Is Marks & Spencer getting any better?

posted in: Inspiration, Style advice | 16

Marks & Spencer has delivered its first rise in clothing sales in four years after a pickup in performance at its website. Sales of clothing rose by 0.7% in the 13 weeks to 28 March compared with a 5.8% slide in the previous three months.The tentative step into positive territory comes after 16 quarters without growth. It was also achieved in the face of a tricky spring for fashion retailers, with much chillier weather than this time last year. M&S credited improvements in style and quality as well as positive press coverage, particularly of a suede skirt which has yet to arrive in stores, for the sales turnaround. But performance was largely lifted by a return to growth at M&, where sales rose 13.8%, a considerable bounce from the 6% slump over Christmas. (The Guardian)


I buy a fair amount of museli, fruit and veg, bacon and the odd bottle of wine from M&S. Virtually all my knickers are M&S, but I have not bought a fashion item for a very long time. Mainly because I don’t think much of the fit, and none of the sub-brands do it for me. Once when I was buying an umbrella or some stud earings, an enterprising sales assistant asked me if I was “Per Una?“.

“No” I shreiked – not for me over-colourful, bias cut midi skirts that cling to the thigh, matched with embellished waterfall cardigans. I was appalled at his inability to even take in what I was wearing, my general appearance and demeanor. Per Una is for 40 year olds from Tranmere, with a dog and a husband called Kev.

He hesitated, then tried again: “Classic?” he ventured. “No!” I cut in. Even worse – the middle of the road outfits for dowdy 60 year olds – Susan from Haslemere who makes marmalade, organises a reading group and wears a nighty in bed. I began to despair – “I quite like Autograph” I suggested, although I don’t actually buy this range, apart from the tights.

Actually Autograph and the Limited Collection do have some reasonable outfits. The new womenwear supremo, credited with the slight turn aound in their fortunes, is Belinda Earle, from Debenhams.  Let’s have a look at that suede skirt shall we?

Apparently there is a waiting list for this £200 skirt, due to be released today. If you see someone wearing one, now you where they bought it. Not from a second hand shop, trading in 70s leatherwear, but from”good old M&S”. In fact there is also a cheaper “faux” suede version available, but it’s apparently sold out. I don’t like it much – if your legs are wider than your arms this is not a length that flatters.  I don’t rate the colour either, especially when paired with maroon or black. It would look a lot better with rust, mustard or khaki. These two pretty girls, with identical cheek bones, can look miles better.

The outfits below are available this spring/summer and I have picked them out as a cut above the high street norm. I am not sure I would buy or wear any of these outfit due to the colour, cut or fabric. But I like the shapes and silhouettes, and I feel that the styling is far better than we have seen before.

What do you think?

16 Responses

  1. ab

    Ah, that skirt!

    The two photos you hVe posted have had a large part to play in the promotion of ‘the skirt’ yet both models have half covered/hidden it with a long draping coat. Is that cpbecause the reality is that ‘the skirt’ really isn’t that flattering on even a 5’10 skinny, young model with endless legs? If so, what hope for the rest of us?

    As for M&S, while (age wise) I am their target market, no way would I buy clothing there. As a fan of natural fabrics, that automatically limits the choice.

    On the odd occasion I walk through an m&s it just seems to scream ‘formulaic’ and to me doesn’t so much show women of my age how great they could look, more how they ought to look ‘for teir age’. I don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb, but I also don’t want to look like I have given up living either.

    I did, a few seasons ago, buy some of their machine washable cashmere. The quality was very poor and not worth the financial saving.

    It would take more than an unflattering, dry clean only, revoltingly coloured, unflattering skirt to get me shopping in M&S again,

  2. Linde

    Food is fab and good value because it all gets eaten. Garments are overpriced and not well designed. They have so many themes going on in any one shop that it looks like a fairground. Many years ago my mother would buy from them when she could afford it because of the quality of their classic garments. I wonder what she would have to say about the badly fitted coat they were selling for £249 in their winter collection last year! My feeling is they have tried to be all things to all people and as we know that is not possible.

  3. Demented Fairy

    The skirt is horrendous- very unflattering. I think the models may have identical cheekbones because t’s the same model? [Looks like it to me anyway]
    I went through a short phase of buying from M & S during a period of being financially flush. It passed. I did have one really successful purchase: a long, many-gored, lengthways pin-tucked fine black linen skirt [dubbed my ‘witch skirt’ by my teenage kids] which I wore and wore… It eventually started to go along all that pin tucking, and I planned to make a copy. It’s still in the crate of shame waiting. Even their undies leave me cold, the bra fitting is dire. Food’s fab though!

  4. Annie B

    Hehe Kate you may be going for your record for how many people you could possibly offend 😉
    My current challenge is to find an elegant coat (something like the one you made Esme) – the shops have either nothing or cheap and short and skimpy trenches, of pink wool clones – whats up for those of us who need the business-suitable cover up all year round?

    • fabrickated

      I know what you mean Annie B! I find most RTW coats at a reasonable price are just too short – it saves material but who wants a longer-than-average jacket? I like a coat that covers everything up – a coat should make you feel well dressed even if you are bit messy (or even, in the event of fire, naked) underneath. The pink wool clone was the last “IT” item that M&S sold I think.

  5. helen

    I’ve been on a RTW fast since Jan 14 but previous to this I would shop in M&S. I’d say I was ‘limited collection’. Your comments about Per Una made me laugh, it is so true. My mum is Per Una and at 78 she finds it fashionable, that says it all for me.
    I had stopped buying my children’s clothes there but have just started again as they deliver free of charge to the local M&S food store. I don’t rate their home delivery when you can get Next to deliver in less than 12 hours. I’ve orders from Next late in the evening and it has arrived before breakfast.
    I do like the skirt but it wouldn’t work on me, I’m too short at 5’3″ and I don’t think the tan would work with my brown skin tone.
    But good luck to them, I wouldn’t want to see such a long standing store on our high street fade away.

  6. AnnIe

    When they’re good they’re very good, I love their fine layering tees, woollen tights and I have to say, cardigans, they had a great peplum style one that I loved a couple of seasons ago that I’ve worn to death, but stock is fast moving and often not repeated.

    I have a Promod cardigan that I’ve been wearing for years it is light and fine and comes just above knee length, it has a two inch net edging at the hem. I noticed last week that M and S have a similar style in and I plan to get one and add a similar edging.

    I think you’re being a bit harsh on Per Una wearers, to be fair when it first came out it was a little different from what was around at the time. I used to notice many women wearing it then but haven’t seen much of it lately, it’s prolific in charity shops through.

  7. erin

    i am not especially keen on the skirt, but that long, fabulous coat that Olivia is wearing? that i have saved to my inspiration file! any idea who the designer is? i would love to find other views of the coat. on my list of projects for next winter is sewing a new winter coat, and this one has some details that i love!

    • fabrickated

      Hi Erin. I did search for the maker of the coat but couldn’t find out a name or anything. There are a few internet views available if you search Palermo green leather fur coat.

  8. fk

    I can’t say much anymore about fashion as I’ve lived through too many cycles. I have a suspicion that nothing is “new” anymore, except possibly eclecticism. I agree the photo shoot people did a lousy job of combining colours. I do love the long suede/leather coat, but everything else is boring. I’m wondering if it’s because “eclectic” is so much more challenging than just following whatever the trend is. You need a buyer who’s willing to take a risk, and in such a large national chain there may be no one who’s willing. We had M and S here for a while, but they seem to have packed up and gone home. What’s the matter with making marmalade? Organizing a reading group?

  9. Kbenco

    It is quite amusing to read this when I don’t really understand the stereotypes, particularly relating to location. I live in the country and make marmalade though…..
    Are M&S clothes high end? They don’t look it from here.
    I like the colour of the skirt, but not much else about it.It is unusual to see such a warm autumnal colour as an “it” piece. I’d wear my longer or knee length version of it with a rich cream or dark brown top/jacket and undoubtedly look highly unfashionable and a bit boring 😉

  10. Stephanie

    I have only been in an M&S to buy a sandwich and possiblysome shortbread cookies, so I don’t know anything about the clothing lines…that said, now I’m stuck on trying to imagine husband Kev!

  11. mrsmole

    Whoever decided that a suede midi skirt colored “baby-poop brown” would win the hearts and wallets of women is crazy! After a drab winter are women craving a skirt the shortens the legs, is unkind to hips and thighs and needs special costly cleaning? Some of us wore that kind of uncomfortable skirt the first time around in the 60’s along with tie-dyed no bra fashions but for heaven’s sake don’t bring it back and ram it down our throats! When I lived in the UK I thought I hope to never be old enough to think their styles were for me. We have old lady styles and brands and while they are aimed like many retirement communities for the “over 55″ crowd” they just have no clue that women want to look youthful and interesting not dull and matronly or stuffed into dead animal skins in drab colors.

  12. Lesley Scott

    I lived in the UK for 4.5 years and never could understand the excitement about Marks and Sparks. The food was ok for packaged stuff but their bras made we want to strangle people – hopeless for larger cups. At that time their clothing was very basic I thought, but perhaps they’re getting hip?!

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