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Ruth Dawkins Headshot

Marks and Spencer and Me

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I am finally resigned to my fate. After years of fighting it - of squeezing myself into clothes that were the wrong shape, shoes that were the wrong fit, and underwear that was just too darn small - I have accepted that my natural match on the high street is, in fact, M&S.

For too long, I have associated the place with the fashion disasters of my schooldays and teens. A flick back through my parents' photo albums reveals an astounding number of sartorial horrors - palazzo pants, t-bar sandals, furry gilets, pinafore dresses, hypercolour t-shirts, and polyester, calf-length culottes - that all originated from the sweaty confines of M&S.

Until recently, it represented everything awkward about growing up. It's where I stood, shoulders hunched, cheeks burning, being measured for my first proper bra. It's where I argued with my mother about how short my skirts could be and how high my heels could be. It's where I first had to confront the issue of whether to wear a bikini on holiday.

So for the last ten years, I've given M&S a wide berth. I have tried, at times, to be a sparkly-socked TopShop girl. I have bought neutrals in Gap, jeans in French Connection, and, most recently, have been living in leggings and smocks from White Stuff. I have not exactly been setting the fashion world on fire, but nor have I stooped to the florals and pastels of Per Una.

Recently though, things got a little desperate. I needed a wedding outfit. I tried all my staple places. I spent hours walking up Princes St, and then hours walking back down George Street. I found nothing. Nada. I was waiting for the bus home, wondering how the heck I was going to jazz up an old outfit; most of the dresses in my wardrobe had barely fitted me pre-baby, they were unlikely to be any more flattering now.

Anyway, by some coincidence, the bus stop was right outside M&S. And with twenty minutes until the number 41 was due, I figured I had nothing to lose. I might as well take a look.

It took about three and a half minutes to find a perfect dress, which came with a matching shrug. There was a bag and a bracelet hanging an aisle away that both went perfectly with it. I nipped upstairs for a new bra and pants. And then thought I may as well take a peek at the shoe department, where I found a pair of heels that were both cute and comfy. The whole bundle was less than a hundred quid, and I still managed to catch my bus.

It pains me, massively, to realise that I have become an M&S mum. My husband says sometimes, in jest, that my sense of style hasn't quite yet recovered from my student days... but the truth is probably worse. I haven't quite accepted that I won't be one of the truly yummy mummies - the ones who wear skinny jeans three days after giving birth. I would like to be an Angelina or a J-Lo or a Gwyneth, with a baby on one arm and a Balenciaga bag on the other. I would like to smell of Chanel No 5, instead of strawberry yoghurt. And I would really, really like to be able to walk in heels. But a quick flick through those photo albums - a glance at those sandals - should have been enough of a clue that it was never going to happen.

So I have come full circle. I am back to good old Marks and Sparks. I am learning to be okay with that. And tomorrow I'm going back for another outfit.