Welcome to the latest, highly exciting installment of Who What Wear UK's Best Wardrobes in Britain. It's where we do exactly what it says on the tin: delve into the most fantastical, awe-inspiring and downright influential wardrobes. We're honing in on the women who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as well as the characters you don't yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
Everyone we photograph for our Best Wardrobes in Britain series loves clothes, but Candice Brathwaite LOVES clothes. Her walk-in wardrobe is more than just a storage space, as she says this is where she goes when she needs some time to herself. She visibly lights up when she talks about fashion and the way that clothes now make her feel. ‘When I was pregnant and after having kids I became very insular and everything was baggy,’ explains Candice. ‘That showed in my personality—I wouldn’t make eye contact and would hunch over. I see that in women wherever I go. They aren’t comfortable in their clothes, so they shrink. They have put themselves to the bottom of their to-do list. You just need to be told that spending time on yourself is allowed and worth it.’
She is all too aware of the power of a great outfit and has carefully assembled a collection that truly feels unique to her. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the author, TV presenter and social media star is one of the most confident people out there, however she explains that she actually can be very insular and hates parties. Putting on a bright yellow Balenciaga coat or a dress exploding with feathers, however, is how she has the confidence to become the Candice we watch on TV. She wants her clothes to always be a talking point and to embody the feeling of joy, and so is drawn towards colour, texture and sparkle.
We spent the day with Candice at her home in Milton Keynes, talking about what fashion means to her and quite literally dancing in the kitchen in Manolos. Her sense of style is truly infectious, and so keep scrolling to enter one of the most joyful, colourful wardrobes we’ve ever visited.
On Candice: D&G shirt bought at Bicester Village; M&S trousers; Amina Muaddi shoes; Skims underwear; Cartier watch and Cartier Love bracelet
How would you describe your style?
Risk taking, bright and unconventional.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I remember as a fourteen, fifteen year old, I used to buy Vogue with my lunch money and cut the pictures out. You couldn’t see the walls in my room, as I used Vogue as a wallpaper. Everywhere! I was always like ‘one of the first bags I’ll buy will be a Chanel classic flap.’ I was obsessed with the joy that clothes could bring, since I was very young. My mum and dad were obsessed with clothes too, as were my grandparents. They loved dressing up. My dad died when he was quite young at 41, and he had a great sense of style. He flew to New York once a year to buy cool coats and boots. My mum was the pretty girl at school and she always dressed in a really nice way. My grandad to this day is sharp as a knife—he’s a three-piece-suit-to-the-newsagents kind of guy. Also interestingly, I find with Black people it’s deeper than that. When you are a Black person who has migrated to a place that is predominantly white, clothes are used as armour. I was raised by my grandad and he used to always say ‘if you don’t have a pound in your pocket, no one should know it by the way you are dressed.’ Black people use clothes—you couldn’t get rid of racism, but you can use clothes to make someone question your class. I see that heavily in my grandparents generation. Now that’s not really the case I would say, but I do see that Black people use clothes as armour or as a way to express themselves, where other races don’t have to.’
Do you do that with your own clothes?
I guess so— I think with the way I dress people think I’m outgoing and confident and the life of the party. The reality is if you invite me I’ll always be busy washing my hair—if you see me you will know why that is funny. I don’t like to be at parties. So I think I use my clothes as a protective barrier and to bring the confidence, but also to start conversations. Even though I’m not the most confident, if I walk into the room in an acid yellow Balenciaga coat they will then kick off the convo and that’s quite helpful. I find bright clothes super comforting. I’m not against minimal dressing but it doesn’t suit me. I’ve come so far down this brightly coloured road, that when I wear muted things I just don’t recognise myself.
Has that come with time or have you always loved bright clothes?
It’s come with time—15 year old me would never wear bright clothes because I didn’t want to be seen or noticed. I would be in a grey tracksuit—I didn’t want to wear colour or for you to notice I had curves. It’s taken me a while to get here.
On Candice: 16 Arlington Dress; Mach & Mach Shoes; Chanel Earrings
When did you start feeling confident?
I was about 29/30 —when I had my first child I wasn’t expecting such blistering body changes. It wasn’t until I had my son on my 30th birthday that I started to come out of my shell. Having two kids made me more confident, as I don’t feel like I need to answer to anyone but them. I have to make sure they are well mannered, fed and warm, and everything else is ‘I couldn’t give a shit what you think.’ I no longer care if people do or don’t like my clothes.
Do you now just dress for yourself then?
Nothing excites me more than what I call the COS women. There is a certain type of woman who dresses in COS that sets my world on fire. I brought this conversation to social media, and so many women said that is because the COS women don’t dress for the male gaze. It’s comfort, sleek and chic—when I see that I’m like that is what I’m trying to be, just with colour. Jenna Lyons or Tracee Ellis Ross blow me away. Tracee Ellis Ross has a gorgeous feminine figure, but she dresses in what she wants and not for a man to see her in it. I have nothing against the bodycon era, because the roots of feminism should be choice. No outfit can beat a self assured woman. Most of the time when I’m admiring an outfit, it’s not the outfit, it’s how self assured she was to make that choice. That is what I find amazing about clothes.
What pieces do you always feel self assured in?
Now I’ve had kids, I’m all about structure. Even if it’s something strapless, I need good structure from my underwear to my clothes. Then also due to my height, good tailoring is my thing after structure. I get almost everything tailored. I can depend on M&S trouser wise to get it bang on, but outside of that, no one is really thinking about a 5 foot, size 16 woman with an arse. Even though pictures on Instagram may make you think that. Even though I have that figure I don’t want to be in a tight dress. Getting the shoulders moved or whatever so something fits properly just makes such a difference.
What brands get it right in terms of size and fit?
M&S—they cut so well and are looser. Kitri —their lengths and proportions to me are bang on. I appreciate Sleeper’s size range. What is really interesting out of the premium and luxury brands is Balenciaga has it bang on with the cut and fit. They cut for the self assured woman. A lot of other luxury brands make you feel like you need to be smaller. My dying wish would be that mid-range brands widen their sizing pool. There are so many mid-priced brands I like that stop at a size 14. The type of brand that are stocked in Liberty, but not Gucci, are about £200-300 quid — it’s that kind of vibe, that doesn’t widen their sizes. I don’t understand the intent or maths behind stopping at a 14. The last time I was a size 12 I was 12! A lot of the clothes I wear they don’t actually close—I still love them but they don’t fit quite properly. Either you’re spending big bucks or 50 quid—but the in-between prices are 6--14 maximum. This shirt I’m wearing now is Gucci and it went up to a size 16-18. Wicked! But I’d want even more because there are plus size women with the money to buy Gucci but they feel shut out. Don’t shut women out, it’s annoying.
On Candice: Diane von Furstenberg Dress; Bottega Veneta Shoes; D&G Earrings
Do you think it’ll change?
Now people are desiring a more curvaceous figure, fashion high and low needs to fall in line. I always think about it from a business perspective—if I ran a fashion brand, the smartest thing to do would be to make as many sizes as possible. Also when you make bigger sizes, don’t make a thing about it. It should have just been what it was.
Have you found it difficult to shop for that reason?
I have to adjust the gap between what I want and what I can actually have. On Net-a-Porter I’ll always look for something in a stretchy fabric or something oversized, because I know it'll give me the least headache. You have to think differently. When you start looking at 16-18, you unfortunately have to rethink what you are looking at which isn’t necessarily fair. The oversized look doesn’t help either, as the size 6 women are wearing size 14 clothes— but those true 14s can’t do that.
There is a big problem with this and vintage...
Don’t get me started on the culture of ‘thrifted, thrifted.’ I love secondhand, so much of my clothing is secondhand. It’s almost like people want cool points for thrifting, not because they are thinking about the economy or the earth. That was never the point of these kinds of shops in the first place. Normally these people can afford to shop in Harrods, but if you go to the Salvation Army and buy the cool things, then what does that mean for the people who can’t afford a different option? I’m not saying don’t thrift, we need it for the economy and environment, but don’t make a point or trend of it. It’s like fashion’s version of poverty porn. Raid your grandad’s wardrobe first. These pieces can be hard to find or very exclusive—like setting up an email alert for Chanel shoes isn’t thrifted.
What pieces in your wardrobe mean a lot to you?
My Chanel handbag. People will probably be horrified to hear this, but I think this is why I have fun with clothes. There’s nothing in my wardrobe that is precious. I’m not about the ‘save for a good day’ life. I’ve had the horrors of seeing my friends dying of cancer young and my dad died really young—you can sit there and wait for an invite to wear this thing. But I’m going to wear it! If the thing said about me is ‘she’s always overdressed’- that is not a bad thing to put on my funeral sheet. ‘Here lies Candice, forever overdressed.’ That’s what I want for women—especially Black women, who are often told ‘work really hard’ and are not encouraged to enjoy things. Whatever you have put emotional and financial value into and is on the top shelf, bring it down and enjoy it this second. My Manolos are battered and I’ve worn them to a grotty pub in East London. It’s all about joy! I wasn’t like that for a long time and it took me ages to get here. That’s the key for me—having fun. We are always like ‘what is the next thing, the promotion.’ The joy of now is the mentality I’m aiming for, and my clothes are included in that. When lockdown happened I was doing full on photoshoots in my backyard. Covid taught us some harsh lessons—what are you waiting for dude? Ok, have a plan, but leave that shitty man, the job that makes you cry every day, and wear the shoes. The next time a pandemic happens it could wipe us all out!
With luxury purchases how do you decide what to spend more on?
Even though I see the Hermes craze everywhere, that style of that bag is not me and I won’t rock it. If I could afford it I’d buy two as investment pieces and keep them in their box, but that boxy style of bag is not me. So it comes down to how much will you wear it. What I have learned is now I’m older and have a little more money to spare, is that clothes of that ilk are investment pieces. The Gucci shirt I’m wearing I have no doubt my kids can wear this if they want to. It’s not going anywhere. When I’m buying into that fast fashion rotation, because you’ve only spent £10 for that bodysuit you are more likely to be like ‘that is so last season.’ Nothing vexes my spirit more than Zara hauls. I want Zara hauls to die. Now! Death to the Zara haul! You’ve acquired stuff so quickly to make content, but I see the same content creators three weeks later ‘decluttering their wardrobe.’ Because I’ve decided to save spend money in a different way, you aren’t getting a declutter video from Candice. It’s not a video you will ever see.
But then you can’t demonize the high street, because I remember once upon a time H&M was my high end and I remember having a Zara winter coat for five years and I rocked it. At the time that was all I could afford. So we have to strike a good balance. I would never demonize the high street because that’s someone’s version of Gucci, and they need to be able to feel good. But it’s when people who could afford to invest, rely on these brands for content, and quick hits, that’s why we get in the mess we’re in. I always dreamt of being able to invest in clothes in the way I can now.
If they could have the option they would invest, but this is their price point and bracket and we need to allow them to enjoy it. Don’t think they’re now watching the conversation of ‘the high street is the devil’ and feeling like shit or like they are ruining the earth. That is not fair. They need to enjoy fashion in a way that doesn’t put them in debt, but the content creators who are doing hauls and buying Birkins, and then a week later they’ll do a video of them clearing it all out. People might read this and think ‘I hate you so much,’ but it’s the truth.
What I love from Zara is earrings—I’ve had so many I’ve glued back together I’ve worn them so much. One of my favourite handbags is from Pretty Little Thing and was £12—ok that is fast fashion. But I always say ‘is the fashion fast, or are we moving quickly.’ Guess what, if we slow down on how much we buy, they will slow down on how much they design.
On Candice: Serena Bute co-ord; Sophia Webster Shoes; Sterling King earrings
What high street brands do you love?
COS, I love COS. I find Arket’s sizing really great and also love their kids clothes. I just found Stradivarius, and oh my god Stradi is the place to go. Love them! If you find a Zara piece you’ll wear for five years, you can’t deny the brilliance of Zara. That is why they stay making buck. My eyelashes are from Primark and I buy 20 at a time and wipe the whole shelf. H&M Home is undisputed. You have to love the high street, we just need to be smarter about how we shop it.
Will fashion always be important to you?
Forever, ever ever ever ever! I see it as a great privilege to be in a position to show women how you can enjoy fashion when you don’t have the body type that fashion upholds as the highest. I get a great kick out of that. So many women come to my online spaces and say ‘I didn’t know I could wear that!’ People with my body type or similar, you get forgotten. So it’s really cool to be in a position to show women how they can play with their clothes—it’s so fun! I can’t tell you how many times someone chases me down the street and says ‘where is that from?’ That is influence! It isn’t just about having an online persona.
Do clothes impact your mood?
I put on my bright green Balenciaga coat and I’m a different person. When I was pregnant and after having kids I became very insular and everything was baggy. That showed in my personality- not making eye contact, hunching over. I see that in women wherever I go. They aren’t comfortable in their clothes, so they shrink. They have put themselves to the bottom of their to-do list. You just need to be told that spending time on yourself is allowed and worth it. If you’re not an influencer and you don’t work in beauty or media, you’re not told spending time on yourself is something you can do. Everyone deals with their mental health in a different way and you find ways that bring you joy.
How do you find dressing for TV?
SO fun! I have the help of great stylists behind the Lorraine team, and they don’t like to style me because they know I like what I like. But the reality is I’m not going to talk about the high street wearing a £500 shirt so I make sure what I wear is aligned with the audience I’m speaking to. I love that! I know the privilege I have in the jobs I do—£800 on shoes is someone’s monthly wage. I am always aware of the different types of people that follow me. I recently spoke about my Bottega boots but did a blog post offering other options from £30-£800, so everyone can emulate that style. We’ve gone so far with luxury content creation we’ve lost our way a bit. I am really conscious of that balance forever and ever. I see my yearly denim shop at M&S as an investment, as they fit and wash well. I don’t see the point of spending £700 on jeans I will have to alter, and I’m willing to stand on a hill and say ‘M&S is where you need to be for a shorter curvier woman.’ But some people will be like ‘if it’s not Gucci, I’m not interested.’ Whereas I’ll wear Gucci and M&S together, that's literally what I'm wearing right now!'
On Candice: Vampire's Wife Dress; Manolo Blahnik Shoes
Shop Candice's Wardrobe
Thanks for having us Candice!