Mary Portas Armery: here’s what we thought

Last week the nice people at Charnos sent me a sample of the black lacy Mary Portas Armery to wear test. I wore them solidly for two days and showed them to as many over 40 year olds as I could, to get a good spread of comment.

To recap, the idea behind Armery is that as we get older we tend to fret about our bingo-wing arm flesh. The armery acts like a pair of high denier tights and both covers the flabby arm skin and holds it firmly in place, offering us a new way to cover up when wearing short sleeve or sleeveless dresses.

I was really excited about this idea, it seemed so simple and I am not keen on my top arm area so I was super keen to try them out. Here’s what we thought.

Good things about them

They are a lovely quality fabric, I tried the lacy ones and they are soft, thick and beautifully smooth. I liked the lace design too.

If you like layering, you’ll love the idea of having another fabric/colour to play with. think of it as tights for the arms and all that offers in terms of colour and texture addition to your outfit.

They keep you warm, slightly too warm last week when we did get a sunny moment or two and I got all menopausally flushy. However in the winter I see this will be a good thing.

Flabby upper arm skin is kept in check completely, they offer a nice firm grip on wiggly skin.

Disappointing things about them

They are only one size. I am a 12 and they are pretty snug on me. I feel two sizes would be better and apparently if they sell well, another size might be introduced.

They don’t cover your underarms. Although they fit over your shoulders, there’s not enough fabric to cover your armpit, which may not worry you, but I think arm pits are a very unattractive area, so I was disappointed they didn’t offer me a way to wear my sleeveless dresses without a cardigan. I did wonder if this was just me looking at the underarm gap as a problem, but all the 40plus-ers I asked said they would prefer them if they did cover the armpit.

What do you think? Are they the answer to sleeveless-ness?

Armery comes in two styles, Lace  in black or charcoal) at £22.00 and plain 140 denier (Indigo, magenta and black) at £18.00. To pre order Armery, which are due in very soon check the Mary Portas website here


  • Marv says:

    Speaking as a person who knows far too much about knitting and socks and tights and the like, I don’t see how they could be made to cover your armpit without them being much bigger in the upper arm area and then they wouldn’t be snug and slinky. Plus they’d be very, very warm then and everybody would moan that they were just too warm to wear under dresses etc.

    Sorry, that’s not very well explained, but it’s the best I can manage before my second mug of tea.

    I’ll explain over a glass of wine one day. I’ll knit you a lace shrug if you’re really bothered about your pits.

  • amanda says:

    Maybe I just have to learn to love my armpits Marv…..thanks for the techie info Ax

  • Marv says:

    You know, pits are pits. Nobody has particularly nice ones as far as I can tell. And frankly, if people are looking at your pits I would guess they’re either so hairy that people are going to look and you don’t care if they look (obviously not the case) or they’re just plain odd and you should ignore them anyway.

    There. The truth according to Marv. Have a nice day now!

  • I love the idea of these but agree with Marv, they would have to be almost shrug like to cover the armpits. In the photo they look very elegant and I suppose we don’t all walk around trying to cover our pits, its the bingo bits that need camouflage and Armery look like they do it. I must order some to try. I think this might be my new staple. GG

  • Amanda says:

    I wonder if it’s about getting your eye in? Once you get used to the idea of the shape of the Armery, perhaps it becomes easier to appreciate them? I guess who ever invented tights must have had similar issues with convincing people they were a good thing at the beginning….A

  • Sparx says:

    I am SO enamoured with these… I am always looking for ways to add long sleeves to things – and I’m with everyone on thinking these are fine without becoming too bolero / shrug-like… I’m definitely ordering. This is one of those ‘why has nobody done this before’ ideas I think – perfect.

  • Amanda says:

    Looks like Mary had better re look at her order quantities…these could be a success……A

  • Claudia says:

    I think I would only consider them if they covered the back of the neck and upper shoulder and went round the front to under the bust, more longsleeved camisole than shrug. If they were made of lighter material they would fit snugly under the bust and beneath a sleeveless dress or top. Clearly they must come in all sizes (I am 8-10) and many more colours then I think Mary would be on to a winner.

  • Sara says:

    hmmm aren’t these really like a skimpy looking shrug? I’m not sure tbh

  • Peep says:

    Nope sorry. Ugly that’s what it is I really dont think it’s doing the job and I would totally be laughed out of the buying office if I rocked up in a version of this unless I was under 25 and doing a retro Madonna look.

  • Liz Brighton says:

    I’m totally missing the point of these, pretty as they are. I see them as a layering, shrug kind of thing but don’t get the idea of them as arm shapewear for sleeveless dresses, Surely the point of sleeveless dresses, generally suited to warm weather is in the description, sleeve….LESS? For cooler months, I wear a long sleeved t shirt or something under what I refer to as tunics and again Armery would not be any good because of the armhole gap.
    This idea could work for under clothes but in fact I think Wolford pretty much have that area covered with their bodies and shapewear, I think they are purely decorative.

  • Sarah says:

    Love, love, love them. How often do designers come up with a completely new garment, which I think these could be regarded as being. Very innovative. More sizes, more options of pattern/colour please. I am sure there will be a host of imitations soon.

  • Shelly says:

    I hate my upper arms but would not fit into these! I am the proud owner of my first pair of Wingz fashion Sleeves and I love them. They cover the upper arms, the pits and not the front or back. Heads up ladies x

  • Amanda says:

    Sarah, I am fast believing these ARE indeed a completely new type of garment….Ax

  • Leslie says:

    Definitely, I am buying these. I can see wearing them with tops or dresses with a short or cap sleeve so I don’t need armpit coverage.

  • Jules says:

    I think they look too strange from behind.

  • Elizabeth Lynch says:

    A couple of years ago I made my own version of this garment which is suitable to wear with sleeveless dresses and conceals the armpits, although its not really for hot weather. I cut the legs off some lovely black and white Fornasetti printed tights and sewed them onto a black stretchy crop-top (wearable over a bra). It looks great and I’ve had good feedback. What’s good about them is that it leaves the neck and top of your back free too.

  • Cat Spence says:

    I agree with Elizabeth Lynch too. As she said you get any pair of tights of the appropriate size and cut out the crotch area which goes over your head. The tights sit over the chest like a midriff top and give an EXCELLENT cleavage as well as the sleeves and armpit coverage.

    If you watch the 2001 video from Pink – Get the party started she wears orange fishnets over a vest top which was inspiration.

  • Sandie rowe says:

    Just had my order delivered today, and have to say I am very, very pleased with them. I also made my own a few years ago with lace tights similar to E. Lynch but it’s nice to have some proper ones, and very nice quality! Every one should have a pair!!!!

    Fantastic for layering and using under short sleeve T shirts,(I can wear my favorite ones in the winter now) Bought the m/L I am size 12 to 14. Waiting for the lace ones to be made in that size now to wear with my evening dresses.
    Thanks Mary, keep up the good work, love your program.

  • Charlotte says:

    You can get the same effect with bog standard fishnets or pattern tights with a little bit of jigging. Dancers often do this to get a contempory dance look. Much cheaper and you can experiment with different tights. Good luck

  • Sheila says:

    I ordered these in the M/L size but sent them back. Hated them….. I assumed I would be able to wear with cap sleeve dresses but they look horrible due to the gap underneath the arms. Not comfortable either: I can’t see that the manuacturer has done anything to enhance Mary’s idea or tights on arms.

    Elizabeth and Cat are correct – you need a crop top with long sleeves, so I will try the “cut out tights” suggestion!

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