photo UK Vogue
From 1949-65 UK Vogue ran a regular style column from Mrs Exeter, a fictional character who dispensed advice for women ‘of a certain age’ (she told us she was ‘fifty-odd’) who were keen to stay fashionable but didn’t want to look like mutton-dressed-as-lamb, a heinous crime in the mid 50s and 60s.
Always stylish and impeccably groomed (important at the time) Mrs Exeter started life as an illustration but soon a succession of slender, elegant models personified her. She used simple but elegant prose and tackled how to wear everything from current fashion,
“Skirt lengths? Well definitely not too short but certainly not too long because that’s depressingly aging” (worth noting for the coming season),
“I look for pretty colours now, which works better with grey hair- a rose red evening coat for instance, with shoes dyed to match”,
“I made a point of having my clothes fitted a little loosely, tight ones are so magnifying”.
“In 1961 it is a fact that the devine right of being a beauty on the beach is no longer the reserve of the four to forties. This summer the bathing belle who turns all eyes is the woman of a certain age who looks it (almost) but looks it beautifully.”
She was silenced, inevitably, by the tsunami of youthful enthusiasm that swept through the fashion and magazine world in the mid 60s. Although never credited to any particular journalist it was thought that Vogue’s editor Audrey Withers was the author.
When The Women’s Room suggested (a couple of years ago) to current editor Alexandra Schulman that it might be time to bring back a modern day equivalent to Mrs E, she thought it wouldn’t work, although shortly after this conversation US Vogue’s features editor Sally Singer did resurrect her for the American market.
Mrs E wrote in a time when daughters aspired to look like their mothers – their natural role models, something we fiercely and deliberately fight against today.
But we still lack role models for our new ideal, something a new Mrs E could embrace and judging by the enthusiastic responses we always receive when we say our aim at The Women’s Room is to help, we know there’s a market out there.
We still buy Vogue, but lament the constant use of teenage models used to promote clothes only women of 40plus can actually afford. Wouldn’t it be great to see some really gorgeous older models used for a change? Come on Alexandra, restore a modern day, stylish Mrs Exeter to the pages of Vogue and give us all something to aspire to.