From Crocs To Cashmere Tracksuits: Candice Brathwaite On How Lockdown Has Changed Her Style Forever

'I’ve gleaned so much joy from playing dress-up over the last year.'

Candice Brathwaite's lockdown style

by Candice Brathwaite |

Sighing, my husband heaved my heavy luggage into the back of our taxi. ‘What do you have in these cases? We’re only out there for a week!’

‘Listen, on our last holiday I ran out of outfits. That won’t happen to me ever again. Also, let me enjoy my outfits while I can – you never know what could happen!’ I joked. Little did I know how much those last few words would come to mean.

Back then, we were off on our annual holiday to my family’s country of Barbados. But this time, the UK we came home to afterwards was very different from the one we’d left. Our plane touched down on home soil on 23 March 2020. That evening, the first national lockdown was announced.

At first, I went all-in on the glamour. Like many of us, I couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, envision what a colossal hold Covid-19 would have on our lives. So – as ever when I find myself plunged into times of angst or confusion – my wardrobe became my safe space, the thing I could rely on.

In trying to keep boredom at bay and my spirits up, I admit I overdid it. Sure, a pink strapless dress with exaggerated, borderline 6D sleeves (3D doesn’t do them justice) and Manolos are great for a putting-your-bins-out challenge, but it’s quite cumbersome for home-schooling.

Once the shine of being over the top wore off, however, I found myself becoming obsessed with, well, tops. Normally, I’m a dress girl. My lack of height but bounty on width means that, in the real world, working with separates can be tricky. But now, in this new normal of only really being seen from the waist up, I could go to town. No one knew what I had on under my desk because they were too busy complimenting my high-neck blouse from Rhode.

Stylistically speaking, it also became apparent to me that, pre-lockdown, I had spent far too much time dressing for public validation, rather than true personal joy or, still more importantly, comfort. Without the runway provided by my usual routine, taking me from railway stations to restaurants and everywhere in-between, I was suddenly forced to think about how I like to dress for an audience of one (or five at the most, once we throw in family members and delivery drivers).

The reality was that there were some things I stayed a sucker for – a good ‘house dress’ (Sleeper’s are my go-tos) – but I’ve also found solace in co-ords, cashmere tracksuits and denim. Pre-Covid, I would struggle with the latter, but with a lot of time on my hands I’ve been able to put effort into finding denim that works for my body type – and I wish I’d done it sooner.

On the weekends, when I wasn’t consumed by being a home-school teacher or staying on top of the work that kept the lights on, I’ve played with my current wardrobe, too. I realised that too often in the days when I spent more time in the back of a taxi, on a shoot or heading to a meeting, what seemed far quicker than shopping my wardrobe was to just order something new. When I was finally able to spend time sorting through what I already owned, not only was I shocked by how many hidden gems were gathering dust, but I was deeply saddened by how much fast fashion I had consumed. Now, while I can’t attest to not shopping over the last year, I can swear on my credit card that I’ve made an effort to invest in pieces that will be with me far longer than many previous items I’ve bought on a whim or in haste to feel put together for an event.

What has never wavered is my love for dressing up, even if far fewer people were around to see the finished product. While I have nothing against those who took the last year out to keep trusted tracksuits on rotation, I found three days of wearing the same thing to be detrimental to my mental health. Forcing myself to wake up, shower, put on make-up and a strong sartorial look has perked me up when there perhaps was very little else happening that day. In fact, I’ve gleaned so much joy from playing dress-up over the last year that I even started a mini blog (alldressedupwithnowheretogo.com) to keep a record of all the outfits that have put a smile on my face.

And so, as we stare down the barrel of (fingers crossed) a life without social distancing and intermittent lockdowns, my style gun is locked and loaded. No longer will I be easily swayed by trends, as I’ve had over a year to really think about what I feel best in (it’s not skinny jeans). And now that I’ve relished the comfort of sumptuous slippers, bejewelled mules, practical stomper boots and even Crocs, I don’t ever want to see shoes that make my ankles quiver just by looking at them.

But most of all, I’ll be doing it all for me, which is what getting dressed up should be all about. I’d forgotten that. Before lockdown, my style was often a performance, something to make others happy. Now I’ve had this time to sit with myself, I’ve realised that style – the intimacy of trying on items and coming across the one that makes me feel joy; the thrill of discovering a piece I’d long forgotten; and how great it feels to get more wear out of items simply by styling them differently – that’s all for me. And that’s how I want to return to the world. Finally, I can get all dressed up and there will be somewhere to go.

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