Sunday 14 April 2024

Mrs Exeter in 1960

All of my current projects are unfinished, but too far progressed to split into two posts, so instead I'm going back to my 1960 Vogue Patterns counter catalogue, to look at this section.

Mrs Exeter, getting ever younger

Given that the catalogue is for January 1960, I was initially confused as to why Mrs Exeter would be planning a Fall wardrobe. But in the very small print on the last page, I discovered that it was actually issued in December 1959 in the U.S. So perhaps she was just running a bit late with her dressmaking plans, or the section was reused from an earlier catalogue. Either way, clearly there was a delay in it reaching Britain.

Possibly new releases

The description on the section tab is accurate, but a little misleading. There are only two patterns in size 46 (a 48" bust); one dress and one slip.

The sole size 46 dress in the section

And a slip to go under it

In fact, of the 77 patterns deemed suitable for Mrs Exeter, 13 go up to size 44, 40 to size 42 and 22 to size 40 (46, 44 and 42-inch busts respectively).

One of the patterns which goes up to size 44

A typical double-page spread in this section

Quite a few of the larger sizes are for lingerie and housecoats.

9358 goes up to size 44

9491 goes up to size Extra Large, bust 42"-44"

Most of the patterns are for dresses and suits. There are two blouses, a single pattern for a skirt, and also one for a bathing suit.

I would love to make this

Despite this section being named for Mrs Exeter, there is only one illustration of an obviously older women, and even then it is only the hair which gives any indication of age.

White hair, but no wrinkles

Otherwise there is, at best, a hint of grey hair in a back view illustration.

Grey hair in the back view

Other than that, the models, whether illustrations or photographs, are all youthful and slim.

The bottom figures would be more at home in the 'Juniors and Misses' section

This pattern goes up to a size 42, but the model is clearly not that

I have seen this photograph used for Mrs Exeter somewhere

Even some of the dresses don't look like an obvious choice (for the time) for a woman described as "approaching sixty", when she first appeared in Vogue.

Oddly, this pattern only appears in the 'Mrs Exeter' section

It would be a few years before Mrs Exeter vanished from Vogue altogether, but the start of the decade does give hints of what is to come. Clearly the name had sufficient recognition among sewists who bought Vogue patterns for it to retain its own section, and it's easy to imagine that older women would turn to it for the inherent validation that Vogue had decreed these styles as suitable for them. But at the same time, there is a sense of Vogue Patterns wanting to have their cake and eat it, removing all hints of age to ensure that other would-be purchasers were not put off by the association. There had always been a disjoint between how Mrs Exeter was described and how she was depicted, but it does seem to get more marked over time.

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