Sunday 11 June 2017

Dressing Mrs Exeter

My as-yet-unblogged August/September 1957 Vogue Pattern Book (see here and here for the two I have written about so far) contains several references to 'Mrs Exeter', such as the suggestion that "Mrs Exeter might choose a rich brown flannel" for suit pattern 9078.

Suit suggestion for Mrs Exeter, with added fur wrap

The name meant nothing to me until I read Fashion and Age by Julia Twigg, which includes a section on Mrs Exeter.

The character was introduced into British Vogue in the late 1940s, and in 1949 was described as, "approaching 60 … a fact she accepts with perfect good humour and reasonableness". She appeared on the cover twice; the first time in the very glamorous image by Cecil Beaton.

Mrs Exeter in 1948

Mrs Exeter featured in Vogue throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. At the time Condé Nast still owned the Vogue pattern company as well as Vogue magazine, so it was only natural that she should appear in the pattern publication.

In an article on international couturier designs, this pattern is described as being "a particularly suitable choice for someone of Mrs Exeter's age group" because of its "slimming diagonal lines and air of graceful sophistication".

959, a "willowy dress . . . for afternoon or early evening"

There is also an article, "Mrs Exeter's Agenda for Autumn", which begins;
"Once again Mrs. Exeter has shown her connoisseur's judgement in choosing these five elegant patterns: all have a classical touch yet contemporary appeal."
I haven't been able to find an image for 9207, another suit pattern, but here are the other four suggestions.

"Easy-to-wear dress . . . with scarved neckline"

"Perfect for meetings and lunches"

"A dress to carry you right through an afternoon to cocktails"

"simple elegance"

Personally, I can't see anything about these patterns which identifies them as more suitable for a older woman than many other patterns in the same book. Certainly none of the illustrations suggest this. Perhaps there are subtle differences which were obvious then but are now not apparent.

For more on Mrs Exeter, and the model who came to personify her, click here and here.

Update 21/04/2019 - I had always assumed that Mrs Exeter was a British creation, but it turns out I was wrong. For more on her American counterpart, I thoroughly recommend the articles in American Age Fashion, such as this one on Mrs Exeter's sewing skills.


  1. I just love your blog, it's so good to hear that you are doing a course too! I found you because I was looking for info on my ancestor, Cyrus Fytton who has exhibits of his weaving in Macclesfield. This month I am opening a new studio in Macclesfield, in an old mill. The studio has courses and events. I hope to entice you over to give a talk or something one day! I think that many would love to see your wonderful clothes and hear about your researched vintage patterns etc. Wishing you the best Rachel (WorkPlaydo studios)

    1. Thank you Rachel! All the best with your studio, I hope I can make it over there sometime.