The Marks And Spencer Challenge – White Top With Denim

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.

Standing in a field wearing a Marks and Spence white top_11 Showing the back of a white top with denim trousers. Showing the side of a Hope Fashion poncho in bright pink. Showing my shoulder peeking out from a Hope Fashion poncho._62 The side detail of a layered white top from Marks and Spencer. Close up of the side details of a white top with denim jeans. Silver brooch pinned to a pink top.

Smiling in a field wearing a pink poncho.

White Top – Marks and Spencer / Jeans – Marks and Spencer / Poncho – c/o Hope Fashion / Shoes – Dorothy Perkins / Bag – Bought in a small boutique in Wales

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.

Marks & Spencer outfit of white blazer & panama hat paired with denim shorts black lace trim vest black sandals & vintage Chanel

Above: Michelle from RetroChicMama chose this white linen jacket which she styled with shorts and a rather fetching panama hat.

Midlifechic Marks & Spencer

Above: Nikki from Midlife Chic went for this pure cotton shirt which she styled with black jeans and a gorgeous smile.

Below: Lizzy from What Lizzy Loves styled this incredibly pretty broderie angles top with a pop of red.

Above: Lizzy from What Lizzy Loves styled this incredibly pretty broderie angles top with a pop of red.

Annette from Lady of Style wearing a white Marks and Spencer blazer for the Marks and Spencer white top and denim challenge.

Above: Annette from Lady of Style looking chic in a white blazer and top.

Lisa from The Sequinist wearing a white shirt and jeans for the Marks and Spencer white top and denim challenge

Above: Breathtaking scenery for a beautiful woman. Lisa from The Sequinist styling a white shirt and jeans.

Catherine of Not Dressed As Lamb dressed in white top and denim for the Marks And Spencer challenge.

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.




  1. July 18, 2016 / 10:20 pm

    I love these photos and the double layered top looks casually chic. The hot pink accents are fabulous too as is your honesty xxxx

  2. July 19, 2016 / 10:08 am

    I think you can buy nice clothes in Marks and Spencer if you are prepared to spend a lot of time looking. The clothes picked out in your post shows that it is possible. The last things I’ve bought there are underwear and a summer rain jacket, much needed to replace an old one which is no longer waterproof. I am frequently disappointed in the clothes, and I don’t usually bother to look in their Classic section, aimed at old ladies ( I’m 69, 70 next month), as I have no desire to be invisible.

  3. July 19, 2016 / 11:18 am

    M&S challenge accepted! For me it has been the first time since M&S are still on their way into the German market.
    I love the layers of the top you have chosen and you styled it so well, Michelle! Lovely photos too!

    Annette | Lady of Style

  4. July 19, 2016 / 12:05 pm

    Perfectly put Michelle, I totally see where you’re coming from. I’m staggered by the number of leggings M&S stock! Are they for real???
    The top you chose is lovely & the way you’ve layered it by adding your fuchsia poncho really makes it eye-catching. I really hope Marks & Spencer takes notice of what you said because many women will wholeheartedly agree. Good for you xxx

  5. July 20, 2016 / 4:34 pm

    I think a lot of women feel like you do about M&S. I don’t have as much history with the brand as you do since I didn’t grow up here, but I think of them as a company with SO much potential and so many people wanting them to be brilliant, but they just never quite got it together on the Womenwear front in recent years. I hope they do! The new Zara appointment sounds promising.

  6. July 22, 2016 / 2:10 pm

    This was a really thoughtful post Michelle as always. I suppose I have a different view of M&S having worked there – a lot of the problems are created internally because it tends to be run in silos of mini empires. As you know I went to the AW16 press day and was really impressed by what I saw, I’m just hoping they manage to carry it through to the stores. We’ll see! x

  7. Brenda
    August 14, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    I actually like M&S classic clothes, but I take their jumpers and cardies and pair them with things I buy elsewhere. The white sleeveless top is something I might pick up, if the quality is decent. That’s also the kind of thing I’d look for on the sale racks and save for the following year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.