And the more important question is – Can she sew? Yes, she can – and she does! But first, let me tell you who she is – or actually who she was. She was a fictional character – a “woman of a certain age” – who started appearing in The Conde Nast Publications’ Vogue magazine in 1949 (as best as I can determine). She was the focus of a regular style column, which was meant to appeal to older fashionable women – with the emphasis most definitely on fashionable. She must have proved to be an appealing figure to readers, because in 1954, the front cover of the October/November issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine announced: Introducing Mrs. Exeter patterns.
Suddenly Mrs. Exeter had discovered the joy of sewing beautiful, classic fashions for herself. Obviously, Vogue patterns, which already had its own Couturier line of patterns, and its very popular Designer pattern series, knew that its audience included these “older” women who had the time, the talent, and the inclination to sew beautiful fashionable clothes for themselves. The copy accompanying the sketches and photos clearly played into the idea that Mrs. Exeter was very sure of her fashion sense:
She also had color sense, knowing how to play up her features, and showing she was not afraid to branch out from neutrals and basic black.
She sounds like she was a fun grandmother, too, as this sketch attests:
The Mrs. Exeter feature appeared sporadically throughout the year in the issues of Vogue Pattern Book magazine, continuing through the decade of the 1950s. The October/November 1957 issue had this feature:
That same issue used a real model for the Mrs. Exeter section:
And another real model appeared in the February/March 1958 issue:
By the fall of 1958, Mrs. Exeter must have been very popular, as this was the cover of the magazine:
The Mrs. Exeter appearing here suddenly looked a little less grandmotherly:
Again, the accompanying text was very flattering to the expertise of the older woman:
And the texts made frequent reference to Mrs. Exeter’s civic and social obligations and interests. One two-page spread showing suits, declared: “For Mrs. Exeter’s busy calendar of civic and social events, a suit wardrobe is almost a necessity. Her choices, admirably combining chic, distinction, and flattery – with perhaps a shade more emphasis on flattery.”
She also apparently wore shirtwaist dresses with great aplomb, being careful “to avoid thickness at the waist.”
The Mrs. Exeter feature continued into the early 1960s, but then succumbed to the burgeoning emphasis on youth, disappearing from the magazine by the mid-‘60s. Indeed, in 1970, Vogue Pattern Book magazine introduced a new feature, this one called “Miss Vogue” in an obvious appeal to the younger generation. The description of Miss Vogue? Well, she must have been raised by Mrs. Exeter:
“She’s the girl with the fabulously fresh smile. She loves life. She has fun. She is active and her versatility knows no bounds. …She is a sewing expert… She loves a good challenge. She’s got talent. She’s got finesse… She’s a winner!”
Although Mrs. Exeter might have been “replaced” by Miss Vogue, there were still plenty of 1970s’-era fashions and patterns, which certainly appealed to “the older woman” as well as a stylish younger one. One of those patterns is the one I am currently using :
I have completed the skirt, which incidentally is, to my thinking the perfect “pencil” skirt – as it is narrow, but very comfortable – and it has a shaped, two-part waistband. (I’m an unabashed fan of waistbands!) I think Mrs. Exeter would approve. I’ll show you in a future post…