At Liberty in London's Regent Street, nine garments, each worth more than pounds 500, were sold in less than six hours. At Harrods in Knightsbridge the actress Dame Maggie Smith bought two of her outfits. Birmingham's Olive Walton shop, which has stocked Jean Muir for 27 years, received calls from Scotland to Cornwall from customers anxious to enquire what was left in their sizes.
In New York Barbra Streisand's agent visited the Park Avenue shop of Linda Dresner to check on what pieces were still available for the singer. "There hasn't been a reaction like this since the death of Rudolph Valentino," said Rita Britton whose Pollyanna stores in Barnsley and Glasgow have been doing brisk sales in Jean Muir pieces. "I had a customer reserving three pairs of identical trousers at pounds 200 a pair."
For 29 years since she formed her own company with her husband, Harry Leuckert, Jean Muir made clothes that never overwhelmed the woman inside them. They appealed to women whose lives demanded quiet good taste.
"There's no one like her. Donna Karan is flashier. Issey Miyake is the Japanese equivalent of Miss Muir but a bit more demanding in Barnsley," said Rita Britton.
Loyal customers are desperate to know the fate of the Jean Muir label. Because the designer's death from cancer was unexpected no plans had been made for the future of the company she and her husband founded and managed on a day-to-day basis.
"Miss Muir's husband would like us to continue, but people wouldn't expect us to know how at this point," said one staff member.
Miss Muir's autumn/winter collection, which was tremendously well received in March, will appear on shop floors in August. But after the autumn the future is uncertain.
"We are just hoping that she might have left a treasure trove of designs. Our customers rely on her," said Cecily MacMenaminof Dublin's Brown Thomas.