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Family packing sorted

Dress the family for your hols without breaking the bank or exceeding your luggage allowance.

It’s a fashion jungle out there

Seriously what’s the schnizel with the bloody weather? It’s August for Christ’s sake and putting on a pair of sandals is like playing a game of dare with the Met Office. While the rest of the continent fries in a heatwave, staycationers are trying to avoid trench foot.

It makes holiday shopping and packing a bit of a nightmare. The only good thing, to come out of it, is the fact that you can mix a bit of summer with a touch of autumn – and totally nail transitional dressing.

To celebrate the opening of the spinky spanky new M&S in Bracknell – one of the flagship stores of The Lexicon shopping centre – I was challenged to go wild in the aisles and shop for our family holiday wardrobe. No online purchasing allowed and no more than £300 spent.

Sounds easy, right? Well yes and no. Yes, because M&S has seriously upped its game in the last few years. I’m not going to lie, for a store that’s catering for all sizes, styles and age’s, some stuff’s not my bag. But but but, there’s A LOT to get excited about.

The kids department historically has also been a bit meh, particularly for older kids who are painfully image conscious when they’re not spending every living moment in football kit. Throw in the scraps of the sales and new season autumn clothes, the outlook is potentially bleak – a bit like the weather.

So what has gone from my basket to our suitcase? It’s show and tell time.

Clockwise from top left: Lace tie swimsuit, £29.50; Autograph midi skirt, £55; Grey tie cuff jumper, £29.50; Grey bow trainers, £25; Blush open back jumper, £29.50.

Ladies first: M&S Bracknell does not stock absolutely everything but it has key pieces from the Autograph and Limited ranges. I tried on a lot, a cute nautical dress, orangey red pleated skirt and loads of tops and jumpers in the hope to find something that hit the summer vibe but had legs to take me into autumn.

I fell in love with an Autograph cream midi skirt, £55. Say hello to my transitional workhorse. Add a navy super-flattering lace tie swimsuit and it’s good for days by the pool and sightseeing in the sunshine, swap in a Limited blush metallic jumper with a beautiful draped open back and it’s all set for a night out.

The quality is lovely, it’s light and perfect with sandals, trainers or heels. Add this gorgeous pale grey  V-neck with ties on the sleeves, £29.50, and felt bow trainers and summer/autumn is sorted.

Clockwise from left: Straw pom pom hat, £17.50; Dentelle lace balcony bra, £22.50 and Brazilian cut knickers, £10; Oversized sunglasses, £15; Grey bow trainers, £25

Lingerie: With good foundations (and they need to be sturdy and strong to safely gather in my post-children puppies) you will always look your best. Fit is crucial, and with a third of women wearing the wrong bra size, it is crucial to get measured every 12 months. So what do you need to look for? The staff at M&S are well versed in measuring and fitting you for the perfect bra – it takes 30 minutes and you’ll walk away with something that’s comfy to wear and makes your breasts look 10 years younger. There’s an online bra-size tool, but I couldn’t get it to work properly. Save your sanity and go and see the pros. Best advice?

  1. Underband – should be horizontal across your back. It should be snug, but there should be enough room to fit two fingers underneath.
  2. Wires –  should sit flat at the breastbone between your breasts.
  3. Cups – breasts should sit fully into the cup without any spillage
  4. Straps – should be adjusted to just fit two fingers on top of each other, which will give the right pressure for your shoulder.’

After a lot of trying on, a balcony bra knocked a few years off my boobs. I love pretty lingerie and chose the Dentelle nude lace bra with matching Brazilian cut knickers, for maximum wear.

Doing it for the kids: It’s not all not me, so focus was firmly on my boys. Back to School was dominating the Kids department but there was still plenty of cute outfits to be found. My littlie is only three so you cannot go wrong with a multipack of shorts, breton stripe and mixed with supercool hi-tops and a star sweatshirt.

From left to right: 2 pack chino shorts, £12; Red hi-top sneakers, £10; Striped T shirt, £6; Star sweatshirt, £12

Traditionally I struggle to find clothes for my 11-year-old that we both agree on. But the black linen shorts, hi-tops and a t-shirt that’s grown up enough to get him out of an Arsenal shirt won the day. My boys hate shopping and trying on clothes but M&S came up trumps. The quality is good too, so it washes well and should cope with a tough life.

Clockwise from left: T-shirt, £9; Black linen shorts, £16; Black hi-top sneakers, £16.

Total: Did I manage to come in on budget. Not quite – £315.50. But I wasn’t far off. If I had ditched the hat I would have had enough for a cuppa in the stunning Scandi style cafe.

Take a break and always eat cake

Does Marks have spark? The new Bracknell store is huge, well stocked and store manager Tom Henderson worked his butt off to get his team ready. If you have felt M&S has lost its mojo, I’d give it another go. The quality is great, reasonably priced and there’s some real standout Insta-worthy pieces.

It’s alive! The living wall hugging the new M&S in Bracknell

M&S, The Lexicon, 1 The Avenue, Bracknell RG12 1BDmarksandspencer.com

 

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