Today we’re looking at Marks and Spencer fashion for women over 40. As you know, ever since I went down to the press day I’ve been excited about their new looks for this season. My favourite pieces still haven’t been released but I think they’re off to a good start.
To launch the new season they are running a blogger challenge. A couple of weeks ago they gave a number of us a look book which contained about 40 different items and asked us each to create an outfit that would come in at under £200.
I love doing this sort of thing because everybody creates something completely different. I know I may well be ‘outstyled’ on the fashion front, especially by the younger bloggers but I wanted to make the budget work hard and see what could be achieved with £200. So I chose a shirt dress, a polo neck jumper, a coat and a pair of shoes and there was still change from £200. Let me show you how it looked.
Soft shirt dress (US link here), Double strap pony skin leopard court shoes (US version here)
I put together an outfit that you could wear from now until the end of the year. Starting with the dress and shoes worn alone, I’m really starting to love wearing shirt dresses because of their simplicity. Rather than buttons all the way down, this one has a stepped hem and is longer at the back than the front which makes it more on trend than a standard shirt dress.
I know what you’re going to say – “the shoes!” When I unwrapped them, I loved the quality of the leopard print but I too gasped at the height of the heel and said out loud that I would never wear them. However, the insolia sole and the two sets of straps mean that they are unbelievably comfortable. They aren’t ‘slipper comfortable’ obviously but you could easily wear them for an afternoon or an evening without your feet starting to ache – a whole day might be pushing it. I was really surprised by them.
So, as a simple early Autumn outfit, I thought this worked really well.
Thinking about it getting colder, I then added the jumper. Remembering that the AW16 palette is all about the spice rack, I chose the Burnt Sienna colourway (it’s also available in mustard or black). I don’t have sensitive skin but over the last few years I have found that I don’t like wearing lambswool or cashmere polo necks any more, I just get too hot and irritated. This is made from viscose so it feels silky but still has the finish of a skinny rib knit rather than jersey.
Polo neck jumper (US link here)
The next layer to go on was the coat. This is an unlined trench with a 37% wool content. It is also available in a gorgeous dark aubergine and black. It has quite a heavy weight and the mix of the other fibres that they have used almost makes it feel like neoprene.
This unstructured look is again on trend for coats this Autumn, you will see a lot of them about in this style. It probably isn’t thick enough for the bitter months of January and February but it would be great until then and I can imagine it being a good option if you commute and go from hot to cold – or for shopping when you are in and out of stores.
Unstructured trench coat (US link here)
This gives you an idea of how it looks when it is fastened. There are no buttons or poppers, you simply wrap it with the belt in an insouciant French manner.
If I had been trying it on in store I would probably have gone up a size to give it a little more volume in the wrap.
The collar is stiff enough to stand on windy days and shield you from draughts.
Behind the scenes at Midlifechic
So now let me share with you what was going on while we were taking these pictures. We live a relatively short drive from the station where Brief Encounter was filmed. It is still very much a working station but the famous clock and tea room are still there so I chose it because something about this outfit had vintage appeal. I thought it would be relatively quiet mid-morning when the commuter and school trains had left. It wasn’t. There were lots of locals bustling around.
Now apart from my 15 years in London, I’ve lived around here all my life so I’m very used to local ways. One of the things I love about my kinfolk is their temperament; they are open, sincere and will always take the time to tell you exactly what they think in a humorous way. So when I turned up dressed in a polo neck and coat on the hottest day of the year I was bound to attract their attention.
One by one they sauntered over to find out what I was doing. I explained patiently but no-one took it very seriously. In their view I was just sitting around having my picture taken so, I was given someone’s dog to look after for a while…
…the old ladies in the tearoom kept whispering in Mr MC’s ear while he was trying to take pictures which meant I couldn’t stop laughing…
…we did manage to hide away in the station master’s office for a quick tea break though.
Aware that our parking was running out, we were taking one last shot of the dress and coat when, out of the corner of my eye, I became aware of an orderly queue of ladies forming…
…I thought they might be waiting to get past…
…but no, word had spread. Even though they’d all appeared to nod off when I tried to explain what a blog was, their ears had pricked up when they heard “working with Marks and Spencer.” They had sensed a once in a lifetime opportunity to say what they thought about M&S and they weren’t going to let it pass them by!
M&S if you’re reading this, there’s a lot I could tell you about what Northerners think of your brand!
Excitement aside, in the end I decided I was quite pleased with my outfit. It’s going to be fascinating to see what other bloggers put together and I’ll add outfits from some of my friends from the Over40Collective at the end.
What I’ve already bought from M&S AW16
Before I do that, I want to show you what I’ve bought from Marks and Spencer so far this season because I have found some new favourites (you’ll notice that I shot these in the sanctuary of my own back garden).
For a while I’ve been talking about how I just haven’t wanted to wear my bretons this year. Even so, I really miss the simple, pulled together look of breton, jeans, blazer, and heels or pointed flats. However I think I’ve found the answer. It lies in the blouse.
You’ll know that ruffles and Victoriana are both trends that are here in a big way. I’d been struggling with them because they don’t fit my preference for clothes with a minimum of fuss (and ironing) until I found these blouses. I have worn them repeatedly over the last few weeks:
Plissé neck blouse (US link here) worn with M&S indigo jeans (US link here) – shoes see below
I can cope with the frilled neck because it is all in a single tone, even if it is a bit more Elizabethan than Victorian. This blouse also comes in cream with a black velvet ribbon, I like it but not as much as the solid French navy.
I like this satin one as well because the ruffle isn’t too flouncy. (US link here)
Long sleeve satin ruffle blouse
It also comes in black, ivory and khaki but the blush is such a beautiful shade. It isn’t quite as pink as it’s looking in these pictures.
It is polyester but it actually feels like old fashioned satin.
When it gets colder I will wear these blouses with a blazer and then later I will add a long cardigan. I’ve found that they have instantly updated my skinny jeans which means I will be continuing to wear skinny jeans this Winter – at least until a serious contender appears. A new type of top was all that was needed, it’s a sartorial eureka moment.
The shoes I’m wearing are also from M&S and are another new love. They are my choice of the many loafers that are around this season because: they are metallic so they work with everything; they have a chunky low heel which makes them easy to walk in; they have Insolia soles for comfort and they’re great value so I won’t mind when the trend moves on in the Spring.
So, that’s my M&S so far this season, I’m really looking forward to the next pieces they bring out. Until then, I’ll keep adding looks from my over 40 blogger friends who took part in the challenge as they publish them. Michelle from Retrochicmama was first off the block with her slip dress, pea coat and trainers
Lisa from The Sequinist chose the same olive pea coat as Michelle along with over the knee boots which she partnered with one of her trademark sequinned dresses – no surprise there!
Here’s Liz from What Lizzy Loves wearing a romantic lace blouse with wide trousers and the same shoes as me, she found them comfortable too.
Avril from Schoolgatestyle chose the same blouse and trousers as Liz but added the coat that Lisa wore and the tasselled loafers that I love.
US: I hope it’s been helpful that I’ve added US links this time, delivery takes 3-5 working days and is free on all orders over $50.
Australia: standard delivery is free on all orders over $100 and takes 8-10 working days. Express delivery is available for $7.50 and takes 4-6 working days.
All items were true to size although I would have gone up a size on the coat to add volume to the wrap. That is just a personal preference for a more luxurious look.
I hope you enjoyed Marks and Spencer fashion for women over 40. I’ll be back on Tuesday. The eldest goes back to uni on Monday so, in true Project Happier style, I’ve made plans to whiz down to London at the end of the week to spend time with an old school friend which will lift my spirits. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.
Disclosure: Thank you to M&S for providing the clothes that I wore in the challenge part of this shoot. All other clothes were bought and paid for by me.
Other Autumn 16 posts you may have missed
Inès de la Fressange at Uniqlo
The White Company 30% off – what to buy
Shoes and boots to buy now – plus the AW16 colour palette
Things to consider if your son or daughter is leaving for university