Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' notes

Resource created by:  M&S Company Archive

This resource is one of four M&S timelines intended to provide a broad picture of the development of different M&S products, using selected images from the M&S Company Archive collection.
The overall aim of the M&S Womenswear Timeline resource is to show changes in women's fashion and clothing throughout the history of the Company, and how this might link to social history and world events.  The images here represent a snapshot of how womenswear has been developed at M&S over the years

Curriculum Links

  • KS2/3 Design & Technology:  design and make your own clothing,  designing for markets,  developing new ideas,  selecting materials
  • KS2 History:  A study of an aspect of social history
  • KS2 Literacy: Persuasive writing
  • KS2/3 Art & Design:  Fashion design / textiles (surface pattern)

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of developments in fabric technology and high street fashion trends over time
  • Understanding of how high street retailers match their products to fulfill customers' needs in line with new trends
  • Skills of identifying popular fashion trends and developments over several decades

Discussion Ideas

  • How many different ways can you think of to buy new clothes? Where do you, or your parents, buy your clothes from?
  • What style of clothes do you like to wear? 
  • Who are your favourite fashion designers or brands and why do you like them?
  • What is most important when deciding what clothes to buy - what they look like or what they are made of?
  • Why did M&S work with the Government to help develop Utility Clothing standards?
  • What items of women's or girls' clothing on sale now do you think are the most popular? How do you think this has changed since M&S first started selling whole outfits for women in the 1930s?

Activity Ideas

  • Look at the 1930s M&S magazine advert showing women's and girls' fashions. Recreate the advert for a 21st Century audience - try to follow the same format of three women and two children, and think about the style of the room they are in as well as the fashions.
    • Design a set of sportswear for a women’s national sports team, (e.g. the England 'Lionesses' football team). Or design a new tracksuit for the GB team to travel to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. 
      • Use the M&S Swimwear timeline to help you think about design, fabric and sustainability.

        Looking ahead, pupils could be asked to design the kits for the 2020 Olympic Games and annotate their drawings with any new innovations they can think of for the future, such as new fabric for swimmers, special Paralympics kit, unisex swimwear etc. 
        See Supporting Links for resources on Olympic sportswear through time.

    • Design a range of clothing for a World War Two family, using the rules for 'utility clothing'
    • Find out what the most common fabrics are for making women's clothing that is sold in the UK. List the main properties of each different fabric and whether they would be more suitable for making sportswear or evening wear, giving reasons for your choices.
    • Do some research to find out as many different 'label names' for women's or girls' clothing as you can, then work out why the name was chosen - what does it say about the clothes? which age range is it aiming at? 
    • Think of a label name for a new style of women's or girls' clothing, then design a window display promoting the new line, showing two or three different items from the range. 


  • Write an advertisement for a womenswear product from a particular era - choose one of the decades featured in the PPT.

    Write a newspaper advertisement appealing for 'leg models' for the 1957 scientific experiment (see image above of M&S textile technologists)

    Write the script for a TV advert for new workwear clothes in 1960s