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Colourful, but it doesn’t get full Marks

That’s the ex-Vogue editor’s verdict after an exclusive look at M&S’s summer collection

- By Alexandra Shulman

Afew weeks back I pitched John Lewis against M&S to see who was the new ‘darling of the middle classes’ and was surprised to discover that, when it came to fashion, M&S had upped its game.

More contempora­ry silhouette­s, great fabrics and keener price points all meant that the store my aunt was once a buyer for won me over.

So I was excited by the prospect of previewing M& S’s spring/ summer collection. According to its data-crunching, customers are already shopping for parties and holidays in the sun.

Hearing that our leading High Street retailer is optimistic when it comes to summer fashion can only be a good thing, and its collection­s are intended to reflect this upbeat mood.

A great choice of breezy dresses is what we expect from M&S, and the best of the bunch this year is a collection of embroidere­d cotton styles that include a lilac dress (second from right) and pink two-piece (second from left). I particular­ly liked a black Per Una tie-waist version with a white stitched bodice that nodded to the eastern european folkloriqu­e style of embroidery.

But many of the other dresses on offer were simply too flimsy and shapeless to be anything other than beach cover-ups.

Just because something is great for wearing on a two-week break doesn’t mean it should feel insubstant­ial. with the emphasis on sustainabi­lity, we need holiday clothes to last more than one season. I’d have loved to see some

crisp cotton shirt-dresses that you could team with heels or flat sandals, and belt at the waist if you wished.

M&S often seems to be fearful of shape, preferring instead to offer us comfortabl­e, but unflatteri­ng, loose silhouette­s. And this season is no exception. There were some standout items, such as a beautiful crochet midi-vest dress and a floral-print cream satin trouser suit that could have come straight off the Dolce & Gabbana catwalk.

But often, ‘ standout’ was interprete­d as garish and clunky — particular­ly in the truly appalling plastic jewellery in acid yellow, fuchsia and orange. Pure Abigail’s Party.

Colourful suiting has been a big story for some seasons, but with the exception of the rather lovely neongreen linen jacket with ruched sleeves (centre), this part of its range didn’t do it for me at all.

I believe M&S wins when it sticks to the classics. There’s a navy bomber- style jacket which is a terrific buy and will work brilliantl­y with tailored trousers, jeans and over a summer dress when chilly.

There’s a beautiful blouson-sleeved white-on-white cotton dress which ticks all the boxes for the perfect white dress.

And fashion’s wide-legged trouser message has obviously got through to the M&S shopper who is snapping them up eagerly. For summer, the store has bet on this style in a variety of denim shades (apparently its most popular denim is a light stonewash).

But my vote went to a well- cut khaki pair with a wide elasticate­d waist and turn-ups. Wear this with its delicious caramel suede biker jacket and you have the perfect stylish Where beige head-to-toe look which is very much in fashion now.

WHERE M&S always strikes gold, though, is in its swimwear, lingerie and loungewear. This season’s swimwear was as strong as ever, while its rosie huntington-Whiteley collection goes from strength to strength. There were some beautiful floral and lace bras and knickers that would suit all sizes, and a glamorous 1940s-style satin dressing gown.

My favourite pieces were in ribbed cotton, such as a black squareneck­ed dress for just hanging around in (very Nigella). There was also a great black bandeau top, which can be worn alone or used to make deep plunge necklines more wearable.

It’s the stylish yet practical sophistica­tion of simple pieces like these that show what M&S can do at its best. But judging by the spring/ summer display I saw this week, the store has got a long way to go to really hit the high notes when it comes to womenswear that is not just practical but desirable, too.

 ?? ?? Blazer, £79; trousers, £79; and jelly sandals, £15
Crop top, £35; skirt, £29.50; and sandals, £59
Cardigan, £29.50; trousers, £29.50; and sandals, £59
Blazer, £79; trousers, £79; and jelly sandals, £15 Crop top, £35; skirt, £29.50; and sandals, £59 Cardigan, £29.50; trousers, £29.50; and sandals, £59
 ?? ?? Blazer, £59; shorts, £25; and clogs, £49.50
Dress, £89; and sandals, £59
Dress, £65
Blazer, £59; shorts, £25; and clogs, £49.50 Dress, £89; and sandals, £59 Dress, £65
 ?? ?? Blazer, £79; trousers, £59; slides, £29.50; and sunglasses, £15
Blazer, £79; trousers, £59; slides, £29.50; and sunglasses, £15

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