Mrs. Exeter was not a “brand” in the way we understand the word today. She had no clothing line or pattern line; she did not promote her own perfume. Nonetheless, she wielded considerable marketing power outside the world of Vogue magazine and Vogue Patterns.
While looking for references to Mrs. Exeter in the historic databases of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, I discovered that upscale department stores used her name in their advertising. A 1952 Bendel’s ad for a gray silk dress, for example, quoted Mrs. Exeter exactly: “To say that gray is a ‘good’ color,” says the magazine’s wise lady, “is like saying the roses or diamonds are nice.” Bullocks in downtown Los Angeles also cited Mrs. Exeter’s advice: “Vogue’s Mrs. Exeter wears her two-piece rayon faille suit dress ‘twelve months year’…and you might well do the same!” According to one source, the Salkowitz store in Houston even opened a Mrs. Exeter shop.
I assume Vogue knew about these appropriations of their creation and that advertisers paid for the use of the name. It was a clever strategy. Instead of referring to larger sizes or more conservative styling, retailers could appropriate some of the high fashion allure of Vogue when targeting older women customers.
Maybe this is the answer for designers today who are wondering what to call sizing geared to older figures. With a nod to the women’s movement, they could name it the Ms. Exeter line.