I have mixed feelings about seeing the new deliveries starting to arrive for Autumn because it’s hard to say goodbye to a summer that hasn’t even started and yet I’m ready to give up on summer clothes. I suspect it’s going to feel like a long winter for us in the UK this year, kicking off with everything Brexit but let’s not dwell on that. The farmer in my genes (good job this isn’t a podcast!) tells me there’s a good chance of an Indian summer first. Let’s hope so.
In the meantime, every day is a ‘what to wear’ dilemma. I went down to London last week for meetings with a number of retailers and as I sat there steaming because I’d been drenched as never before by torrential rain, some of them explained that they were frantically pulling stock forward to get new season into stores as fast as possible. This explains why quite a few websites are a bit of a mish-mash of summer and winter because it’s far easier to merchandise mixed seasons on the store mat than it is online.
So, for my focus on M&S this month, I thought I’d look at my favourite collection Autograph to see what’s arrived so far. I’ve loved Autograph since it very first launched. I appreciate the pared down aesthetic that is styled around Scandi lines but with the important difference that it is more tailored. So many of the ‘clean look’ retailers just put too much fabric in their pieces for them to work for me – they hang from my broad shoulders making me look like a prop forward.
In addition to the cut, I also appreciate Autograph quality. A good proportion of the range is based around natural fibres with interesting stitching finishes and undercover details such as linings and sometimes bra-strap fasteners. I haven’t had my pre-season meeting with M&S yet so I can’t fill you on their AW direction until next month but here are some current highlights – AW19 – M&S.
My preferred alternative to the trench coat – AW19 – M&S
I’m going to start with the one thing we all need at the moment which is a good mac. Now however hard I try, I can’t get on with trench coats. I like wearing them when they’re fastened but not open, it’s just a personal thing but I don’t like all of the extra material that flaps around. I’ve often mentioned the vintage car coat that I found at a marché aux puces when I lived in Paris and I’ve been on a mission to replace it ever since. On one of my trips to London in June I cracked it and of course like buses, now that I’ve found one, they’re popping up everywhere. This is a great one from Autograph.
Reviews are saying that it’s quite heavy which is what you want. It has subtle stitching detail, concealed buttons and slip pockets. It’s the sort of thing that looks iconic worn with a black polo neck and black trousers for work or jeans and a white shirt at the weekend. Think film noir and you’ll get my drift.
It’s also available in an on trend dogtooth print which has both black and brown in it so it’ll work across the spectrum this autumn.
Statement skirts AW19 – M&S
I’ve been tired of the ubiquitous, floaty, floral midi-dress for a while. I get that it’s a trend but it’s reached the point now where everyone just looks the same. When I walk into a blogger event I sometimes feel like I’ve taken a wrong turn and stepped into a shop window because everyone looks like a version of the person next to them. Anyway this summer I decided to focus on separates and in particular fabulous skirts. It’s a versatile look so I’ll be continuing it into next season.
Nineties looks continue to be strong and so the slip skirt is here to stay. Even in its Kate Moss heyday, I was never a fan of the slip dress worn over a t-shirt or jumper. Overlaying a lighter fabric on top of a heavier one always looks aesthetically inside out to me. However a shiny, slippery skirt counterbalances a softer, heavier upper layer and is both unexpected and dramatic.
This skirt will be great worn with a t-shirt and sandals now and a black / grey / brown / red jumper with boots when it gets cold. It’s a slimmer cut than most slip skirts with slits up the side and it has a zip and fixed waistband rather than an elasticated waist which makes it easier to wear with a blouse or shirt tucked in. Something about it makes me think of Gillian Anderson’s wardrobe in The Fall.
Another strong option is this leather skirt. The fuller cut makes it a little less vampish than the classic leather pencil skirt. Mock croc is going to be everywhere next season and this has a subtle croc print embossed into it. Reviews are saying it comes up small though so size up because there won’t be much give in it.
Lighter knits AW19 – M&S
With a fuller bottom half you generally need something neater on top. Animal prints continue to be strong for A/W although there’s far less focus on leopard. Snake and zebra are both still key and tiger and cow (especially black and white friesian) are coming through.
I suspect that this snake print cashmere will go quickly. It’s also available in a crew necked cashmere jumper but the cardigan gives you a closer fit and the option to wear the neck buttoned or open… or of course it works as an extra layer.
This soft jumper is 90% merino and 10% cashmere and it’s a rare beast: a slouchy cut that doesn’t have dropped shoulders. This means it still gives you a neat fit and doesn’t add a visual stone in weight to your frame. A turtle neck is a good option for anyone with temperature control issues because it’s flattering but the lower, single layer doesn’t feel as hot and restrictive as a polo neck. I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about knitwear like this but this will have disappeared by the end of September.
Chic flats AW19 – M&S
Pine green is another strong colour this season. It works best for people with cool colouring so if you’re warm like me, it might be simpler to add it as an accessory. These Jackie O style loafers have an elegant profile. The squared-off shoe is still the most fashion forward shape for next season and these have just a hint of a chiselled toe.
If you’re long bodied (and therefore short legged) a streamlined loafer like this is your friend. Chunky ones visually shorten your legs even more. This is the sort of shoe you could wear with either trousers or skirts and the tortoiseshell buckle is more subtle than gold.
Before I do a try on, I want to show you these Chelsea boots. They aren’t part of the Autograph range but I suspect they may sell through quickly. They’re in this season’s chestnut brown which has finally hit the high street after three years of prominence on the catwalks and they earn even more fashion points for being mock croc. They aren’t leather but I don’t find that matters with a highly polished finish like this.
My all-time favourite Chelsea boots are a patent-effect oxblood pair that I bought from M&S years ago. They aren’t leather either but I wear them every winter. I love the fact that it doesn’t matter if I’m walking through rain or mud because they’re so hardwearing.
So, let’s move on to the pieces I ordered to try on. There were only a couple of hours this weekend when the rain stopped but it was very blustery as you can see by my hair in most of these pictures.
Try-on 1 – leather and silk
As always I’m starting with a wildcard. I wanted to try these tan leather trousers because I thought they’d be easy to wear in the office – with a blouse or shirt now and a cashmere jumper when it gets colder.
I paired them with a silk shirt in this fantastic shade of duck egg blue which is one of those colours that seems to suit almost everyone.
This is how they looked on me.
The verdict? The trousers come up small, I had to strain to fasten the button which is why I’ve knotted the shirt rather than tucking it in. Sadly the length wasn’t quite right for me either. As you know, despite being 5ft 8″ I have the same length legs as my friend who is 5ft 5″ and these trousers were a little longer than I wanted them to be so they’re great if you have long legs but otherwise they’ll need to be taken up an inch or so.
They are, however, a lovely quality leather and they’re lined which makes them very comfortable to wear. I love the colour too and it would work so well with everything from black to red to grey to cobalt blue to chocolate brown. I’m returning them but on the right body they’d be great. Also available in black.
The shirt on the other hand was so lovely that I kept it on to wear with jeans and heels for a relaxed dinner out that evening. I like Autograph silk because it washes well and doesn’t require much ironing. And I really, really love this colour. It’s almost as neutral as ivory but so much more interesting and it’s going to look great with the reds I wear and navy, brown or black too.
Try on 2 – a pared-down dress
I know already that some of you won’t like this dress, you’ll think it’s boring but I love the minimalism and Mr MC did too. He kept telling me that it reminded him of the wives from The Handmaid’s Tale… should I be alarmed by his enthusiasm for them as a midlife icon?
It’s an unusual fabric because it’s a viscose and linen mix so it’s fluid and yet it has texture; some reviewers don’t seem to like it but I do. It’s lined and yet it’s light so it’s perfect for wearing now. I like the fact that the sleeves are a flattering elbow length and I also like the almost puritanical styling of the zippered front. There are generations of Quakers in my family history (in fact one of my antecedents was said to be George Fox’s right hand man) and I can feel a pull to them when I wear something like this.
Try-on 3 – a peacoat
A new peacoat is on my list for Autumn and I was keen to try this one because it has the deep lapels and straight cut that I’m looking for. It’s lined, has a high wool content (74%) and lovely stitched detail around the collar and pockets which makes it look more expensive than it is.
I think you fall in to one of two camps with peacoats – you either want plain buttons or metallic ones. Being a magpie, I think I’m set on metallic ones rather than the more subdued tortoiseshell that this one has. If you’re in the plain button camp though, I happily recommend it.
So there you have it, a toe in the water for AW19, it’ll be here before we know it.
Other M&S news
The M&S beauty team has been busy working with a few select brands to produce supersizes of their top-selling products which are great value. It’s an economical way to buy Pixi Glow Tonic, REN, Aveda and ColourWow amongst others and it cuts down on plastic. It also gives you an idea of demand which tells you which products work best for M&S customers. See the full range of supersizes here.
Current offers at M&S
Save £5 on all summer bouquets here (great if your flowers have died on the stem in the garden like mine have this year. I think their roots have drowned!)
And that’s everything I’ve spotted at M&S this month, I’ll be able to tell you far more about their AW direction in September’s post. I’m away a lot doing travel projects with the boys over the next two weeks so you’ll find me on Instagram. Next Thursday (29th August) I’m hoping to bring you the new season launch of Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo although we’re having some problems with samples at the moment. We usually manage to pull it off at the eleventh hour though so keep your eyes peeled for a post that day before everything sells out.
Disclosure: ‘Dipping a toe into AW19 – M&S’ was commissioned by M&S however it is unedited and all selected content, outfits and opinions are my own
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