I am not, it has to be said, a lifelong fan of Marks and Spencer. When I was very young I perceived it as ‘the place my grandmother shopped’. As I reached my 20’s and 30’s I perceived it as ‘the place my mother shopped’. So it stands to reason that when I hit my 40’s, I would gravitate towards Marks and Spencer and become a loyal customer, just as my mother and grandmother did before me.
But here’s the rub: Marks and Spencer has become so ingrained in my subconscious as a place for older women, I actively avoid shopping there. Apart from the food hall – you can’t beat some of M & S’s offerings. But clothes? Unless I go in there to spend vouchers, I never step across the threshold. In fact, I believe every piece of M & S clothing I own was purchased with a birthday or Christmas voucher – until a couple of weeks ago.
The Over 40 Collective (you can read about this dynamic group of seven mature women who are hoping to shake up the way brands work with bloggers here), threw down a challenge, The Marks And Spencer challenge. They posed the question, “Can we all style a white top with denim in own unique way? And how easy is it to shop for a white top at Marks and Spencer?”
White Top With Denim – The Marks And Spencer Challenge
The thinking behind the whole white top angle is this – it’s an ‘every woman’ basic. We all have a white top, jacket or shirt in our wardrobe. So as a ‘staple’ it should be a piece of cake to find something we all liked in M & S, whose staples are legendary.
The brief was to buy a M & S white top and team it with denim for an outfit shoot. Our aim in doing so is to prove to brands that cater for mature women, that we actually want to see ‘real’ mature women wearing their offering.
On paper is sounded pretty easy – look for something online, order, chose, shoot. Yeah, that didn’t happen. In one way or another, most of us had some kind of problems: items shown to be in stock at a particular store on the website, only to be out of stock in that store (wasted journeys, p*ssed off customers). Sizing that can only be described as plain weird. Items that looked nothing like they did online. Items that showed promise, but turned out to be mind numbingly dull. All in all, it smacked of disorganisation – not at all what I expected.
But a challenge is a challenge, and amongst the mountain of white tops on offer I found a pretty interesting layered one. It was too sheer for my liking so I had to wear a vest top underneath, but on the whole I really like it.
So will I be shopping at Marks and Spencer again? I feel that there is still the older demographic of customer who very much wants the ‘Classics’ range and I think M & S will continue to stock it – for as long as that generation survives. As for the 40-65 year olds who are at the core of the M & S customer base; we want stylish, flattering clothing which is good quality and great value for money. We DON”T want what our mothers and grandmothers want(ed).
Today’s mature woman knows much more about what works for her. She wants to feel and look contemporary and yes, even sexy – not apologetic or invisible. So, looking forward to their next collection – yes, I would absolutely step into an M & S store clutching actual money, not gift vouchers. As for shopping online – until they stop trying to be all things to all people and pair down the choices (I quickly counted a mind bedding 87 pairs of black trousers and leggings online) and sort out their pretty awful website, I’m not sure my nerves could stand it!
As for the other wonderful ladies from The Over 40 Collective, here’s what they chose and how they styled it.
Above: Michelle from RetroChicMama chose this white linen jacket which she styled with shorts and a rather fetching panama hat.
Above: Nikki from Midlife Chic went for this pure cotton shirt which she styled with black jeans and a gorgeous smile.
Above: Lizzy from What Lizzy Loves styled this incredibly pretty broderie angles top with a pop of red.
Above: Annette from Lady of Style looking chic in a white blazer and top.
Above: Breathtaking scenery for a beautiful woman. Lisa from The Sequinist styling a white shirt and jeans.
Above: Catherine from Not Dressed As Lamb styled a white blouse for a cool and casual look with a pop of orange.
What do you think? Is Marks and Spencer one of your go-to shops, or like me have you dismissed them in the past? Let me know in the comments and do keep checking back because I’ll be popping on links to the other O40C girls when their posts go live.