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M&S has been selling lingerie since 1926. From post-war girdles to the launch of the 90th anniversary bra, discover our journey to becoming the UK’s ultimate underwear destination

Lingerie through the ages

Take a journey through the past 90 years with our exclusive archive film.


One in three British women buys their bras from M&S (which means a large percentage of you reading this are wearing one right now). Forty-five bras are sold every minute in store, while two pairs of knickers fly through the tills each second which equates to more than 60 million pairs a year. That’s a lot of pants.

Rewind 90 years and we’ve come a long way from the launch of our first bra in the midst of the roaring Twenties. Back then, women wanted boyish figures and flatter chests to get the glamorous, straight-up-and-down flapper look – a far cry from the boom of plastic surgery and 2016’ swaist-training frenzy to achieve Kim Kardashian’s cult curves.

What has remained constant is the female quest for ‘the perfect figure’ – usually dictated by the icons of the day, be it Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass silhouette or Kate Moss’s androgynous frame. Lingerie has long been the secret weapon underpinning these looks.

In the Forties following the Second World War, inspired by Dior’s

‘New Look’ and styles emerging from the United States, women craved a more shapely aesthetic with cinched waists and a desire for a ‘round seat’, made possible by the power of shapewear. In 1947 M&S staged its first catwalk lingerie show, featuring corsetry, girdles and moulded-foam cups. New fabrics and technologies were constantly being developed and in 1951 M&S introduced the original cup sizes – that’s small, medium, large – it wasn’t until 18 years later that A-DD sizing replaced these.

By the Seventies, M&S staff were measuring customers’ bra sizes (under their coats on the shop floor), and in 1974 the first halter-neck bra was introduced. Priced at 99p, it was the first M&S bra to sell one million pieces. To mark our 90th year anniversary, the bestselling style pictured above has been redesigned in lace to bring it up to date.

Over the decades the M&S lingerie offering has increased exponentially and today spans award-winning innovations and bestselling designer collaborations. So, are you ready to snap up a piece of M&S history?


1930s: Marks& Spencer Magazine Christmas Special 1932, when corsetry, uplifting bras and slinky nightwear were all the rage.
1940s: M&S’s first catwalk lingerie show in 1947 featuring the utlity range, as the war meant all clothing had to adhere to government regulations.
1950s: In 1953 M&S was selling 125,000 bras each week. Designers took inspiration from American lingerie and used less boning for better comfort.
1960s: In a feature titled ‘Perfection starts here’ in 1965, corsetry came into its own. ‘Panty girdles’ were introduced for a smooth silhouette and ‘rounded rear’.
1970s: In the ‘Body Beautiful’ feature in St Michael’s magazine of 1977, the key styles included matching bra sets made with seamless cups and dainty lace.
1980s: Trends were really starting to filter through come 1987. From backless bras to sporty styles and sexy body suits.

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