey dress. That dress became Muir's signature, but her skills extended far beyond the ability to engineer jersey so that it rippled across the body. Muir's soft, simple, elegant style won her plaudits on both sides of the Atlantic. In Paris, where she showed in the early Seventies, she was crowned La nouvelle reine de la robe, quite a triumph for a Scottish girl whose father was a soldier turned chiropodist.

Although she died in 1995, the legend of Jean Muir, CBE, lives on. Her company, still run strictly along the lines she dictated, has a glamorous store on London's Conduit Street, her clothes are stocked in upmarket department stores worldwide and still manufactured in the UK. But do Jean Muir clothes still have the same pizzazz they had when artists, models, pop stars and actresses took her to their hearts in the Sixties and Seventies? Are they still meaningful to the women of today? This month, as the company celebrates 40 years in fashion, and a book, Jean Muir: Beyond Fashion is published, we let four readers loose in Selfridges (with the assistance of style director Tina Gaudoin) to test actress Joanna Lumley's theory that every woman should have a Jean Muir in her wardrobe.

  • Tina Gaudoin
  • Tara
  • Marie-Juliette
  • Lydia
  • Caroline
  • All four
Times Saturday Magazine Style Director Tina Gaudoin

TARA FISCHER Age: 34 Freelance journalist

My style changes depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes I wear heels and jeans; other times I like a short skirt, but I'm careful not to wear anything too low-cut with it. I love the Cross in Notting Hill. I guess my style is a little bit funky; I don't like anything staid or too conservative.

This has been a fantastic day with four women of different ages and professions coming together, and it has highlighted the universality of women's love of clothes. While none of us lives for fashion, we have all found ourselves in raptures. I didn't know a lot about Jean Muir before. I knew that she had been a very influential designer in her day and that the cut of her clothes was important to her designs.

The clothes I have chosen are based around a fantastic Jean Muir washed suede coat that I spotted early on. I was struggling to find something to match it, and I was persuaded to try this Missoni dress. If I had seen it on the shop floor I would have walked straight past it, but actually it looked great.

Although the designs are still very much Jean Muir, there is more fluidity to them than I expected. I wouldn't have associated the coat with her original designs.

Tara wears: Washed suede coat, £1,199, Jean Muir. Navy striped roll-neck dress, £415, Missoni. Brown boots, £179, Kurt Geiger

MARIE-JULIETTE BEER Age: 28 Singer/songwriter

I have a bohemian style normally. I love to wear something vintage, perhaps from Portobello market. Being American, I hadn't really heard of Jean Muir before, but I have been aware of press recently to mark the 40th anniversary.

I love the Jean Muir skirt. The shape is interesting; I like the way it creates such volume. The blouse is something I would wear normally; I never would have picked out the waistcoat, but when it was presented to me, I loved it, it was so cute.

My perception of Jean Muir's clothes is that they are very smart, with interesting lines that keep them from being conservative. They're much smarter than the clothes I would usually wear, but it is all about how you wear them and creating your own look.

Marie-Juliette wears: Black silk box-pleat skirt, £395, Jean Muir. Black beaded waistcoat, £99, and cream ruffle-front cotton shirt, £90, both Day Birger et Mikkelsen. Black lace-up boots, £120, KG by Kurt Geiger

LYDIA BADIA Age: 34 Consultant ENT surgeon

I always wear tailored suits for work — jackets with either skirts or trousers. And at the weekend I tend to wear casual trousers or jeans, or short skirts with boots.

I have found the day really useful in terms of choosing colours to suit my skin tone. I have always been drawn to harder colours, and I was pleased to see that Tina was so definite that I should wear colours such as black and red, and she suggested the blues and browns for someone fair, like Tara. I chose the black dress because I know you can never go wrong with a well-fitting black dress, and then my eyes were just drawn to the flowers on the Kenzo coat. The colours are so attractive, and it is just the sort of thing that I would normally wear.

Jean Muir's clothes are really understated and classic, with a fantastic emphasis on design. They are very, very classy.

Lydia wears: Black crepe dress, £395, Jean Muir. Print coat, £595, Kenzo. Red patent peep-toe shoes, £99, Kurt Geiger

CAROLINE CASS Age: 60 Writer of autobiographies and books on contemporary British and American art "

I'm a hippy at heart, with an updated twist. I love long skirts and boots, with great jackets and belts slung loosely around my waist. I had no idea what to expect from today, but I have had fantastic fun and was thrilled to find myself surrounded by such beautiful clothes. I am, of course, very familiar with Jean Muir and her fabulous matte jersey dresses, and I have worn some of her pieces in the past. They fit so perfectly and make you look instantly better with a wonderful feminine shape. I chose the long jersey dress because it was so striking and made me feel so glamorous.

My opinion of Jean Muir has definitely changed. I had been familiar with her clothes in the past but had grown to think that they were outdated and old-fashioned. In fact, they have retained the beautiful jersey dresses and coats and the things I love, but have updated them, and they are somewhat funky.

Caroline wears: Long black jersey dress, £850, and shell shimmer leaf kaftan, £650, both Jean Muir. Black slingback shoes, £129, Kurt Geiger
The four readers together after their transformation. Clockwise from left, Lydia Badia, Tara Fischer, Caroline Cass and Marie-Juliette Beer