After World War Two, more women than ever claimed their place in the workforce, with a whole new doctrine of office dressing to digest – we explore how they’ve worked their look through the decades
1. The beginnings
Following World War One, industrialisation boomed and there was a greater demand for ready-to-wear clothing. M&S introduced womenswear in the Thirties, including overalls for busy housewives.
2. Off to work
During the Fifties, M&S increasingly catered for the working woman. We produced wool-crepe dresses and double-jersey tailoring that worked for both the office and as eveningwear.
3. Suits you
More women were juggling home and office life in the Sixties. Wool-worsted skirt suits were bestsellers and M&S introduced ranges of smartly tailored two-pieces, with accessories to complete the nine-to-five look.
4. Short shift
Up to the early Seventies, the smart shift dress was a versatile go-to, and the mini silhouette was the definitive look for young women. Thankfully for them, M&S was increasingly innovating with ladder-resistant hosiery materials and construction.
5. Dare to flare
In keeping with Seventies trends, wide collars and flared trousers increasingly appeared in customers’ wardrobes. In the summer of 1970, opting for a safari-inspired tunic and trousers co-ord was a natty way to show who was boss in the style stakes.
6. Punchy power dressing
Huge shoulder pads and TV shows ‘Dallas’- and ‘Dynasty’-inspired power dressing defined the Eighties. Other popular office looks included Victorian-style ruffled blouses, nautical-themed blazers and tailored dresses.
7. Borrowed from the boys
The masculine tailoring trend was a womenswear hit in the late Eighties and M&S enlisted renowned designers such as Betty Jackson and Bruce Oldfield as womenswear consultants. Jackets had a looser, boxier shape and skirts were straight and worn knee-length.
8. Back to basics
During the Nineties, consumers saw a welcome return to softer tailoring with less shoulder definition and a pared-back colour palette of office-ready options. The tailored jacket was often teamed with jersey separates – Eighties pearls and hairspray optional.
9. New ways to work it
Our new sub-brands helped customers find a style to suit their taste and budget. Autograph launched in 2000, with input from British designers Katharine Hamnett and Julien Macdonald – think premium-quality pieces that reflected a more flexible working environment.
10. The office and beyond
Today, M&S’s office-ready pieces have evolved to suit a more sartorially relaxed workplace. Whether it’s in the boardroom or the coffee shop, our modern looks reflect the dynamic roles of women.