Mrs Exeter

Whilst looking through the Vogue archives at decades of the September issue for a post (The F Word), I came across a remarkable cover that stood apart from all the others. It was of an elegant woman-of-a-certain-age with (gasp!) grey hair.

Cecil Beaton

Appearing on the coveted cover of the British edition in 1948, this glamorous image shot by Cecil Beaton was the introduction of Mrs. Exeter, a fictional character created by Vogue. She was described thus: Approaching 60, Mrs. Exeter does not look a day younger, a fact she accepts with perfect good humour and reasonableness.

Mrs. Exeter was not just a face, she was also a voice:

I, for example, forgive myself a 33-inch waist. I’ve made my peace with my upper arms and my disappearing eyebrows. I’ve forgiven the yellowing (mellowing? Thank you, dear) of my complexion… Fifty has its tricks, too, just as have 17, 30 and 40. Dressing well, looking well, at any age involves some playing up and some playing down.

Model Margot Smyly appeared on her second Vogue cover in 1950. Mrs. Exeter was the epitome of elegance.


Regular style articles focusing on Mrs. Exeter were a popular and influential feature in both Vogue magazine and Vogue Pattern Book providing guidance and inspiration for the fashion needs of older women.

Vogue Archive
Vogue Archive
Vogue Archive

Mrs. Exeter didn’t try to mask her age, quite the opposite, in fact. Her advanced years gave her a secure sense of poise, dignity, discretion, and wisdom. And for 20 years, until 1962, Mrs. Exeter taught women how to dress—for fashion, their figure, and occasion. Mrs. Exeter wasn’t angst-ridden about ageing, nor was she trying to look 10 years younger,

Vogue Archive
Vogue Archive

Without YouTube to entertain and distract, many women of the era were spending their spare time sewing. And it wasn’t just mending or sewing on a button. Home sewers were expected to be highly skilled in the craft as the Vogue Pattern Couturier line exemplified. Women who wanted the designer fashions of the runway made their own. Vogue created a special section in their pattern catalogue for older women called Vogue Special Design. 


Those Mrs. Exeter recommended were a particularly suitable choice for someone of Mrs Exeter’s age group. These beautiful and classic designs had, as Mrs. Exeter extolled, an air of graceful sophistication, and were kind to slender and not-so-slender figures.


Along with her savvy style advice for the season, Mrs. Exeter was not without wit: While I’m not given to doing the Mexican hat dance, my definition of an evening dress is not black Mother Hubbard with my pearls.

I’m so glad I discovered Mrs. Exeter.
I think she should make a comeback.


We’ve Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults


Listen up Vogue and the rest: we want a Mrs Exeter for 2013

The Guardian








Who is Mrs. Exeter?

Fifty Dresses

Dressing Mrs Exeter

Black Tulip










Mrs. Exeter’s Sewing Skills

American Age Fashion




  1. Katherine
    August 9, 2019

    I adore your post on Mrs. Exeter

  2. Julie
    August 9, 2019

    Fantastic post! Thank you…

  3. August 9, 2019

    This is fascinating social history and highly relevant to today’s women. Btw, I remember that whilst still at school on a Saturday before we went to the local coffee bar we called in to the local department store to look through the catalogues for the latest styles. The Vogue catalogue was always a favourite. What a great post – thanks!

  4. I wish magazines today would sometimes address women over 40 in their style suggestions and makeup how to’s. I was recently cleaning out my parent’s house and found a stack of those Vogue patterns. Women had a much more elegant style back then.

  5. jodie filogomo
    August 9, 2019

    Now isn’t this amazing?? And now we do have it in real life somewhat…. There are a couple of blogs that show older women. And little by little so are retailers. Heck, wasn’t there some older women at Fashion week last time??
    Let’s all celebrate Mrs. Exeter!!

  6. August 12, 2019

    Mrs Exeter is so poised and elegant. We all need to embrace our ages like she did!

    Jill – Doused in Pink

  7. August 12, 2019

    What stands out for me is the pride that Mrs. Exeter takes in dressing. Love her message of embracing your age and your body… xo Nipa @fashionipa

  8. Susan
    August 14, 2019

    I love Mrs. Exeter! She definitely needs to make a comeback. 🙂 (Except I doubt she would have nearly as much taste today…)
    Susan Ward, YeHouseOfStuff Etsy Shop Owner

  9. Susan
    August 14, 2019

    That is a lovely post!
    Cynthia, PurplePlaidPenguin Shop Owner, Etsy

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