Mrs Exeter: One hell of a stylish lady

Today I am going to introduce you tone of my favourite fictional characters, Mrs Exeter. Anyone who has read Vogue magazines from the 50s may recognise this name, but who was Mrs Exeter and what did she do for fashion?
Mrs Exeter helped bring the older woman to the forefront of fashion in the 1950s. The character first appeared in 1949  ‘Approaching 60, Mrs. Exeter doesn’t look a day younger, a fact she accepts with perfect good-humour and reasonableness’ she confesses to a 33-inch
waist, disappearing eyebrows, and a yellowing complexion as well as her rheumatism!”
 Initially the character was an illustration by Audrey Lewis, it wasn’t until 1952 that photographs of the character actually appeared. The original Mrs Exeter was played by a Mrs Eastley who was a similar age to the character of Mrs Exeter. Mrs Eastley had lived a similar late Victorian upbringing as the character, where values such as poise and elegance were key and a woman was nothing without good posture. It is interesting also how slim the character was in the first photographic representations (33in waist, no way, more like 23in). It wasn’t until 1954 that the person most associated with Mrs Exeter, Margot Smyly, began to play her. Interestingly Margot Smyly was only in her thirties when she began to represent her. Vogue still suggested that Mrs Exeter was in her sixties, despite the younger model being used. If I were a model I don’t know how happy I would feel about representing a character 30 years older than myself!
The 1950s were one of the few periods in fashion when an older woman could look chic and at the height of fashion without looking overdone. The styles of the 1950s (full skirts, etc) could be quite forgiving for the older woman, and it was a period where many young girls were dressing almost to look like their mothers. This had a lot to do with Dior’s own ideal image of a woman: his mother. Mrs Exter came to be the epitome of this older yet still impeccably stylish woman.
As a character Mrs Exter helped to show that fashion was appropriate for all ages, and featured regularly in “Clothes with no age-tag” It is interesting that in these features it is often Mrs Exeter who looks more comfortable in the clothes rather than the younger woman.
Mrs Exeter continued to appear in Vogue until the 1960s. Towards the end veering from a lady in her 60s to one who was only at middle age. It was mostly due to the changing fashions and an increasing focusing on youth fashions the character ceased to appear.
I wish that this idea of the older model was still seen in magazines and the like (I am a big fan of Twiggy in the now finished M&S adverts as cheesy as they were). Most representations of the older woman in fashion seem to be done in a “look how novel and politically correct we are being” manner, which simply isn’t necessary. Mrs Exeter was a very popular character and demonstrates why the 50s were such a great period of fashion, clothes to suit any age group. I think she is a great person to look to when more mature ladies now are thinking about wearing vintage clothing, the 50s styles definitely look great on women of any age!

(Mrs Exeter looking particularly youthful!)
I only wish I had more pictures to show, I only have a few copies of 50s Vogue and she does not feature in any of them!

Itchy, scratchy and most certainly not vintage

Outfit today, one of my current fave dresses, late 50s/ early 60s Blanes

Today I took a little trip to Leeds Met student union to sample the vintage fair they had on. I went with quite low expectations: lots of synthetic 80s horrors, levi cut offs and oversized jumpers. This fair was actually so bad it surpassed the previous worst vintage fair I have been to by miles. The fair was basically a glorified car boot with barely any actual vintage garments. It was worrying that I felt a genuine sense of excitement when I found a single 40s blouse on a stall. Bar one stall that had quite a reasonable number of decent pieces this was the ONLY pre 60s garment I found. ONE GARMENT.

The only slight saving grace was “Curious Cleo”, here there were still a lot of 80s garments but also quite a few 50s dresses and a few 40s too. There was a particularly nice blue check dress that if it had been my size I would have snapped up. I asked the stall holder about this and she said that in general the students wouldn’t buy the 50s stuff and that there wasn’t much of a market for it at the student union fairs.

Curious cleo website

I suppose I should really learn from my mistakes and simply stop going to the fairs at student unions rather than writing disparaging (and probably wholly unhelpful) blogposts about how awful the fairs were, but the point is I don’t understand why they are so bad. And more importantly why do sellers feel that they can palm off such utter crap on students?

So, what conclusion have I come to from this fair. I will absolutely NOT be going to one of The Vintage Fairs events again ( I was sorely tempted to send my Mum to the one in Winchester to check it out, but I don’t feel like I can subject her to the torture of it). I feel so rubbish after today that I think I am going to need to treat myself to a trip to Harrogate at the weekend to remember what proper vintage is!

Apologies for an extreme lack of posting


More interesting posts will follow again soon, but  I have just moved back to Leeds to complete the final year of my degree (sob).

In the meantime. A few photos of vintage outfits of late and things I have been doing.

This is one of the dresses I was bought for my 21st. Original 1940s with the most wonderful zipped sleeves.

A rather large job lot of vintage that I have been sorting through. Anyone who follows me on twitter may have seen me tweeting about it on Friday (there is 3 Horrockses in here amongst other things)

This is what I got up to on Friday night. A farewell to all of my “home” friends. Steffie (my wonderful twinney) pulling the intriguing face in the first picture played host, before we headed out to Wimbledon. My dress for the evening was a wonderful late 50s Alice Edwards dress which I have blogged about before.

This is the main reason for my lack of posting. The mental amount of stuff I had at my Dad’s house before i managed to move it back to University
And this is my other reason for lack of posting. I am selling rather a lot of stuff on ebay at the moment. Please do take a look here