I’m always excited to go back home to London, England and browse the High Street stores, checking out the new retail window displays. One of my favourite shopping spots is Marks and Spencer’s on Oxford Street, where you can grab a delicious sandwich on the ground floor and then head straight up to the lingerie department. Knickers and food – a girl’s dream!
Unfortunately most Canadians may remember M&S as a pretty stodgy retailer, mainly catering to senior citizens and ex-pats, but in the UK M&S undies are an essential and surprisingly fashionable staple. Before the very recent days of “indie” lingerie retailers and websites M&S was the only place to buy quality lingerie. I don’t know any English woman who hasn’t purchased at least one M&S bra or panty in her lifetime!
In the 1930’s they were one of the first stores to sell “Artsilk” garments with their highly successful “Artificial Silk Rayon Knicker” (a slinky French Knicker). When nylon first appeared just after WW2 hosiery was still hard to come by so M&S started producing their own “St Michael” line of nylon stockings and slips. By the 1950’s they were selling many assorted lingerie and corsetry styles, even developing their own brand of easy-care nylon fabric called “Bri-nylon”.
In the 1980’s M&S underwear really hit it’s peak with vast areas of their shops dedicated to trendy fashion-led lingerie. They designed and engineered new bra technologies and in 2000 won The Queen’s Award for their “Secret Support Bra”, a highly specialized bra developed for DD-G cups featuring hidden reinforced cup “slings”.
Not all of their innovations have been so popular. In 2009 a large-breasted lobby group took on M&S over it’s new policy of charging more for bigger bras. They were forced to repeal this unpopular surcharge on DD cups or larger and posted a public apology in the nation’s newspapers. “They didn’t want a lot of big-breasted women storming their annual meeting”, said a spokeswoman for “Busts 4 Justice“.
Recently M&S have introduced the UK’s first ever Carbon Neutral Bra – the “Leaves” collection is certified by The Carbon Trust and helps support the deforestation of the Sri Lankan rainforest. The entire collection is manufactured in an eco-friendly plant constructed from earth bricks, it uses solar power energy and harvested rainwater. Take a look at our own Elita Bamboo collection of soft bras and panties which are manufactured in Canada – therefore reducing their carbon footprint – and from environmentally friendly bamboo fabric!
M&S’s laterst “Flatter Me” bra (launching next month) is inspired by the 1950’s hourglass silhouettes in Mad Men using old fashioned corsetry to smooth out any rolls and bulges. It looks quite extraordinary with it’s curved wings which eliminate any underarm bulges and boost the cleavage. The Triumph Full Fashion Strapless Diamond Jacquard Bra has a similar retro corsetry look and has perfect support worn under those cute little 50’s Mad Men dresses!
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
Thank you to marksandspencer.com for their images and their lingerie.
Lingerie images: Lingerie & Underwear : Women’s : Marks & Spencer
Flatter-me bra image from: The Daily Mail, April 9, 2011
Lonnie12 years ago
Thank you for a very nice article. It brought back memories of my trip in the early sixties to London. It was for a long weekend on New Year Eve Day. I remember very well going into “Marks & Spencer” with my Mother no less. We ate downstairs and then browsed through the store. I think we spent all afternoon in there. My mother never did buy me some “undies” but she went and bought quite a bit. Of course as a young teen I was browsing at a little distance from her and every time I would hold up some panties or others, she had the same answer, NO !!. I thought her tastes we’re so different than mine also ! Ha! I would love to go back again someday and especially check out the store again. Who knows, maybe I would “spring” for some new trendy lingerie !
I remember so well seeing the pics of the young girl in the “Flatter Me” bra.
I do love and wear often the “Elita bamboo collection of panties and cami’s. I find them comfortable and very convenient to wear. I also have, and its one of my favorites, the Triumph full fashioned strapless diamond jacquard bra. thanks for an interesting article. I think I will look for one of those “flatter Me” bras today ! I will let you know if I find one !
Teresa12 years ago
I’m glad you had fun reading about Marks & Sparks, for such a ‘formal’ company with a long history of lingerie they are still very fashionable and innovative, and their selection is huge- I always find something interesting there.
The Elita Bamboo collection is gorgeous – I’m a big fan of theirs, not only is it eco-friendly and modern too- so I can feel good about wearing them! – and as you say they’re incredibly comfortable.
All the best, Teresa