I've always considered myself to have somewhat of a competitive spirit. After all, there's no shame in wanting to win at anything—life, your wardrobe, the annual family Monopoly game at Christmas. Perhaps because of this, it will come as no surprise that the most exciting date in my calendar this summer is not the first day of my holiday, the festival I've booked or even the wedding I’ll be attending, but the start of the Women's World Cup.
On 20 July, England's Lionesses will begin the much-anticipated Football Association tournament, which, in my opinion, is the sporting event of the year. It's the only one I'm actually bothered about, and I'm still not quite over the high of our win at the Euros last year.
Any major sporting team's uniform is part and parcel of the occasion itself. Part of a three year partnership, Marks & Spencer will be proudly dressing the Lionesses when they're off the pitch. The brand has a long-standing relationship between the FA, having been the official suit provider for the senior England men's team since 2007.
This year, a capsule collection of 18 pieces has been designed especially for the women's team, which will be worn by the players at various times throughout the tournament, including for the official England team photo.
Photo:Courtesy of Marks & Spencer
A contemporary take on tailoring, this collection isn't your usual knee-length pencil skirt and overly fitted blazer combo in grey wool. In fact, it's quite the opposite, presented in a minimalist navy-and-cream colour palette with several styles for both tops and bottoms. First, there are two trouser silhouettes: One (my favourite) is a wide-leg, baggier cut whilst the other is more tapered and ever so slightly cropped.
I also can't get enough of the shorts, with an almost Bermuda fit that is wider on the thigh but not too long so they elongate the leg. These are a sublime summer alternative for those who, like me, enjoy wearing tailoring year-round. Also included is a selection of different tops and jackets, allowing the team (and us) to style pieces multiple ways. Long- and short-sleeved ribbed-knit tops in the matching navy and cream hues are great staples, and I love how premium the satin shirts look and feel, despite being so affordable.
For anyone who may have missed it, waistcoats are huge right now. So if you want a warm-weather alternative to the blazer, you have this trending option, too. Or for another casual take, the bomber jacket is ideal and looks perfect with the more relaxed silhouette of the wide-leg trousers.
Providing choice was at the core of the design brief for this collection, in an effort to enable the Lionesses to bring a sense of their own personal style to the uniform. "The mix-and-match, versatile approach allows the players to embrace their own unique style off-pitch, creating a confident, empowering and effortlessly stylish look," comments Anna Braithwaite, director of marketing at M&S. And if there's one thing I know, confidence is absolutely key in all facets of life, whether you're facing a wardrobe challenge or a major sporting tournament.
Sadly, I'm not one of England's Lionesses (perhaps in another life?), but I do love tailoring and need to feel a sense of conviction and individuality in every outfit I wear for every occasion. With this in mind, read on to see the four looks I've styled around my favourite pieces in the collection.
1. THE SHORTS SUIT
This look really pays homage to the preppy trend, which is one of my favourite style movements in recent years. Maybe it's because I was robbed of being able to wear shorts in summer at primary school (by that blue gingham dress), but my temperature of choice is when a blazer, shorts and loafers are most appropriate.
Recently highlighted by Hailey Bieber, loafers worn with white socks strike the perfect balance between cute and cool, and I can't get enough of the combination. I particularly love the tortoiseshell buttons, which are also found on the waistcoat. As for the shorts, they're so versatile—whilst here they feel elevated and professional with the blazer and loafers, they could easily be styled with sandals and a linen top for a more casual, holiday-ready feel.
2. THE WIDE-LEG TROUSERS
It's no exaggeration when I say I live for wide-leg trousers. This comfortable, cool-girl trouser shape is one of the most popular pieces amongst Who What Wear editors and our readers because it can be styled for any occasion. Running errands? Heading to meetings? Going out for dinner? Wide-leg trousers are your fail-safe friends that work for all—just change your top and shoes to make it work.
For this look, I wanted to draw inspiration from the collection's sporting roots by styling the trousers with a touch of athleisure. These trainers feel so current. They may remind you of your dad's pair in the '90s, but they're meant to! A striped cotton or linen shirt and a white vest top are principal staples that, in my opinion, every capsule wardrobe can benefit from. Together with a simple belt, this is pared-back elegance at its finest. If you want to enhance the sporty side a little further, add the collection's bomber jacket, which I love to wear on my shoulders.
3. THE SATIN SHIRT
Quiet luxury is the buzzy term on everyone's lips, at least at Who What Wear UK HQ. Simple, elevated pieces done well are the secret to being chic. The piece in this collection that achieves this the best is this cream satin shirt. Here, I've worn it as I would if I were going out, with black wide-leg trousers and strappy sandals.
The liquid, silky fabric oozes luxury, and honestly, it just looks much more expensive than it actually is. Styling options for this are countless. Open it up with a cotton cami underneath, pop a knit vest over the top, or wear it on its own with jeans—whatever you decide, it will no doubt work. What's more, the shirt also comes in navy (all pieces in the collection are available in both cream and navy), so if you love both, my advice is to wear the cream with black and denim—specifically, bleached denim—and the navy with white and grey.
4. THE WAISTCOAT
Waistcoats have been having a fashion moment for quite some time now. I love sizing up and wearing one alone with trousers, but for this look, I wanted to offer something a little more unexpected. So I took an essential summer midi dress, which I can sometimes feel a little prissy in, and layered the collection's waistcoat over the top. This styling works with spaghetti-strap and sleeved dresses alike, adding dimension to your look and giving it a contemporary edge.
DISCOVER MORE STYLES
The M&S x England collection is available to purchase now online and across selected UK stores.