And so it’s time for us to think about our spring wardrobes. Despite the weather’s grimmest efforts this weekend I’m convinced that we’re going to have a good summer this year – it may be wishful thinking because we’re remaining solidly in the UK but I’m sending it out there! Today I’m delighted to be looking at the new season drop from M&S. They’re a brand I haven’t focused on for a while – as you know that’s because there was a time when I felt their quality had dropped so I was interested to see what I’d find when they invited me to look at their new collection for SS24 and pull together an edit. What I discovered was that as well as the headline styles that you see in the ad campaigns, they’re producing some fabulous core wardrobe pieces. They’ve replicated quite a few of the styles I love at a fraction of the price I’d usually expect to see and they’re doing it with a careful eye on sustainability factors too. So I’m going to take you through the ones I pulled out and do a try-on, first of all showing you the model shot and then how it looks on an me – the best capsule pieces – new M&S collection SS24.

Supremely flattering wide leg jeans

Jeans were where I wanted to begin because in the post lockdown world where Zoom meetings now reign supreme, I find myself wearing them at least 80% of the time. They’re an important component for women of every age and there’s nothing more youthful than seeing a woman in her 70s or 80s in a pair of jeans showing that she still has her finger on the pulse. I remember sitting in a meeting with the in-house design team at M&S in 2018 when they said that they intended to become the UK’s biggest selling jeans retailer and quietly thinking they had no chance. However, they’ve done everything they said they would, now they sell nine pairs of jeans every minute and they’ve grown their UK market share from 5.3% to 16.5%. They have 25 different leg shapes in sizes from a UK 6 – 24 and most of them come in petite and long lengths as well as standard.

So, there really should be something for everyone but as I’ve kept saying over the last few seasons, despite my best attempts I’ve still struggled to find the ones for me. A good pair of jeans is your best friend but just as with people, it takes a while to find your tribe. The starting point as always is knowing the architecture of your body – the jeans that will work for you have as much to do with your shoulders as your bum; the length of your body versus the length of your legs and even the pitch of your calf to ankle count too – you’re always looking for the best balance of your proportions. So, if you have broad shoulders you’ll usually find that a wide leg or flare works well for you, if you have a well rounded bottom half it’s worth looking for larger pockets that are placed lower down and if your bum has vanished (it happens) then look for patch pockets at the front and a clean, ‘unpocketed’ behind.

The cut of jeans evolves every few seasons and we’re currently at peak wide-leg jean and I know some of you are going to say, “I’m petite, they don’t work for me,” but the good thing about M&S is that they completely recut their jeans for long and petite so they’re worth trying. I love wide jeans as you know and usually buy them from Me+Em because of the drapey denim they use and the super-flattering cut. So when I saw these from M&S I was keen to try them but expected nothing, I thought I’d pair them with one of my favourite racer cut vests too – always a good option if you have athletic shoulders. Here are the pieces I chose on the M&S models…

L-R: pink racer back vest; wide jeans

… and this is how they look on me. These jeans are absolutely fantastic – a complete 10/10 if… you can get hold of a pair. I’m not surprised that they’re flying out. They sold out straightaway last Thursday when the ad campaign launched but by Saturday they’d restocked, when I looked on Monday they’d gone again but they do keep replenishing them which is very good news. They’re made from a cotton/lyocell blend and that’s what gives them the all-important drapiness which is key to making them move with your body rather than standing stiffly and adding bulk to your shape. Honestly, I can’t get over how good they are and for me the regular length is exactly right for wearing with flats.

The reviews suggested sizing up so I ordered a UK14 which is a bit big but that’s never a bad thing for summer when you want to tuck tops in without any muffin overspill, especially when you sit down. They come in two different washes, this indigo and a lighter one which I’m now going to try and if I find I don’t like it I’ll dye them blue-black (two Dylon dyes in the washing machine, one black one navy).

Moving onto the vest, it’s a brilliant basic made from BCI cotton at a great price. It’s very fitted so size up if you don’t want it to cling, it also comes in black or white.

Pink racer back vest; wide jeans

I’m wearing the same jeans again here (I’ve been wearing them all week in fact) but with a different top that has a beautiful boatneck.

L-R: Iris vest; wide leg jeans

A simple sleeveless piece that sits nicely over your bra straps and such a great colour with the jeans for a column effect. True to size it comes in six different colours and it’s even better value than the racer tee, especially if you buy the two-pack here.

Iris vest; wide leg jeans

Parisian style dark denim chic

Not everyone’s a fan of wide-leg jeans so if you prefer a slimmer cut, have a look at this next pair. To balance them out I added a looser t-shirt with a padded bomber, silver sandals and the M&S version of the bestselling crescent bag. Here are all of the pieces on site…

… and this is how they look on me. Now I know there are a lot of fans of the M&S Harper jeans amongst you but if, like me, you’ve always found them too high waisted and snug on the leg then this is the pair for you. They’re pure cotton with 2% elastane so they don’t have the 27% polyester content of the Harper. I much prefer the weave and the weight of the denim, they also sit a little lower, just under the tummy button and the cut is slim so they fall straight down the leg without clinging. It’s difficult to find a good solid indigo dye in the era of pale wash jeans so they’ll work for anyone who likes that Parisian almost navy denim but there are five other colours available including white. I’m wearing a 12 long – the style is cropped but I found the longer length hit the point that looks best on me – just one inch above the ankle. Pedal pushers are said to be on their way back though so if a more cropped look works for you, order the regular length and be ahead of the curve. The size 12 is a generous fit on me and they do stretch a bit with wear so bear that in mind.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Padded bomber jacket; Everyday t-shirt; Slim cropped jeans; Silver sandals; Sling crossbody bag

As you know bomber jackets are always my preferred style so I’m glad that they’re so on trend this season. I find a blazer or Chanel-style tweed looks far too prim on me with jeans so the sportiness of a bomber makes everything feel a bit cooler. This jacket has warm padding so it will be great for cool spring days, it’s designed to be oversized though so I sized down to a 10 and actually I think an 8 might even have been better for me because I like that neater fit.

Silver continues to be the metallic du jour and although the heel on these sandals looks high, when you take the platform into account it isn’t. They have the Insolia lining so they’re incredibly comfortable to wear – an easy way to update your existing wardrobe (true to size). The crescent bag was everywhere last year and M&S have launched their own. It isn’t leather so it’s a cost-effective way to add a pop of colour to your outfits and you can either wear it nestled under your arm or lengthen the strap and have it as a crossbody.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Padded bomber jacket; Everyday t-shirt; Slim cropped jeans; Silver sandals; Sling crossbody bag

And this t-shirt is a great way of getting the looser boyfriend cut without dropped shoulders so it should work for every frame. It’s made from slub cotton and so it’s light and airy. The slightly scooped neck is more flattering than a crew and it has good length for anyone who prefers to wear their t-shirts untucked. I’m wearing my usual size 12 and there are six colour options available.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Everyday t-shirt; Slim cropped jeans

Wearing shorts over 50

Yes – of course you can wear shorts at any age, you just need to find the right cut for your thighs. I’d also avoid anything too smart unless you’re aiming for a Howard’s Way ‘yachtie’ look. There are various denim shorts options at M&S but these are the kindest shape.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Cotton slash neck top; White denim shorts; Slingbacks

I always avoid any described as ‘boyfriend shorts’ because they have a tapered cut and so unless you have Alexa Chung legs, you risk a sausage skin effect as they cut into the top of your thigh. This pair has a little more length than usual so I’d say they’re about 5 inches, they feel a little shorter than a 6 inch leg which I find can be a bit frumpy. The good thing is that they hide any crepiness at the top of your thighs. It’s typical isn’t it? Your cellulite goes in midlife but then the skin starts to wrinkle. I’m wearing a 12 and they’re a great fit, there are three other colours available.

I’m always asked questions about how to wear shorts in midlife and as with any outfit it’s about striking a high/low contrast so it’s best to avoid a basic t-shirt. Shorts are very simple so it’s better to elevate them – add a blouse, a shirt or a longer sleeved top like this one. Longer sleeves also counterbalance the amount of leg on show – remember the old adage for wearing a mini-skirt – ‘choose your legs or your boobs’, never both (and I realise I should probably say something about dressing for the male gaze here but I think we all have our own stands on that score).

This striped tee is a great price but bear in mind that it’s quite fitted. I’m wearing a 12 here and for pairing with shorts I’d have preferred something a bit looser so I’d size up. As it is, it’s perfect for the wide leg jeans though. By the way it’s a navy stripe – it doesn’t say so on the website and at first I thought it was black.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Cotton slash neck top; White denim shorts; Silver sandals; Sling crossbody bag

An easy everyday dress – best capsule pieces – new M&S collection SS24

Here’s another example where M&S is feeling very Me+Em in style. This is one of those simple cotton jersey dresses that you’ll be really glad you have in the heat whether you’re at home in the garden or on holiday.

It has a great neckline with a semi-fitted bodice (a closer fit than the buffet dresses of yore) that then flares out into a light tiered skirt. It’s worth noting that the top tier isn’t very full which will please some people but it might not work as well for apple shapes, it’s best to try it and see. I’m wearing a size 12 regular and it’s just about the right length although a long will be better if you’re any taller than me (5ft8).

The basket comes in two natural colours but I really like the pop of green. A leather handbag often feels too heavy with summer clothes but this will lighten the look. It has pockets inside and the shoulder strap is removable if you prefer to use it as a top handled bag. The gold coloured earrings are this season’s on trend chunky hoops but they’re light which is good, it means they don’t drag on your ear lobes.

best capsule pieces - new M&S collection SS24

Tiered cotton dress; Straw bag

One to dress up or dress down – the best capsule pieces – new M&S collection SS24

And I had to add a smarter look to my collection of everyday casuals.

You know how much I love jumpsuits and this one is brilliant. It’s another piece that makes me wonder how M&S are producing clothes of this quality at the prices they are because it’s so well tailored. It’s made from a linen viscose blend which means it won’t crease as much as pure linen does but it still has the same breathable qualities. The size 12 regular fits me like a glove, it’s long enough in the body to sit down in comfortably and there’s no tricky zip at the back for people who worry about going to the loo, it simply unbuttons at the front. The length is right for me, it hits an inch above the ankle bone so it would work just as well with trainers or flat sandals as it does with heels. It’s the sort of thing that’s smart enough for a wedding and yet you could wear it every day too – just a lovely piece.

In a year where dresses are taking a backseat it’s good to know that jumpsuits are popping up again. If you’re a dress lover looking for a few new ones there isn’t as much around as we’ve seen over the last few years, this season is all about separates – trousers and skirts. It doesn’t mean you can’t wear the dresses you’ve already got of course, the world of fashion doesn’t do ‘out’ and ‘in’ as much as it used to but if you like the simplicity of wearing a single piece, jumpsuits might be the answer over the year to come.

Midlifechic jumpsuit

Linen blend jumpsuit; Silver sandals

So this latest collection from M&S has really impressed me. The last few seasons with their focus on loose flowery dresses just haven’t worked for me so I’m thrilled to hear and see that they’re now focusing on the cut of pieces in solid colours. Womenswear Director Maddy Evans who is in her 50s explained that the new design team is aiming for each piece they produce to appeal equally to women in their 30s, 50s and 70s. Their aim is to find the level of style and drama that expresses quiet confidence without being overblown. “We’re not at the cutting edge of fashion but we are trend informed,” she says and I really do believe that after a few false starts over the years, you can now see that coming through consistently.

As a result a lot of people have their eye on M&S at the moment so as we saw with the jeans, the hottest pieces can sell out in half a day. It’s worth keeping your eye on the new in page. It’s updated all the time – since I last checked it an hour ago a whole new page of pieces has appeared, that’s how fast things are moving.

I often talk about the price:quality ratio on here and for quite a while I felt M&S had lost the balance with quality. With this latest collection though it seems to have tipped the other way particularly with pieces like the jeans and the linen jumpsuit where I would have expected to pay twice as much. So I’ll be keeping a much closer eye on M&S over the rest of the season and I’ll flag up any more great finds.

And with that I’ll wish you a Happy Easter weekend. It’s going to be a strange one for us with no boys at home – it’s the first time in 28 years that the Easter bunny has been told to stand down. We’re heading over to Newcastle to see mum-in-law, there’s a family party going on and hopefully we’ll have time to wander into the toon too – we haven’t been for a while and Mal tells me that Easter is always seen as a bank holiday bonanza with great high spirits abounding. However you’re spending it I hope you have a feeling of Easter joy and renewal… and won’t it be wonderful when the clocks go forward on Saturday night? Finally!

Disclosure – ‘The best capsule pieces from the new M&S collection – SS24″ was commissioned by M&S but as always, the clothes chosen and opinions expressed are all my own

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